The cost of being a councilmember
Mar 25, 2014 | 992 views | 0 0 comments | 157 157 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was not until a little over 15-years ago that elected members of the Patterson City Council received no pay. Not a dime. That was the tradition for over 75 years.

At that time the rate was set at $200 a month, with the mayor getting $300. The mayor, it was reasoned, does represent the city at various functions—both in town and out, and should receive a bit more compensation because of it.

When the council did decide to pay itself, the argument was used that “most other California cities pay their elected officials.” And that was true. Most did.

But until then most members of the council with whom I became acquainted over the years considered it to be and privilege and an honor to serve in city government.

Yeah, a few admitted that making controversial decisions cost them some customers in their business, but they still didn’t want to be paid for their services or even reimbursed for their expenses.

But that changed. And so did becoming a candidate for city office. With a much larger population, it now requires some campaign expenditure – the amount solely depending on the candidate and his or her visibility in the community. That is an expense that the candidate himself must bear.

No one argues that elected officials should not be reimbursed for expenses incurred on city business. And many agree that a monthly salary – council members call it a stipend and apparently dislike the term ‘pay’ – is acceptable as long as 1) the city can afford it, and 2) the amount doesn’t climb sky high as it did in the Southern California city of Bell.

But health insurance coverage is another matter. It’s a hot national topic these days, and let’s realize that holding down a seat on the Patterson City Council is far from a full-time job. (To keep it part-time, we hired a city manager back in 1973 to run the city’s daily operation.)

The city of Patterson does hire part-time employees, particularly in the Recreation Department. Some may put in more part-time hours than members of the council. Will health insurance also be considered for them?

Should the council approve a health insurance package that, along with the pay increase, would not take effect until after the next election, I predict community uproar. Pattersonites don’t often get on their high-horse, but this is a topic that could light the fire. As one resident put it, “I would prefer they fix the pot holes in the street before spending money on themselves.”

Can’t say that I disagree with that.


Coming the weekend of April 12-13 up at Diablo Grande is the second annual running of the Tough Mudder race. It’s expected to draw over 6,000 entrants, making it the largest parking lot in this part of the valley. Hope they don’t get stuck.

And doubters say the West Side will never become a tourist area. Well, at least muddy tourists.


Our 90-plus list has climbed to an amazing 75.

One of our alert readers (who is herself on the list) points out that Willie Mae Mellinger of the Vernalis area is 95 and will have a birthday in early July. She attends the lunch at the Senior Center and participates in activities there.

And then just at our column deadline for this week, I learned the Helyn Vescere has logged another decade and turned 90 in the last couple of weeks. She resided many years in Crows Landing where her late husband Jim was postmaster, then moved to Patterson, and now lives in Turlock.

And we’re told about a couple of other locals who will soon observe their 90th birthdays. I can’t wait but guess I’ll have to.


Several of us old guys were unexpectedly included in a recent photo on the front page of the Modesto Bee. The photo was taken during a Sunday service at the Federated Church.

Wayne Johnson, Andy Barsamian and I are awaiting checks in the mail from the Bee.


KAT Country 103.3 radio will be out Save Mart way today (Thursday) doing what it calls its Live Station Road Show. If you tune in, expect to hear some Patterson voices.

Hours are from 3-7 p.m.


An e-mail message informs me of something I didn’t know (surprise!).

STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS.

Now I know my problem!


It’s probable that few local readers have ever heard of Grinnell College in Central Iowa. It lies about 50 miles due east of Des Moines and 60 miles west of Iowa City. But then again, you might not know where these cities are located either.

The city of Grinnell has a population of a little over 9,000. Undergraduate enrollment at the college is less than 2,000, and its liberal arts academic program is rated as excellent by a variety of sources.

(Patterson’s local connection is Giovanni Danforth, son of Bill and Manuela Danforth, who received a degree in economics last spring at GC. He’s presently employed in Stockton and will continue his education at Grinnell next fall.)

Now to some sports trivia.

Readers may remember mention last year in Fast Talk of Grinnell’s Jack Taylor. A year ago he scored a collegiate record 138 points in a men’s basketball game. This year he dropped in a game-high 109, making Taylor the only college player at any level to twice score more than 100 points in a game. He also scored 28 consecutive points for his team in one contest, a Division III record. And adding to his records is the 80 points he scored in one half.

After Taylor scored his amazing 138 points, Giovanni held a part-time security job and was extremely busy handling calls from the national press. What an experience.

Taylor (5’10”) isn’t a big bruiser, but his coach uses a “fun” system of basketball – encouraging his players to shoot mostly three-pointers. He wants them averaging a shot every 12 seconds. Everyone on the bench plays in every game, thus Taylor doesn’t see full-time action. The Pioneers run and gun. And each player is required to shoot 100 three-pointers in each practice.

Successful? Well, Grinnell went 19-6 this season and averaged 117 points a game. In 19 of those 25 games they broke the 100-point barrier. But they lost five of the six times in which they didn’t. Ten years ago the Grinnell team averaged 126 points an outing. And they didn’t have Taylor.

In their second game of this season, the Pioneers won 173-123. They also had wins of 156-150 and 164-144. Imagine scoring over 140 points – and losing. And Grinnell’s fans loved it, despite the fact they didn’t win their conference.

Nor did they play much defense.


And just so you’ll know, both of Patterson’s Boy Scout troops are going camping this weekend.

Therefore, there’s a sure chance of rain. Count on it. Even the weatherman is.

Ron Swift is the editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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