The recent edition of Memories Day through the Riverbank Historical Society featured a group of city mayors. Some have served recently, some years ago.
Current Mayor Richard O’Brien and six former mayors came to the Historical Museum on Tuesday, Nov. 10, to discuss what happened during their term.
Included were Allen Trawick, Bill Mitchell, Charles Neal, Dave White, Bill O’Brien, and Virginia Madueño.
Trawick served as mayor as from 1972 to 1976. Mayor before him was Leo Silva, after was Mitchell, who served as Trawick’s vice mayor.
He owned a gas station and garage that was across the street from city hall, where Plaza del Rio is located now. He joked that when urgent city business would arise, city staff would simply cross the street to converse with him. He joked that it led to people referring to his place as city hall annex.
Mitchell served as mayor from 1976 to 1982. Trawick preceded him and Charles Neal followed. Trawick also served as his vice mayor.
Neal was mayor next, from 1982 to 1989. Mitchell was mayor before and Dave White followed him. Bill Overholtser, Sherman Porter and Trawick served as vice mayors at different times during Neal’s years in office.
White was next. During his term, voters decided to elect the mayor, so he has the distinction of being Riverbank’s first elected mayor, still for two year-terms. Prior to that, the council appointed one of the council members to serve as mayor.
During Bill O’Brien’s tenure, in the early 2000s, voters chose to go to four-year terms. Before him was Sandy Benitez, with Chris Crifasi, then David I. White serving after. Crifasi and White both were forced to resign from office to move to other cities for employment.
Madueño served as mayor from 2009 to 2012, with Dotty Nygard, among others, serving a vice mayor. Richard O’Brien, who is the current mayor, followed her.
O’Brien will be up for reelection in 2016. He said Jeanine Tucker, Cal Campbell and Darlene Barber-Martinez have served as vice mayors.
Trawick told about going with Neal into the mountains in 1963 with the Chamber of Commerce to help choose the city’s first official Christmas tree. Originally, the trees were displayed in the center of the intersection of Third and Santa Fe streets each year. When the downtown revitalization project was underway, the chamber planted a tree near the Community Center. When the Plaza del Rio was completed, the city planted a permanent tree there, which is used now during the city’s holiday celebrations.
Neal said that first tree looked majestic in the forest, but lacked somewhat when placed in city streets.
Trawick said his term on the council included the opening of the new bridge over the Stanislaus River. Also, he was serving in 1968 when the Community Center was built, along with the swimming pool. He is the oldest living recipient of the Citizen of the Year award, voted in 1965.
Mitchell said a high point of his term was the decision to buy the water company. Before that, it was a private enterprise.
During Neal’s term, in 1986, the Riverbank Clubhouse on Second Street was torn down. Long a renowned venue for country western music performers from around the nation, the final performance there was in 1965.
While mayor, Bill O’Brien and his council managed the completion of the Crossroads expansion of Riverbank, including the shopping center. He jokingly referred to critics at the time who blamed him for doubling the city’s population, pointing out that only one acre of land was actually annexed during his term. He said the previous council had set the Crossroads projects in motion.
During her term as mayor, Madueño said she presided over the beginning of the process to convert the former Army Ammo Plant to civilian use, established the National Night Out observance here, and in 2012, approved the first balanced budget the city had seen in years. She was mayor as Riverbank began to emerge from the tough economic recession. Riverbank also during that time achieved the designation as a Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) city.
As current mayor, Richard O’Brien said he is actively involved in moving toward District Elections for the four council seats. He said the city is developing a Bio Lax system that will reprocess the sewer system to be able to better utilize the water there and to save money.
He added that the new IMAX screen coming to the Galaxy Theatres next year promises to bring customers from around the region and Riverbank businesses should take advantage of their presence.
The mayor pointed to the progress on the North County Corridor. He said that it is crucial to get an effective interchange near the industrial east side of Riverbank, so trucks will have easy access to the area.
In addition to Crifasi and David I. White, who have moved away, former mayor Sandy Benitez still lives in Riverbank but was not available for the forum.
Historical Society President Paulette Roberson, who hosts the event, said that there will not be a Memories Day held during December, but they will resume on the second Tuesday in January.