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2010 elections bring big changes to Turlock, Hughson city councils

POSTED December 30, 2010 9:09 p.m.

Coming into 2010, everyone knew the fall City Council election had the potential to drastically change Turlock’s leadership.

But when both incumbent council members – Ted Howze and Kurt Spycher – announced in July they would not seek reelection, so as to spend more time with family, the election was blown wide open.

Seven candidates filed to run for the two available seats, but the race was thrown into disarray when early front-runner and former Stanislaus County prosecutor Shawn Barlow died of natural causes on Sep. 19. He was 40.

The remainder of the field – consisting of former Turlock Unified School District Trustee Timm LaVelle, former San Joaquin County Fair CEO Forrest White, Covenant Village Director of Marketing Bill DeHart, agribusinessman and recent CSU Stanislaus graduate Jeremy Rocha, TurlockCityNews.com owner David “DJ” Fransen, and businessman Pat Noda – all offered differing visions for Turlock in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 election

 Noda ran on a platform of improving Turlock’s transportation system and addressing the homeless population. Rocha lobbied for the creation of economic, education, and entertainment opportunities in Turlock through the establishment of professional schools, broadcast television, and an annual Valley leadership conference.

But, once the votes were counted, it was White – running on a platform of business development, smart growth policies and quality city services – and DeHart – who advocated “common-sense governance” –who claimed the two vacant seats. LaVelle finished third, just 199 votes away from a seat, while Fransen, Rocha, Barlow, and Noda rounded out the results.

White and DeHart were seated in their new posts Dec. 14, and wasted little time in participating in their first significant action: joining in a unanimous vote to approve the proposed Ten Pin Fun Center bowling alley. White expects to begin work on his next big challenge, helping to balance the city budget, soon in the New Year.

 Hughson endures recall, regular election, new city manager

The City of Hughson faced the most drastic political upheaval of any city in the county this year, controversially changing city managers and three-fifths of the council through a recall election.

In May, City Manager Joe Donabed’s contract was not renewed on a split, 3-2 vote. Those council members who voted not to renew Donabed’s contract – Doug Humphreys, Thom Crowder, and Ben Manley – were targeted by a December 2009 Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury report as orchestrating the attempted firing of the city manager, city clerk and city engineer. All three were also found by the Grand Jury to be in violation of the Brown Act, Fair Political Practices and Regulations, and the Hughson Municipal Code.

The Civil Grand Jury report recommended Crowder, Manley and Humphreys to step down from their positions on the Hughson City Council, be removed by the Attorney General of the State of California or face a recall election from the citizens of Hughson.

In a special, Aug. 24 recall election, spearheaded by a group of Hughson residents called “The Citizens for Better Government,” Humphreys, Crowder, and Manley each were voted out of office.  Jeramy Young, George Carr, and Jill Silva, respectively, took the three positions.

On Sep. 27, the final pieces in Hughson’s recovery began to fall into place as the city hired a new City Manager, Bryan Whitemyer. Whitemyer, previously the City of Patterson’s Interim City Manager, replaced Interim Hughson City Manager Thom Clark, who held the post while retaining his duties as director of planning/building and director of public works/city engineer.

The recently seated Carr and incumbent councilman Matt Beekman were forced to defend their seats in the Nov. 2 election, but won the election with ease. Incumbent Mayor Ramon Bawanan faced no challengers, retaining his seat as well.

 Lazar stays Mayor, Christianson remains Sheriff

Not all of 2010’s local elections brought great change.

Turlock Mayor John Lazar, who has held a seat on the City Council since 1992, ran unopposed and retained the seat he has held since 2006. His new term will run through 2014.

And despite a close race, Turlock Police Captain Rob Jackson fell short of defeating incumbent Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson in a June campaign.

But county leadership will experience some turnover, as farmer and CPA Terry Withrow upset former state agriculture secretary Bill Lyons to secure the vacant District 3 seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. He will replace Jeff Grover, who had represented most of West Modesto since 2002, on Jan. 4.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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