The last 10 years have been good for Manteca from where Debby Moorhead sits.
She can rattle off a lot of good things that have occurred in the past decade even though Manteca, like most other cities, spent a lion’s share of the time grappling with shrinking revenue due to the Great Recession. Those good things include a new BMX track, one stop shopping for building permits, a new animal shelter, a new corporation yard vehicle maintenade building, the Lathrop Road fire station, the Manteca Transit Center, modernized City Council chambers, a new police evidence building, the remodeled HOPE Family Shelter, new restaurants, and new businesses.
Moorhead is in her third term as a Manteca council member. Two years ago she set a new mark as the only woman in Manteca’s 99 ½ -year history to serve more than four years on the council. She is also only the fifth woman to serve on the council.
“From the time I got elected 10 years ago, the city has accomplished a lot of things.” Moorhead noted.
What she leaves off are the little things that really are big things that she has championed. Her forte is neighborhood and road safety. The examples range the three-way stop on Powers Avenue at Hutchings Street by Lincoln School that she bird-dogged staff to prove was needed to getting the city to adjust the signals for the Frontage Road/Crestwood Avenue at Lathrop Road intersection to eliminate daily near collisions.
Some view Moorhead as an enigma.
But in fairness to her it is her style of serving that throws people off, not to mention her head movements while sitting at the council dais that has prompted negative feedback from time-to-time from viewers watching meetings on the cable access channel.
First to dispatch those head movements: Moorhead has hearing issues prompting her to rely heavily on one ear. In the past with some city department heads that are so soft spoken even with a microphone she has had to strain to listen while reading their lips. Detractors viewing council meetings on TV at home who have bird-dogged Moorhead for seeming a tad animated with her head movements when she’s listening to others have gone as far as to accuse her on social media of looking down on her phone during council meetings when in fact she is using the tablet that has the council agenda and backup reports in electronic form.
As for those critical of her saying little, she said she spends a lot of time talking to staff and others before council meetings. She purposely says little until after she has heard input from Manteca residents in the council meeting audience so that she can retain an open mind.
She noted that more than a few times over the past 10 years she has been swayed – as well as the rest of the council — to take a course of action that wouldn’t likely have occurred if the council as a whole didn’t listen to what citizens said at meetings.
“The meetings are a time to let the people speak,” Moorhead said. “We work for (them).”
As for the coming two years, Moorhead sees a project that’s been around as long as she’s been on the council — the indoor waterpark resort — well under construction and moving toward a 2020 opening.
She remembers years ago speaking to students in classrooms and telling them about city efforts to bring an indoor waterpark in Manteca. The reaction was a universal “wow” followed by “when is it opening?”
“They didn’t understand that it can be a long process,” she said.
Great Wolf Lodge and the City of Manteca are now on the cusp of inking a deal for a 500-room hotel along with an indoor waterpark.
“I believe they (the students) will agree it will be worth the wait,” Moorhead said.
She also wants to make sure the city continues to step up its game of being more responsive to the day-to-day needs of residents and to keep Manteca on the path to economic growth.
To that end, Moorhead played a key role in kick-starting the construction of the Atherton Drive gap between Union Road and Airport Way now on target to start in 2018 after it had been promised thrice with the actual budgeting of funds in three different years before being dropped off the list. It is now at the top of the city’s major road action list.
Already it is paying off as a major furniture firm is in the final process of inking a deal to build a 125,000-square-foot store along the extension.
She also believes it entails finding ways to better serve the public. On her list is finding ways to make interaction with the Manteca Police Department more customer friendly.
Moorhead gives the antiquated and cramped lobby two thumbs down. That’s nothing against the staff manning the windows that are doing a Herculean effort with the hand they’ve been dealt. She wants to see the lobby reconfigured and made more conducive to waiting as well as putting in place a kiosk system where much of the work needed to obtain permits and information can be done via computers to drastically reduce needed face-to-face time with staff.
Although Moorhead said there is a lot of work to be done, she believes city staff has done a solid job dealing with challenges allowing Manteca to get a lot of things in place during a 10-year stretch when most other cities were stuck in survival mode.
Manteca — as Moorhead will tell you — not only has survived but has thrived.