Manteca has had seven directly elected mayors — Trena Kelley, Jack Snyder, Frank Warren, Bill Perry, Carlon Perry, Willie Weatherford and now Steve DeBrum.
Serving as an elected official is akin to being a magnet. Even if you are putting your positive side forth you attract a lot of negative feedback.
Perhaps no one — not even Trena Kelley who was not only the first woman ever elected to the council and the first directly elected mayor as well as the first mayor to be recalled — got as much negative feedback as Carlon Perry.
Most of Kelley’s detractors came as the result of a council decision to affirm City Manager Dick Jones’ decision to dismiss Police Chief Leonard Taylor in the 1980s.
Carlon’s came from his philosophy. Some will argue it is his personality, and that may be true. But rest assured it was the fact he was consistent in his positions and his willingness to stand by his convictions that riled the opposition.
That said Manteca did benefit from his tenure on the council and four years as mayor.
He may not have been the great unifier but what he did was just as important in shaping the city that today is considered as a standard to shoot for in a lot of areas.
The biggest impact was arguably in his quest to see whether privatization of some municipal services made financial sense. The most high profile of those was the operation of the wastewater treatment plant. To say municipal staff didn’t take too kindly to his effort is like saying Rush Limbaugh doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. It’s a vast understatement.
It was amazing to see how the city staff from frontline workers to administrators came up with additional ways to keep costs down in the short and long range. There were close to 100 serious suggestions that could save everything from pennies to dollars. That is on top of the frugal ways they had been operating.
When the proposals were submitted by firms for privatization, Manteca as it was operating still came in the least expensive.
Manteca’s costs for many municipal operations over the years have stacked up extremely well against similar sized cities in the Central Valley when it comes to the efficiency of city workers. Manteca municipal workers take care of more park acreage per employee, more street miles per employee, and even provide more basic protection such as fire service per employee.
That said, the city staff responded to Carlon by basically bearing down and redoubled their efforts at keeping costs low. If you don’t think that constantly rethinking how you do things isn’t essential look at the Great Recession. Manteca managed to live within its means without a major downgrade in services.
Did Carlon help sharpen that mentality? You could argue he did given the number of staff that wanted to prove him wrong.
And although Big League Dreams is arguably the city’s most successful private-public partnership along with the city attorney’s office and the golf pro and Carlon was adamantly against it, his push back made it more successful.
BLD principals said they upped the city’s cut compared to other locations in response to Carlon’s hard-line stance that took place when he was mayor. His pushback got backers of the BLD concept to switch locations from Woodward Park to the current site.
If that hadn’t of happened there would have been only four or five fields, one restaurant, and no indoor soccer arena. The location it is at now is extremely visible and there has seen zilch issues with neighbors. Try to say that about soccer at Woodward Park.
You could argue Carlon’s opposition led to decisions that ultimately made the Manteca sports complex the most successful of all BLD locations and set the stage for luring Great Wolf and opening the door for the city’s envisioned family entertainment zone on wastewater treatment plant land of all places.
Give the devil his due — or the loyal opposition given Carlon’s heart and soul is in Manteca.
The best government is one that works to bring people together to compromise. Carlon didn’t lose in 2002 and Willie didn’t win. It was about Manteca winnings.
Everything that happened up to that point set the stage for what followed. Is it part of the Manteca mosaic that led to a community that weathered the Great Recession better than most but was also looking forward when everyone else was in retreat. It is why there could be a $200 million investment in Manteca by McWhinney Development to build a Great Wolf Resort.
And Carlon’s effort to find Manteca’s veterans a home demonstrates that at the end of the day he is working for what he believes is best for the community.
He admitted he wasn’t too sure how approaching Weatherford for city help would go when they met at the Waffle House on North Main Street for coffee a little over a year ago.
“We just barely said hello to each other (when we were on the council),” Carlon said the other day.
But when Weatherford listened to his old adversary lay out his proposal, after about 30 minutes he said, “Let’s do it.”
Heaven and earth moved to design, build, and complete the Moffat Community Center given how slow government grinds.
Carlon and the decisions he helped shape even though they didn’t go 100 percent his way is what has helped make Manteca a success.
And the fact his nemesis could sit down with him for coffee and buy into an idea and then do everything in his power to make it happen says a lot about Weatherford.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.