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Political giant from Ceres, Tom Berryhill, dies at 67
• Served on Board of Supervisors, in state Legislature
Berryhill dies
Tom Berryhill (1953-2020)

Tom Berryhill, a Ceres native who was a giant in the political world of the Valley, died Saturday. He was 67.

The death leaves a void in the Berryhill family, known for its stake in the wine grape industry and political involvement for decades, as well as a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors on which he served since taking office on January 9, 2019.

Berryhill, a farmer and small business owner, represented the 25th Assembly District from 2006 to 2010 and the 8th Senate District from 2010 to 2018. He was born in Ceres on August 27, 1953.

After serving 12 years in the state legislature, Berryhill was elected to the District 4 Board of Supervisors seat in November 2018. As a small businessman and a fourth-generation California farmer, he built his career on a legacy of hard work and determination.

“Tom Berryhill has been a dedicated servant his entire life,” said fellow Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “Both in Stanislaus County and at the state level, Berryhill lived to serve.  My heart goes out to his wife Loretta and the family at this difficult time.”

During his tenure in the state Senate, Berryhill served on the Utilities and Commerce Committee, Parks Committee, and the Water and Wildlife Committees. He also served as vice chairman of the Agriculture Committee, Government Organizations, Human Services and Senate Rules Committees.

As a county supervisor, Berryhill’s committee assignments included Capital Facilities, City-County 10th Street JPA Commissions, Commission on Aging, Solid Waste-to-Energy Executive Committee and Financing Agency, service on the Stanislaus County Workforce Development Board and the Tuolumne River Regional Park Committee.

“I was blessed to know Tom as a colleague and a friend and to serve with him in both the Legislature and on the county Board of Supervisors,” said Stanislaus County Board Chairwoman Kristin Olsen. “Throughout his career, he was a staunch advocate for agriculture and water, and his leadership will be missed across the state. Tom had an infectious laugh and was beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike.  He had a way of bringing people together – from the highest levels of government to the grassroots neighborhoods and farmland of the Central Valley. Tom was dedicated to serving his community right up until the end, having participated in a seven-hour board meeting just days before his passing.  I will miss him, and my heartfelt condolences go to his wife Loretta and daughters Sam and Jessica.”

Tom was born in Ceres on August 27, 1953 and raised there and graduated from Ceres High School in the 1960s. He attended California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo and returned to the region determined to work at improving the community for his family and future generations. 

Tom was the son of former state Assemblyman and California Director of Food and Agriculture Clare Berryhill and family matriarch Maryellen Berryhill. He was the brother of former state Assemblyman Bill Berryhill.

“I have known Tom Berryhill and his family for 40 years and am saddened by his passing,” said Supervisor Jim DeMartini. “Tom was a good friend, a fiscal conservative and an advocate for agriculture. I enjoyed working with him the past two years and extend my condolences to his wife Loretta, his children, and all the Berryhill family.”

Supervisor Terry Withrow added, “It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside Tom as a county supervisor.  His heart and passion to serve our community was unmatched.  I watched with awe, in spite of his recent physical limitations, a man dedicated and determined to still fulfill his duties.  We are all going to really miss him.”

State Senator Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, who succeeded Berryhill in representing the 8th Senate District in 2018, said “Our community has lost a giant. Tom Berryhill led a dedicated life of service to his community both in the California Legislature and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. Tom was my mentor and imparted the importance of respect, civility and collegiality in California politics. My wife Anna and I would like to express our deepest condolences to the Berryhill family as they endure this difficult time.”

Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said Berryhill was a “true statesman” and said she will long remember his annual Capitol Frog Jump which offered “good old-fashioned fun” to bring together members, legislative staff, and media outlets on the Capitol lawn for one afternoon. The annual event was an unofficial kick-off to the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee which was held in his district.

Berryhill check
Tom Berryhill (right) was a skilled political fundraiser. This 1996 photo shows him receiving the endorsement and financial support from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Government Relations Director Stephen Helsley during his 26th Assembly District run. He lost the race to Dennis Cardoza by 89 votes. Berryhill served in the state Assembly from 2006 to 2010 and the 8th Senate District from 2010 to 2018.