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Our county has had its share of wacky politicians
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The world of wacky politics is not limited to Washington, D.C. or even Sacramento. We have our own brand right here in Stanislaus County and California.

Ceres has enjoyed a stable political environment for as long as I remember - save for the Mike Rego and Kevin Johnson council candidacies in 1980s and early 1990s -- and has managed to stay out of embarrassing headlines. The last controversy was years back when then council wannabe Ken Lane - now the vice mayor - got in trouble with Ceres police for coaching his son to fight another kid in his own front yard.

Riverbank, however, has had a bumper crop of embarrassing political eruptions. First came Jesse James White, who was elected in 2008 to the City Council although he was not eligible to run since he was not even a registered voter. The City Council voted to remove him from office in April 2011 after two botched recall efforts - and ladies and gentleman that was an appropriate use of a recall -- but the vote failed. Then on May 14, 2010, White, then 21, was arrested on drug charges. A probation search of his house turned up small quantities of cocaine and marijuana. He even refused to resign after earlier this year crashing his car in Oakdale while he was intoxicated and fleeing from the car which contained his four-year-old son who sustained a broken nose.

White rarely attended Riverbank council meetings during his four-year term but he had the audacity to show up on Dec. 10 to receive a plaque of commendation where he told fellow councilmembers: "I want to say I've really enjoyed serving with all of you guys." Jesse, of course, didn't serve at all. He could have but refused to do the right thing and step down to allow a legitimate representative to take over; one who might have put community above self.

White should have taken a clue from Hughson Councilman Shannon Williams, who called a press conference to resign his post after he was injured in a DUI crash in Hickman. I'm sure White was thinking why resign given that, in this post Bill Clinton-era, politicians can refuse to step down following scandals or wrongdoing.

Next comes the bizarre rants of Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno, who decided to pull a play from the Political Sore Loser Handbook after coming up short in her Nov. 6 re-election bid to Richard O'Brien. Madueno lost her seat by 53 votes fair and square but then created a media flap by claiming she had details about certain voters - Latino, no doubt -- being disenfranchised and noted there were "voting-related irregularities" in Stanislaus County. She has yet to enlighten anyone on the specific nature of those irregularities. But her failure to elaborate in the media leads us to believe, for now, that they were exaggeration or fabrication.

Madueno decided to challenge the extremely accurate vote counting system; only she waited until 4:59 p.m. to file the request for a recount. That's one minute before the final deadline and the closing of the county Elections office. When the full recounting of one of six Riverbank precincts failed to change one vote, Madueno called it quits after blowing $2,500. In finally conceding to O'Brien she stated "although it was only 53 votes that separated myself from my opponent, it was still for me a victory in so many ways."

Who is she kidding? Since when is a defeat actually a victory? But then again, Madueno also seems to think there is a vast conspiracy in Stanislaus County to deny some voters their rights.

No, hers was no victory. However, it was an embarrassing way for a losing candidate to conduct herself, not to mention slander the elections process in Stanislaus County.

The way that local politics has become, I suppose, is a trickle-down phenomenon of what comes from the state and nation. Let's face it, in this era of 24-hour cable news, we are used to knee-jerk reactions of irrational thinkers, rushes to judgment and controversial utterances from glory hogs like Gloria Allred.

But we also need to keep in mind that politics has always been an uncivil business; just refer back to the 1804 duel of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr as an example of extreme politics. (And you thought Dick Cheney was the only vice president who ever shot anybody.)

Officials who gain the public's trust through the ballot box need to keep in mind the sobering responsibility they have of representing the people and resisting the temptation to consider themselves better than those for which they pass laws. They are servants, not royalty. Jesse James White is an example of narcissism, not servanthood.

There are, of course, a vast number of local officials in Stanislaus County who really have grasped the meaning of being a public servant. Ceres City Council members, for example, have been diligent about streamlining operations and making hard decisions just to maintain a balanced budget but that fails to garner headlines. They are examples of leaders.

I'd prefer to see it that way. Kudos to those on the Ceres City Council for staying out of the headlines. And to our friends in Riverbank, we hope you get less of what you've had in recent years.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at