BELARMINO: Stanislaus County grand jury a great place to learn about government

revtonyag@aol.comJuly 2, 2013 

Over the years I have become thick-skinned without getting calloused and have sat in my office hearing he said-she said, trying to help people find the truth. I am smart enough to try to separate rhetoric from facts.

For the last year sitting on the Stanislaus County civil grand jury, those experiences have served me well.

I have not written about any local government agencies in order to avoid the impression of partiality and taint the findings of the grand jury. Impartiality is a must when serving as a citizens' watchdog.

Have you noticed the new median on Golden State Boulevard between Christofferson and Monte Vista here in Turlock? I think it is absolutely nice. The city of Turlock just received a federal grant to repave Monte Vista from Crowell to Geer, and I am really happy.

I have waited months to write those comments, but I digress.

The 2013-14 grand jury is being named this week, but it not too early to consider serving on the 2014-15 grand jury. The selection process starts in March with an application, followed by an interview, with 30 people put in a pool for a random drawing in open court.

There is a commitment of 20 hours per month, but it can demand more time, depending on the month.

The jury commitment was for one year only, which took a lot of pressure off me. There was no concern about whether or not they would want me again.

I went in with no ax to grind, wanting to learn about how local governments are supposed to operate. There are a lot of people, inside and outside of government, who did not understand the authority and limitations of the agencies serving us.

In the selection of the grand jury, there is an attempt to try to have all of the county represented. The demographics of the initial jury were interesting, and the alternates seated due to the resignations of jury members kept that perspective.

Most of the members were male. A lot of people were retired, with some business owners, public and private employees, students, and, of course, farmers. We started out with an age difference of54 years between the youngest and the oldest.

After dropouts and replacements took their toll, we were sitting around socializing and I heard someone say, "I am the second oldest." I looked up in time to see him staring at me, as several pair of eyes followed his gaze.

We had two ordained ministers and one PK (preacher's kid). I was the only obvious Asian, though I did represent the German and British segment. People lived in Oakdale, Patterson, Turlock, Modesto, Hughson and unincorporated areas. Two were born in Maine with one being out West for over 69 years and another being a Westerner for almost 40 years. Educational backgrounds ran from high school graduates to people with advanced degrees.

I have been privileged to serve our county for a year and would recommend it for anyone who wants to set aside personal agendas and work with 19 people to try to improve life in Stanislaus County.

Belarmino, a retired Turlock resident, is a chaplain with the Assemblies of God Disaster Response Task Force and retired from county government. Email him at revtonyag@aol.com.

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