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O'Brien, Nygard Win Council Seats
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With vote totals in from the Tuesday, Nov. 2 election, Riverbank City Councilmembers-elect Richard O'Brien and Dotty Nygard are enthusiastically preparing to take office with a list of city issues to address.

O'Brien received the most votes with 30 percent, followed by Nygard who received 17 percent of the ballots cast. Voters were allowed to select two names from the nine persons running for office.

"I am extremely humbled by this," said O'Brien when asked about the election results. "The support I received was overwhelming."

O'Brien, a retired US Navy Commander who now manages one of his family's grocery stores, credited last year's unsuccessful mayoral campaign for his name recognition in this year's election. He said he was approached last summer by many citizens and encouraged to run for one of the open council seats.

Dorothy "Dotty" Nygard also said she too was "humbled" by being elected and added, "I feel very honored to be in this position. I want to thank the many voters and citizens who supported me."

Nygard, an open critic of councilman Jesse James White, said she was looking forward to new leadership stepping forward with vision and direction for the City of Riverbank.

"We're both (she and White) here to serve the people as our focus, I'm hoping we can work together," said Nygard. "The past is the past, let's move forward."

O'Brien also addressed some of the past council's actions.

"Council meetings are essential for doing business of the city," he said. "I plan on standing up and focusing on the tasks at hand."

Both O'Brien and Nygard said they were interested in moving immediately with the city's sewer system modification, public safety concerns and attracting new businesses and jobs to Riverbank.

"We have a lot of vacant businesses in a beautiful regenerated downtown," said Nygard. "We need to be creative and market the city."

Nygard pointed out she learned that approximately 20,000 people pass Riverbank daily on Highway 108 and felt the need to use that route to attract people to the city.

Tackling budget issues is another priority for O'Brien, who pointed out that the city's sales tax revenue has dropped, reducing Riverbank's general fund. One of the solutions, according to O'Brien, is to look at city employee salaries as a cost saving measure.

"We have 10 people making over $100,000 a year," said O'Brien. "That's more than the commander of an aircraft carrier and the responsibility (of the city worker) isn't as great. I don't think the city can continue to afford that."

O'Brien said he would like to see salaries of high-paid employees reduced rather than furlough days, which would affect services.

Nygard and O'Brien also acknowledged that though the city's budget was tight, both wanted to preserve or increase public safety. Nygard recognized that even though the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office, which provides police services to Riverbank, had cuts in staff, she wanted to see personnel and patrols increased in Riverbank. O'Brien said he would explore and initiate the possibility of a second fire station in the city.

O'Brien and Nygard will be filling the seats left by council members David White and Sandy Benitez, who did not seek re-election.