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City Mayor, Grocer OBrien Retires For A Second Time
OBrien pix
Riverbank grocer and Mayor Richard D. OBrien adjusts a Back-to-School display at the local OBriens Market over the weekend, just a few days before retiring from the occupation. Its his second retirement, following a long stint serving around the world in the U.S. Navy. Ric McGinnis/The News

By the time you read this, Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien will no longer be a grocer. At the end of the day on Monday, July 31, he was to turn in his keys, hang up his apron and retire ... for a second time.

In 2000, O’Brien came back to Riverbank, after serving 32 years in and for the Navy. He retired as a Commander, having enlisted as an E-1 Radioman.

For the past 12-plus years, he and his wife, Christy, have lived in the City of Action, easily the longest they’ve lived anywhere since they got married. Next longest, O’Brien said, was a tour in Washington, D.C., where they resided in Fredericksburg VA, where they built a home in 1998 and left in 2005, seven years or so.

Over the weekend, Mayor O'Brien took some time out to discuss the future.


What’s Next?

Contrary to the fears of some, despite retirement at the grocery, the Mayor will still be the Mayor.

First up, he’s going to take a month off and see the total eclipse on Aug. 21.

“We already have reservations at campsite up north,” he explained. “Then, I’ll probably find something to do, like a mentorship, something that will keep me busy, so my wife can do what she wants to do.”

As far as the City of Riverbank goes, O’Brien will retain his post as Mayor.

“I’m committed until either I have accomplished everything I want, or the voters don’t want me anymore.”

O’Brien was re-elected in 2016, so his next election will be in November, 2020 – he is hoping the items on his ‘to do; list will be accomplished by then.

“We just signed a Memorandum of Authorization to transfer the Industrial Complex from the Army to the city,” he said, a process that was begun about 12 years ago, when base closures were first proposed by the federal government. “We are beginning to take possession and hope to have all the deeds signed soon.”

Then there is the Crossroads West issue, with discussions ongoing at council meetings as to how the area directly west of the current Crossroads Shopping Center and residential neighborhoods should be annexed and then developed.

Included in the talks has been an additional shopping center, along with more housing, but also including a fire station for Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District and a potential site for a middle school for the Sylvan School District. It could include the area between Oakdale and Coffee roads, from Claribel north to the MID canal.

“I want to do something with a Riverbank-wide storm water drain system than will meet the state and federal requirements. In that, I’d like to see the city go to a tertiary treatment system at the wastewater treatment plant, either filtering it to the groundwater aquifer or selling it to agriculture,” O’Brien added of another area of interest. “We would be supplying more water to the aquifer than we’re taking out. That would be something that should be to our benefit if the state decides to start regulating groundwater and they’ve already taken the steps to do so.”


Career Comes To Close

Meanwhile, now that the apron has been hung up, O’Brien said his career as a grocer has been successful.

“I think so, there are always things I would have liked to do better. I think I’m well respected by the employees here, as well as the customers,” he said.

Officially, Richard O’Brien was store manager of the Riverbank grocery.

It, along with locations on Roseburg and Dale Road, is owned by his brother Chuck and nephew, Bill O’Brien. Bill is a former Riverbank Council Member, Mayor and Stanislaus County Supervisor representing District 1, which includes Oakdale and Riverbank.

“My replacement is coming from another store, O’Brien said. “It’s Jody Leandro, who has worked here in Riverbank in the past.”

On Monday, he turned in his keys, but planned to be back Tuesday morning to see if Leandro needed anything, then he was looking forward to taking off.


Heading on Down the Road

When word started circulating about his retirement, O’Brien raised the possibility of moving to Virginia. Some were fearful he’d be heading there right away, leaving Riverbank without a mayor.

“I like Virginia, but I’ve got my obligations here. You can get a lot more for a lot less there, with much less regulation,” he noted of the possible future destination. “In Spotsylvania County, there’s a great farm property there that we’d like to transition to. When we lived there before, our second longest residency, we lived next to the Chancellorsville battlefield. There was the Spotsylvania Courthouse, the battle of Fredericksburg, all the significant battles right there in that area.”

O’Brien will honor commitments here, but is looking forward to full retirement eventually.

“I’m ready, he said. “But the goal is to get my knee healthy.”

O’Brien originally had one knee replacement surgery years ago, then had it repeated last year.

“I have an infection in the knee, so they want to get that out, then go back to physical therapy, strengthen it, then go at it from a different direction. No pounding but more aerobic exercise,” he said of getting fully healthy and mobile.

After 32 years, more or less, on the steel deck of a ship, then 12-plus years on the concrete floor of the grocery store, “I need a break,” he said.