Brad Bates served two terms as Mayor of Turlock, from 1982-1990. Before heading the Turlock City Council, Bates served many years on the City’s Planning Commission. He also has a long family history in Turlock. His grandfather came to Turlock as a child from the island of Pico in the Portuguese Azores. In the 1930s, his grandfather started the Harry P. Raymus Insurance Agency. His father, Louie, joined him in the agency after serving as a Captain in the Army during World War II. Brad went to work at the family agency immediately after graduating from U.C. Davis in 1973. In 1984, he married Tina Bonander and they have two daughters: Augusta in La Jolla and Sofie at U.C. Davis.
Q. During your time as Mayor of Turlock, what were your biggest challenges and successes?
A. I came into office during a period when two members of the City Council and the Mayor chose to not seek re-election because meetings had become contentious, combative and almost intolerable. A vocal minority of people regularly hijacked the agenda and expected unlimited time to speak or interrupt. A local attorney/activist/curmudgeon/councilman, Tom Howard, was my biggest challenge in restoring decorum and control of the meetings.
Putting the landscaped center divider on Geer Road was the major controversy in 1982. However, it set the standard for landscaped dividers throughout the city, and the result is that our city has a better look and feel, especially during the hot summer months. I’m reminded every time I drive on McHenry Avenue how important that decision was.
The 1980s were years of engaged “citizen participation” in government. Meetings began at 7 p.m. and often went well beyond midnight. Every issue got a full vetting in the public forum. We had moderate growth, a balanced budget and responsible year end reserves. We only had one City Manager during my eight years as Mayor, Steve Kyte, and we worked well together. I was told once: “When you stand and look around Turlock, and you like what you see, just remember that you are standing on the shoulders of many men who came before you and that is why the view is so good.”
Q. What city projects are you most proud to have been a part of?
A. We have a well planned city. Our major streets are tree lined with landscaped center dividers instead of curb to curb asphalt. We have an enticing and picturesque downtown. Visitors sometimes say “You are so lucky to have such a nice community.” Luck had nothing to do with it. We set standards early for a community that would not sacrifice aesthetics for growth. My years on the planning commission caused me to continually ask “What will the community look like that we want to have in 20 to 30 years?” And now it has been 30 plus years and I enjoy l seeing the result of some hard fought battles where community interests prevailed over specific financial interests.
Q. What do you think are currently Turlock’s biggest challenges?
A. We still feel like a small town in many regards, but we now have big city problems. Some money that used to go to infrastructure (roads, etc.) and amenities (parks, city programs, landscaping), now goes to social services and increased demands on public safety. Those are tough choices.
Q. In what ways do you continue to be an active participant in local government?
A. I was told that I have a great political future behind me. Bring back “Doc” Brown’s “Back to the Future” DeLorean time machine and I’m good to go. If I could go back to 1990, I would put in place the serious campaign finance and contribution restrictions that we didn’t need back then, but we certainly do now. One thing I learned is that whenever preferential treatment is expected, or a decision doesn’t make sense, like the farmers market or unexplained staff departures, the answer is always the same: connect the relationship dots and follow the money.
Q. What is your favorite thing to do for fun in Turlock?
A. Walking in the country on the outskirts of town near the fields, orchards and vineyards with my dog is a great way to spend a few hours
Q. What is the last book or TV show that captivated you and why?
A. The series “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. It is a fictional storyline about a political life of dishonesty and deception at the national level. I’m halfway through “Shattered,” an “inside look at Hillary Clinton’s doomed presidential campaign,” and hope to finish it before her book (with her version), “What Happened” comes out in a few weeks.
Q. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A. I majored and got a Bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric from UC Davis. I studied public opinion, persuasion and propaganda, but my degree was Rhetoric. I kiddingly referred to it as a BA in BS. I have a restaurant-size Mugnaini wood burning pizza oven in our backyard. Our backyard is like the Vatican: when you see wisps of white smoke coming from the chimney, good things are about to happen.