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Looking Back At 2016: The Leaders Top Stories
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Oakdale High School Marching Mustangs as they march their way to the top. The marching band earned its third First Place trophy for the year in November at the Lincoln Band Review. Photo Courtesy Of Paige Jones


With OID factions quarreling, school starting, and the Oakdale High Mustang Football Team capturing the State Championship, the Oakdale Leader followed stories through the second half of the year. This week, we conclude our ‘Year in Review’ by taking a look at the months gone by, with top stories from the second half of 2016, July through December.



As the Oakdale Irrigation District continues to battle leaks of confidential information from closed session agenda items, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne granted a temporary restraining order to the district. The order prohibits two of OID’s own directors, Linda Santos and Gail Altieri from being included in those closed session hearings surrounding an ongoing litigation case where they had earlier provided confidential information to plaintiff attorneys.

With the upcoming July 30 retirement of Chief Lester Jenkins, the City of Oakdale took steps to recruit a new police chief with its announcement for the position on July 7. Former Modesto Police Chief Michael Harden was serving as interim police chief and will assist in the recruitment while the city searches for someone to lead the 23-sworn member department. Since 1990, Jenkins served the city working patrol and rising through the ranks as a corporal, then sergeant in 1995, and lieutenant in 2001. In July 2012, Jenkins was selected to be Chief of Police to lead the then-19 sworn member department.

Competitors were there for the glory – and the coveted belt buckles – as they met for The National Day of the American Cowboy at the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds on July 23. The event was presented by the Oakdale Saddle Club and the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and was designed to showcase the sport of rodeo and the men and women who keep the cowboy lifestyle alive.



There’s a signature sound that has – in recent weeks – reemerged in the city to go off thrice daily from the city’s fire station, only to be silenced again over the Aug. 6 and 7 weekend. On Monday, Aug. 8, Stanislaus Consolidated officials met with City Manager Bryan Whitemyer and it was determined that the fire horn would be turned back on. “After reviewing the tremendous history the horn has with the community and in respect of its longstanding tradition it was decided to turn the horn back on,” Whitemyer said that evening.

On Wednesday, Aug. 10 Oakdale Joint Unified officially began the 2016-17 school year. Approximately 5300 students are registered to attend OJUSD campuses this school year.

Oakdale voters won’t have much to choose from for their local government offices since the only ones to have filed papers for three city slots have been the incumbents. Additionally, one elected city office, treasurer, had no one file papers for the November General Election. The trio of automatic wins – for Tom Dunlop and Richard Murdoch for city council and Kathy Teixeira as city clerk – marks the second time in two years where those vying for Oakdale public office have run unopposed.

The Wednesday night, Aug. 17 meeting of Oakdale Irrigation District directors kicked off with Linda Santos getting served with a notice of an intention to circulate a recall petition calling for her removal from the five-person board.

Oakdale residents are seeking protection and adjusting routines as a result of a rising threat to the community’s health. The hazard: Swarms of mosquitoes that have been attacking citizens, especially those close to city parks. With 55 cases of West Nile Virus diagnosed in California alone, seven of which were in Stanislaus County, and the Zika virus threat across the country, mosquito bites pose a real risk to health and could be potentially lethal. The problem was so bad that at the youth soccer league opening on Saturday, Aug. 20, the city provided complimentary mosquito wipes.

Among the new faces in the halls of Oakdale schools this school year is an Oakdale High alum returning to the hallways and classrooms where he was once a student. In a cooperative effort with the Oakdale Joint Unified School District and the Oakdale Police Department, Officer Dan Taylor was assigned as the district’s new School Resource Officer this year after an eight-year absence of no cop assigned to OJUSD’s seven school sites. The assignment is actually a return to a post Taylor, a 16-year vet of the department, held from 2001 to 2003.



After a nationwide recruitment and selection process that began earlier this year, the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Board of Directors has named its new fire chief. Matt Daly, formerly a deputy chief from Downers Grove Fire Department in Illinois, now leads the 81-personnel department.

The Eighth Annual Taste of Oakdale hosted by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce at the Gene Bianchi Community Center was held with the community center abuzz.

The courts were active with Oakdale Irrigation District legal actions this month which saw lawyers for both sides busy with briefs for an upcoming hearing, a judge’s decision, and one plaintiff filing a complaint with the district attorney alleging malfeasance by certain board members and its general manager. OID board members Linda Santos and Gail Altieri filed statements with Stanislaus County Superior Court earlier this month explaining their actions from a lawsuit in which they were accused of providing confidential information to plaintiffs suing the water district.

The inaugural Western Days – Find Your Country Event, sponsored by the Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau was held Friday night, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m. at the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds. The Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds held a concert on Friday night along with dance lessons and the Saturday events included a sanctioned International Chili Cook Off.



The Oct. 3 Oakdale City Council meeting brought a standing room only crowd to the council chambers with the overflow of citizens into the lobby area as city officials decided on a resolution to recommend a route alternative for the planned North County Corridor. With the Caltrans project having been discussed for many years, Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said the city wanted to make a recommendation that was in the best interests of the Oakdale community.

OASIS After School Program Manager Matt Dillon is looking to foster positive relationships for his students and their community. What began as a staff meeting discussion will now result in a basketball game between the Oakdale Junior High OASIS students and the Oakdale Police Department.

