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A look back at Ceres mayorships

• 26 have served as mayor over the past century

A look back at Ceres mayorships

Six Ceres mayors in his 1993 photo: Left to right are Gene Robirds, Louis Arrollo, Richard McBride, Jim Delhart, Sal Cannella and Ted Humphries. The photo was taken for the 75th anniversary of the ...


POSTED April 18, 2018 10:33 a.m.
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Twenty-four men and two women have had the distinction of serving as mayors of Ceres over the past 100 years.

Two of those mayors served two non-consecutive terms.

Three mayors later had the distinction of serving in the California State Legislature.

One became a congressman - and unfortunately the focus of an intense national media scandal.

Most of Ceres' leaders, however, lived in relative obscurity, some remaining in Ceres and others moving on.

There is not much history recorded about the early mayors. The first mayor, Dr. S.W. Cartwright served just a few weeks, turning the reins of the fledging city that formed in 1918, over to a man who served the longest as mayor.

Vaughn Daniel Whitmore presided over the new city government for 12 years - from 1918 to 1930. He was born in Ceres on Nov. 25, 1882 to Clinton and Maria Whitmore. He helped manage the Whitmore Ranch for a while and helped establish the Bank of Ceres with his brother Charles Whitmore, along with Arthur Harris, Fred Moffet and the Service family. After he was mayor, he served on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors for 24 years.

Wayne Baldridge of Ceres' pioneer Baldridge family, served for eight years during the Great Depression.

For a time it seemed the mayor's job was tossed around from businessman to businessman in true Mayberry fashion. Town druggist Claude McKnight served in 1938 and 1939. Gas station owner S.M. Christiansen served from 1939 to 1942. Plumber Brian Carlin served 1983 to 1985. Furniture store owner Jim Delhart served a low-key term from 1985 to 1987. Former police officer and Ceres High School truancy officer Louis Arrollo served as mayor from 1987 to 1990 and then again from 1999 to 2001.

Another Ceres mayor was Walter White (1890-1973), known by everyone in town as the strict school principal and superintendent. Mayor from 1956 to 1964, he lived in the sprawling two-story house at the southwest corner of Fifth and North streets. He later retired to Florida with wife Geneva. Both are buried in Ceres Memorial Park.

1980s
The 1980s started out with Sal Cannella as mayor. He previously had served as a councilman from 1976 to 1980. Cannella, who came to Ceres from New Jersey in 1952, got involved in politics because he didn't like the way the city had planned several housing projects along Whitmore Avenue.

"I hope the future councilmembers will take to heart what the citizens want. I got involved because we felt like we weren't being listened to," said Cannella. "Ever since then it seems like the councils heed the words of the citizens, are looking for ways to improve the quality of life, looking for ways to improve job opportunities, to offer economic growth."

He resigned as mayor in 1983 to become a member of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. From there he went into statewide politics and was elected to the state Assembly, succeeding Gary Condit who was elected to Congress. Cannella was termed out of office in 1996. When he sought the California State Senate's District 12 seat in 1998, Cannella was defeated by Dick Monteith.

"I'm just damned proud to be from Ceres," said Cannella. "When I was in the Assembly I didn't go as a member from Modesto. I was a member from Ceres so everybody had an opportunity to know where Ceres was. I really am pleased and proud to live in Ceres."

Cannella's son, Anthony Cannella, served as mayor of Ceres from 2005 to December 2010 when he was elected to the state Senate, a position he still holds but will be vacating this year. The same month Cannella resigned as mayor, Brad Kilger left as city manager to take a position with the city of Benecia.

Raucous 1990s

Politics in Ceres hit a zenith of controversy and turn-over in the 1990s. Five persons occupied the office of mayor from 1990 to 2000. The decade started out with Richard McBride, a trucking company dispatcher and member of the Lions Club, as mayor. His was a low-key administration.

Barbara Hinton, an employee of Pacific Bell in Modesto at the time, became the first woman mayor of Ceres in 1993. She was elected after an out-of-nowhere candidate in Kevin Johnson - he had recently come to Ceres and threw a lot of personal money into his campaign - came in second place.

