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Oakdale Year In Review: Reflecting Back On 2016
January to June
Weekend rain may have made conditions less-than-ideal for all things rodeo, but it didnt matter, as competitors, parade watchers and rodeo enthusiasts of all ages turned out in the Cowboy Capital of the World. The 65th annual Oakdale PRCA Rodeo, hosted by the Oakdale Saddle Club, saw Buck Lunak nail down a 78.50-point ride in this round of bareback competition. Marg Jackson/The Leader


From OID water wars, police investigations, and annual events, first half 2016 headlines in the Oakdale Leader began and many continued with stories into the second half of the year. This week, we start our annual ‘Year in Review’ by taking a look at the months gone by, with top stories from the first half of the year, January through June. Next week, a look at the last six months of the year.



The Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner began an extensive survey and treatment program in response to the detection of one Asian citrus psyllid on a residential property within the City of Oakdale. The psyllid trapped in Oakdale was confirmed on Dec. 24, 2015 in addition to one found in Turlock the same week.

The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce announced that the Gilbert family, well known throughout the Oakdale area, will receive honors as they are presented with the coveted ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at this year’s Annual Awards Dinner on Jan. 15.

Police presence will once again be in evidence for the student body of Oakdale Joint Unified School District campuses as the City of Oakdale partnered with OJUSD to re-establish a School Resource Officer/Police Services position for the 2016-17 school year. A uniformed officer will once again be assigned to OJUSD as was once common practice during the 2005 through 2008 time period.

“We’re very excited that the district has, along with the Oakdale Police Department and the City of Oakdale, discussed and agreed to terms to re-establish and share the cost of a School Resource Officer,” Assistant Superintendent Larry Mendonca stated. “Beyond providing a uniformed officer to respond in an emergency or crisis situation which may occur on campus, we look forward to having an SRO back in our schools to support character education programs, reinforce appropriate conduct and conduct code as well as applicable laws for youth.”

The Bianchi Community Center was the setting Jan. 15 for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce 70th Annual Awards Dinner. According to Chamber CEO Mary Guardiola, over 260 people attended the event that saw the Gilbert Family awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and Citizen of the Year recognition going to community humanitarian Jo Harris. David Gilbert accepted the award on behalf of the Gilbert Family. Citizen of the Year was awarded to Jo Harris, who was described as giving unselfishly and never failing to help or head up an event or fundraiser.

The Oakdale Cowboy Museum has ended its 15-year event partnership with the Oakdale Rotary Club and the Oakdale Testicle Festival, according to Cowboy Museum Manager Karen Serpa. According to Serpa, Rotary Club fundraisers had not been producing enough revenue to meet their own project needs and the club had asked that they be the sole sponsor of the annual event.

“We graciously gave it back to them understanding it was their baby,” Serpa said. “We thank them for letting us be a part of it for 15 years.”

Oakdale Police arrested a 23-year-old Oakdale High School volunteer on Friday, Jan. 22 after an investigation revealed he had been having a sexual relationship with a 16-year old male student. Oakdale Police Detective Sergeant Joe Johnson said Anthony Perez, of Oakdale, was taken into custody for an array of child molestation violations after the victim’s parent contacted police about the crimes on Jan 20. Perez was a Volunteer Aide with the school color guard, and also worked in the music and drama departments.

The City of Oakdale is in a far better shape, especially financially, than it was just six years ago, according to Mayor Pat Paul. Her comments came at the Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City Lunch at the Bianchi Community Center on Jan. 27.



A proposed western-themed festival, complete with a Friday night concert with a known country artist and a Saturday “international chili cook off” and dance was included in the 2016 list of plans for the Oakdale Travel and Visitors Bureau during its budget accomplishments and goals presentation to the Oakdale City Council on Feb. 1.

The Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon Trophy has once again returned to the Oakdale High School campus, back in Mustang territory. For the 16th consecutive year Oakdale’s Aca Dec team has proven what some may deny, Oakdale students are driven well beyond the sports playing field.

After a nearly year-long venture to get a historic church sold at a reduced price that would keep the building intact, but moved to another location, the City of Oakdale finally found a buyer. City Manager Bryan Whitemyer announced that Realtor Denise Cash, on behalf of Allen and Paula Martin, agreed to purchase the church for $1 and relocate it to a vacant lot that they had purchased at the southwest corner of First Avenue and Walnut Street. Their plan is to refurbish the 121-year-old church and convert it into a residence.

After spending the 2015 season playing baseball in Mexico, Oakdale’s Miguel Olivo, 37, was back pursuing a slot in Major League Baseball and signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants on Feb. 15 for the 2016 season.