Whether you like Piper Cubs or prefer a good Cessna 195, chances are you could have found them on Saturday, Oct. 8. It was the annual Oakdale Airport Open House, hosted in conjunction with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 90 at the airport. Festivities began at 10 a.m. and ran through midafternoon, with free airplane rides for kids, a demonstration of aerial skill by the Norcal Crosswinds team, and information provided by a number of organizations.

Stanislaus County, in partnership with the Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau, are working together on a project to install two electric vehicle charging stations in two parking spaces in the Gene Bianchi Community Center parking lot near the Oakdale Library.

Twenty-year police veteran Scott Heller was named chief of police after he was unanimously approved by the Oakdale City Council prior to the start of the council’s regular meeting Monday night, Oct. 17. Heller was the chief of police for Placerville where he had served in the role since 2013. Before leading the Placerville Police Department, Heller served the Modesto Police Department for 17 years.

Oakdale Irrigation District directors Gail Altieri and Linda Santos, who had been barred from discussing certain closed-door lawsuit discussions, due to a temporary order filed by the district, have been exonerated for their actions and allowed back into meetings with a Stanislaus Superior Court judge tossing out the order on Thursday, Oct. 13.

An idea described by Oakdale High School Class of 2013 alum Eriksen Dickens as a “hype video” highlighting Oakdale Mustangs Football and the community of Oakdale is now a film which does more than highlight a football team and its coaches, but shows viewers the community of Oakdale, as well as a belief system.

After the scandal of one of its volunteers getting arrested on suspicion of embezzlement earlier this year, the Oakdale Youth Soccer League received another financial blow as it was discovered to be operating with a revoked non-profit status while still soliciting funds and donations. In the first part of 2016, the Internal Revenue Service notified league officials that its 501(c)(3) non-profit status was revoked.

With a hotly contested race for the Valley’s 10th Congressional District, Republicans are banding together as House Speaker Paul Ryan came to Modesto on Thursday, Oct. 27 to spur local campaign staff and supporters for incumbent Congressman Jeff Denham. Denham faces challenger Michael Eggman as Denham tries for a fourth consecutive term representing constituents of the Central Valley congressional district.



With the city’s current broadcast equipment dated and in need of replacement, the Oakdale City Council approved the purchase of $75,000 in digital broadcast equipment at its Monday, Nov. 7 meeting. According to Finance Director Albert Avila, the current equipment in use was purchased nearly 10 years ago and due to its age, as well as advances in technology, replacement is necessary to facilitate improved access to city council meetings both online and by cable television.

Over 650 signatures were submitted to Stanislaus Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan on Thursday, Nov. 10 demanding the recall of Oakdale Irrigation District Division 4 board member Linda Santos.

More than 150 people came out to remember, honor and celebrate veterans on Friday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Veterans Monument in Oakdale’s William A. Fish Veterans Park. Hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2922, in cooperation with the City of Oakdale, the ceremony included various speakers honoring and remembering the service of local veterans, along with music and a special flag retirement ceremony conducted by the local Boy Scouts.

As the investigation into Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace’s death continues, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Detectives are asking for the public’s help. Detectives are working on establishing a timeline of everywhere the suspect, David Machado, may have been before and after the Nov. 13 shooting at the Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson. Wallace, a longtime deputy who served in Hughson, was gunned down on Sunday morning; Machado was arrested later on in the day in Tulare County.

In a time when police interactions are under scrutiny, the Oakdale Police Department, in a move to promote transparency, has joined the growing list of law enforcement agencies in California and the nation to deploy body worn camera technology.

Oakdale High School may now add one more group to that of its first place trophy winning list, as the OHS Marching Band took first place honors Nov. 19 at the Lincoln Band Review. This final competition performance earned the group its third First Place trophy for the 2016-2017 school year.

Oakdale’s Robert “Bob” Gilbert, who, along with his family, was honored earlier this year by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce with their Lifetime Achievement Award, passed away at age 93 on Sunday, Nov. 20 late in the evening. Gilbert was the last surviving child of Amos Lawrence and Emma Gilbert. In 1892, Amos Gilbert established the A.L. Gilbert Company.

The Spirit of Oakdale committee was in full force for the 23rd year as they worked toward putting on the annual free community meal hosted each Thanksgiving at the Gene Bianchi Community Center on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.



At the Dec. 5 Oakdale City Council meeting, the City of Oakdale entered into a contract with a Sacramento law firm to assist the city in getting repayment for loans it made to the former Oakdale Community Redevelopment Agency.

Oakdale Police arrested a 31-year-old Hilmar woman on suspicion of bilking a kind-hearted Oakdale woman out of $8,500 on a bogus story that the suspect’s 10-year-old son had cancer and had eventually died from the disease.

Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan announced on Wednesday, Dec. 14 that OID Director Linda Santos will face a special recall election tentatively slated for April 25. According to Lundrigan, the required number of 421 sufficient signatures was needed to move forward with the recall election.

On Sunday evening, Dec. 18 hundreds of members of the Oakdale community flooded the streets to welcome back their State Champion varsity Mustangs football team. As the team buses entered town along Yosemite Avenue, members of the Oakdale Police Department and Oakdale Fire Department escorted the team through downtown Oakdale to a warm and welcoming ovation on the otherwise chilly night. Fans, family members and alumni were on hand with handmade signs that read “Welcome Back Champs” and “Forever Champions” to salute the CIF Division 3A state title won by the Mustangs on Dec 17. They defeated Bishop’s of La Jolla, 47-0, to win the title.