Hinton was most frustrated when Memorial Hospital officials announced plans to close the Ceres hospital.

"Being able to provide hospital services and medical treatment for our citizens in Ceres was a major priority to me," said Hinton. "I remember spending hours and hours on the phone contacting other medical organizations and providers trying to secure medical services here."

She also worked overtime when she received an anonymous tip from a school employee who was concerned about the County Superintendent of Education's plan to bring kids from the Juvenile Hall classes to the John F Kennedy campus that shared property access and some of their facilities with the developmentally disabled adults at Howard Training Center.

She also remembers being inundated with calls from various animal rights groups from as far away as London regarding the internationally-publicized April 3, 1995 incident involving the attempted extermination of a gopher by Carroll Fowler School janitor. Three employees tried to freeze a gopher to death with solvent and one of them lit up in a janitorial room and an explosion occurred. Columnist Dave Barry made folly of it despite burns and injuries of the men.

"The incident was not an issue the council had to deal with, but the negative press surrounding the incident was one I had to respond to," said Hinton.

Hinton served a full term until she was narrowly defeated in November 1997 by Councilman Leo Havener, then an ambitious employee of Modesto Irrigation District. Havener defeated Hinton 1,714 to 1,525 votes in a campaign that abrasively suggested Hinton was a weak and ineffective leader. Havener's boldness split the council, most of who were supportive of Hinton. Havener spent $7,772 on his campaign and Hinton just $2,899. Andy Constantinou, who was elected to the council that same election, predicted Havener would be "the odd man out if he continues his past performance." Constantinou's prognostication came to pass. The council balked when Havener proposed a host of 11 new citizen advisory committees which most said were redundant and would overload city staff.

Havener's campaign motto of "Leadership for a Change" took on an ironic twist when he announced his resignation seven months into his term to take a position with the Walker River Irrigation District in Yerington, Nev. Controversy continued to follow Havener out of Ceres. He was fired in 2016 after three years as general manager of the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District. During Havener's three-year career at LACSD, Havener found his self at odds at times with board members, other entities and was named in a 2014 wrongful termination lawsuit.

Havener's resignation left an absence filled by local real estate agent and Councilman Eric Ingwerson. Ingwerson served out Havener's unexpired term but chose not to run as mayor.

One of the more popular mayors in Ceres past was Arrollo, who was known as a police officer for many years until he became a school resource officer. He was elected as mayor in November 1987 and served out a full term, deciding not to run because of health issues. He left in Dec. 1989, turning the reins of the council over to Richard McBride. Arrollo later returned to be elected in 1999 and served out a full term.

Much was accomplished under the two Arrollo administrations. He helped enact the creation of the Department of Public Safety which cross-trained police and fire and administered police and fire agencies under one roof. At the time it made sense because of cost effectiveness and continuity of command and supervision of all public safety personnel. Later the city reverted back to the traditional police and fire departments.

Under his leadership the city expanded and upgraded of the Wastewater Treatment plant, and created the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan to established design standards along one of Ceres' main thoroughfares. He also helped spur the building of Ceres Fire Station #1 in downtown, the skatepark in Smyrna Park and the building of the $20,000 gazebo in Whitmore Park in 1988 through private funding through the Building Industry Association of Central California. As mayor Arrollo kick-started the Concerts in the Park and State of the City address traditions. He also prompted a contest to come up with city motto themes, from which the "Ceres - Together We Achieve" came into use.

That's when Ingwerson came back into the mayor's seat from 2001 to 2003.

DeLinda Moore, a church secretary, served as mayor of Ceres during a low-key two-year term.

Anthony Cannella, son of former state Assemblyman Sal Cannella, was elected mayor in 2005 and served for five years. During his term the council pushed for downtown revitalization study.

Ceres' current mayor, Chris Vierra, took over in 2010 when Cannella resigned to become a state senator.

 

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