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Garcia retires after decades of service to City’s parks
Ray Garcia 1
After 44 years on the job, Public Works Maintenance Superintendent Ray Garcia punches out for the last time on Wednesday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

There aren’t many alive today who know Turlock’s parks as well as Ray Garcia. He first started working for the City of Turlock as an intern through the Youth Empowerment Program as a freshman in high school. After four decades of maintaining Turlock’s numerous park lawns, painting stripes on the City’s baseball diamonds and planting trees for the City’s Arbor Day celebrations, he is calling it quits.

The Turlock City Council is expected to honor Garcia’s years of service with a proclamation at their Tuesday meeting.

“Ray is one of those employees/ people who cannot be replaced. Turlock was lucky to have him for 44 years. We hope he stays in touch,” said Mayor Amy Bublak.

“He has been an integral part of our community, and you can see his work throughout our City.  Ray has positively touched the lives of his coworkers, organizations, and businesses, as well as community members.  Throughout his career, Ray gained a vast amount of institutional knowledge, that he was happy to share to promote positive and productive working relationships,” said Deputy City Manager Sarah Eddy about Garcia’s retirement on Wednesday from his position as Public Works Maintenance Superintendent.

“Ray was never too busy to help in any situation.  He took his job seriously, and still made the work environment upbeat and positive.  Ray had a deep respect for those he reported to, and those that reported to him. It has been a privilege working with Ray over the years. I wish him well in retirement, spending time enjoying family and friends, and many happy times enjoying his hobbies. Ray Garcia, thank you for serving the City of Turlock graciously with a humble heart.  You are a true public servant, and will be deeply missed,” she continued.  

Ray Garcia retirement party
Ray Garcia (pictured center front) celebrates his retirement with co-workers, fellow retiree Keith Humphres (front, plaid shirt) and family Thursday afternoon at Pedretti Park (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

As a teen intern in the late 1970s, Garcia was put to work painting fire hydrants. After a few years of that, he transferred to the Recreation Department because “all my buddies were working in Recreation.”

“I did everything from playground leader during after-school play, lifeguard, pool manager, concessions at Pedretti (Park)…just whatever they needed me to do. I did that until I graduated high school. Then I worked part-time while I went to JC until I got hired full time in 1984,” he said.

Garcia has been maintaining Turlock’s parks and recreation areas ever since (except for the six months during the Great Recession of 2008-09 that he got moved to the Water and Sewer Department). His title has changed over the years and at the time of his retirement, he oversaw all the maintenance of Turlock’s public areas.

Garcia said his favorite part of the job was seeing a project to completion.

“Developing new parks, adding in a new amenity, the camaraderie of all the guys working on that playground, and just the guys as a whole. They're the ones that get the job done. And the best part about my job is the guys that are working, motivating them to get as much done as we can every day, providing the best product we can for the citizens the Turlock with the resources given to us,” he said.

“Honestly, making the public happy. And if they don't see any graffiti, if they don't see anything broken when they get out to the parks in the afternoon, then we've done our job.”

And while many locals and those around the world saw a slowing of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the opposite for the City of Turlock maintenance department, according to Garcia.

“We had to do more. Everything had to be sanitized twice a day. Everything had to be done more often. So our staff was really working a lot harder cleaning things,” he said.

Another part of his job that was “a lot of work” but worth it, according to Garcia, was maintaining Turlock’s designation as a Tree City USA member.

“For 32 years we’ve been a Tree City USA. We have to keep track of all of our fertilization, all the times we touch a tree for pruning. We’ve got to do some educational stuff… a bunch of benchmarks throughout the year to keep receiving that…I think it's a good thing to have a healthy urban forest. And I think that keeps the value of Turlock high on the high end because it's a beautiful place to visit and to live with all the shade,” said Garcia.

Garcia’s service to the community of Turlock did not end with his job. He also served as a reserve firefighter for the Turlock City Fire Department for 15 years.

Keith Humphres and Ray Garcia
Keith Humphres (21 years at the City) and Ray Garcia (44 years) celebrate their respective retirements form the City of Turlock with cake on Thursday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Garcia, along with fellow City of Turlock Parks Department retiree Keith Humphres, was given a fond farewell from coworkers on Thursday with a barbecue lunch and cake at, of course, one of Turlock’s beautiful parks.

Humphres is retiring after working for the City for just over 21 years.

“I am pleased to have been able to use my construction skills to complete City projects from installing new play equipment, building arbors, and pick nick areas to help beautify our park areas. I will miss the relationships built over time with the many wonderful people I have gotten to know and who I am blessed to call my friends. I thank them for all of their dedication and commitment over the years. They certainly made my job easier over the years,” he said.