George Britton retired Friday after three years as city manager of Modesto and an impressive 35 years in public service, much of that in Arizona. Britton grew up in Modesto and plans to remain in his hometown.
During his tenure, Britton worked with the council to get the city on top of its water and sewer needs, road improvements and other basic services. The depth of his understanding about policy and government functions is substantial. In talking about an issue such as district elections, for instance, he could summarize the benefits or drawbacks of at-large and districts without being emotional or argumentative. He had the same analytical ability with any number of subjects.
Britton came to Modesto as deputy city manager in 2001 and became interim city manager in fall 2004 after the council abruptly fired his predecessor, Jack Crist. Several months later, Britton was named to the job. He weathered a few rocky times, but stayed the course and the city is surely better for his strong leadership. We wish him well in retirement.
Meanwhile, Jim Marshall announced this week he'll retire at the end of March after 16 years as city manager in Merced. Marshall previously held the top job in Ceres for 14 years. Like Britton, Marshall is a solid government official who will be hard to replace.
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Another retirement of note: Alita Roberts has stepped down after seven years on the Modesto Planning Commission, where she had a reputation of being well-informed and thoughtful. Her two terms on the Planning Commission were only part of her lifelong record of volunteer service that included Girl Scouts, League of Women Voters and other civic groups. Roberts isn't done; she's interested in the redevelopment commission.
Developer Gerry Kamilos has mailed another expensive brochure to households around Stanislaus County promoting his West Park proposal for the Crows Landing air base. No surprise there; he's pushing hard. We detected one slight change in approach -- he has started writing as if he were a Stanislaus County resident. In his Dec. 31 cover letter, he writes, "Our unemployment rate is at 8.5% .... the quality of life of our working families is also impacted ..." Gerry, you are a Sacramento County businessman pitching a project in "our" county, Stanislaus. Having an office does not make you a resident. Prove West Park on its merits, not these overly familiar "I'm one of you" lines.
By the time Californians get to see their primary ballots -- in a week or two for vote by mail and Feb. 5 at the polls -- the list of candidates will be out of date. Several, such as Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd and Tom Tancredo, have dropped out of the running. Will California really influence the outcome of the primaries? Hard to say.
As we write this, men and women from all sorts of agencies and businesses are responding to downed power lines, toppled trees, flooded streets and other disruptions caused by Friday's storm. They'll probably still be at work as residents read the paper today. We want to thank all who are involved in cleanup, who were and are out in the wind and rain. You are appreciated!