The City of Turlock will continue its long-standing tradition of naming parks after former mayors following a City Council decision last week to name a future one after John Lazar.
In a unanimous vote during the Feb. 8 meeting, the Council approved naming a new park in the Legends 3 subdivision after the former Turlock mayor, who served as the City’s head of government for eight years. The subdivision is currently under construction along the northern half of Colorado Avenue, and its new park will join several others named after Turlock mayors, like Brad Bates Park, Curt Andre Park, Dale Pinkney Park and more.
“They’re just starting to build the homes there, so it’s a cool idea to get this done before they build the whole thing and then try and do it afterwards,” Mayor Amy Bublak said.
Bublak nominated Lazar for the honor and collected letters from prominent Turlock citizens in support of the naming, including Jeani Ferrari, Mike Lynch and Sam David. Turlock’s Planning Commission recommended the Council approve the naming during its Dec. 8 meeting, following a presentation by Vice Mayor Pam Franco.
Lazar served two terms as Turlock’s mayor from 2006 to 2014. He also served on the City Council from 1992 to 2006 and was Vice Mayor in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He was born and raised in Turlock, attending Keyes Elementary School, Brown Junior High School, Turlock High School and Stanislaus State.
During his service to the City, Lazar served as Turlock’s representative on the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission from 2000 to 2006 and was its chairman in 2003. He also served on the Stanislaus County Council of Governments and was appointed by California Governor Gray Davis to the California State Mandates Commission. Lazar also worked for numerous state and federal legislators prior to his work with the City.
Lazar still lives in Turlock with his wife, Nellie, and their three sons, and is employed as a real estate broker for Coldwell Banker Endsley and Associates of Turlock.
Bublak said during the meeting that she is also raising money to install a bench at the new park in honor of the late Bob Endsley, who worked side by side with Lazar as leaders in the real estate industry.
Community member Milt Trieweiler spoke during public comment and supported the park naming, noting that he didn’t know if Lazar is Republican or Democrat despite regularly attending meetings when he was mayor.
“He was a true Turlock citizen and John deserves his name on a park,” Trieweiler said.
Not all Turlock residents agreed, however. Ron Bridegroom said others were more deserving, like Dr. Marion Collins, the Turlock resident who founded MedicAlert. Bridegroom argued that the actions of Lazar and the Council at the time put Turlock in its current position of having to pay millions of dollars for road repairs after years of neglect, while another public comment speaker said her interactions with the former mayor reflected a dishonest man.
“I won’t disagree that we could have done things better. I was on a little bit of it,” Bublak said, noting she didn’t always agree with Lazar during their time on the dais. “...I’m not going to put it on any one person, and again, this is so weird for me to be defending Mayor Lazar, but it is the right thing to do.”
Franco shared that she’s known Lazar for 30 years and that he deserves the honor for all of the years he dedicated to serving the Turlock community. Council member Nicole Larson told of memories seeking input from Lazar on how to govern in an unbiased manner. Council member Andrew Nosrati has received advice from Lazar over the years as well, he said, with the former mayor helping him “through very difficult times” in the Council seat.
“I certainly didn’t agree with Mayor Lazar’s policies and all of the choices that he made, but this is a long-standing tradition and it is the right thing to do to honor somebody who gave up a significant amount of time of their life for no salary,” Council member Rebecka Monez said.
Prior to the vote, Bublak left the community with a parting thought on politics.
“Let us not forget that none of us are perfect and we’re all going to make mistakes,” she said. “At the end of the day, you hope that people at least appreciate you for trying to make a better Turlock.”