Members of the Oakdale City Council spent over a half-hour at a recent session discussing and debating a property developer’s request to put up an LED sign with animation and graphics on his property at 1625 E. F St, in the city’s east end. At issue was an appeal of a Planning Commission ruling from local developer George Rose for a 100 sq. ft. ground pole sign for a deep lot that he has plans to develop into an industrial-commercial area. The council ultimately voted 5-0, ruling in Rose’s favor on the appeal, and to allow the sign with a variance.



After more than a quarter-century, the celebrated Knights Ferry Civil War Days battle reenactments were threatened to be cancelled due to a disagreement of terms in the operating permit. A message on the website for the American Civil War Association read, “I’m sorry to announce that Knights Ferry has been canceled, due to new restrictions by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Please stay tuned for more information from the ACWA Board as it becomes available.” After a weekend meeting, on March 6, the American Civil War Association announced that an agreement had been reached with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the previously cancelled war reenactments for the annual Knights Ferry Civil War Days set for March 19 and 20 was reinstated.

The elementary age students of Oakdale Joint Unified were learning robotics. Sean Timmons, STEAM Coordinator for the Stanislaus County Office of Education, visited the four elementary school campuses in Oakdale offering a teaching session in age appropriate robotics building and programming.

After 26 years of law enforcement service to the citizens of Oakdale, Police Chief Lester Jenkins announced his retirement at the Monday, March 7 Oakdale City Council meeting. Jenkins, whose total police career has been with the Oakdale Police Department, said that after getting hired by Oakdale in 1990, he never again applied for another job outside the city. He worked his way up through the ranks of the department serving as patrol officer, corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant.

Oakdale Police along with Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies had West Avenue between West F and West G streets closed off for most of Tuesday morning, March 15, regarding a suspicious incident of persons being held against their will. During the incident, one male subject was taken into custody and a female was taken into custody for a misdemeanor arrest warrant. A third subject was also taken into custody but police declined to name him. It was later learned that the suspect had ties to the high-profile Frank Carson homicide trial.

There was no shortage of hungry attendees feasting on the breaded bovine nuggets at the 35th annual Oakdale Testicle Festival at the FES Hall on Monday night, March 21. This was the first year that the Oakdale Cowboy Museum wasn’t a participant after being a co-sponsor for 15 years. “It was a great turnout,” Rotary President Farrell Jackson said. “The community comes together and supports us like they always do.”



The post office in Knights Ferry that had been operating for more than 150 years, open in recent years for a few hours daily during the week, abruptly closed with the unexpected passing of longtime postal contractor Sherron McCarthy in late March. A U.S Postal Service employee in Oakdale said no one in that office could comment on the ongoing closure of the Community Post Office and described it as a “legal matter.”

The possible loss of undisclosed funds from the Oakdale Youth Soccer League was reported to the Oakdale Police Department according to representatives from the 600-member league. OYSL Board Member Ami Poncabare stated that after receiving complaints from parents and discovering a variance in their books, the board of directors authorized an audit of their accounts.

Rodeo Week hit Oakdale commencing with the Cowgirl Luncheon on Wednesday, April 6, the queen coronation on Thursday and Arrest Your Boss fundraiser hosted by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.

Loyal fans from across the United States gathered under their umbrellas and EZ Ups, bundled up in ponchos and hats and made their way to the 65th annual PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo. The weekend extravaganza saw plenty of rain and mud but did not keep the excited crowd away. For the second consecutive year, Rhen Richard claimed the title of All-Around Cowboy with his total earnings of $3,206 in the tie-down and team roping. The Roosevelt, Utah resident took first place in the tie-down roping with an 8.1 second average finish.

The Valley First Credit Union on West F Street was held up shortly before 5 p.m. on April 18 and the robber made off with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robbery occurred just hours after another bank, the BBVA Compass Bank in the 3300 block of McHenry Avenue in Escalon, was robbed at 12:05 p.m. by a robber matching roughly the same description.

While many American Cancer Society Relay For Life events are cutting down their hours – opting for shorter 12- or 18-hour versions, the Relay For Life of Oakdale stayed strong for 24 hours April 23 and 24. This year, the 15th for Oakdale, saw the event reach its $75,000 fundraising goal and brought together cancer survivors, caregivers, family, friends and community members in a 24-hour fight against the disease.



A little taste of Colonial Williamsburg made a stop at Sierra View Elementary School in May as approximately 100 fifth graders participated in Revolutionary War Day. A first of its kind event for Oakdale Joint Unified School District, the idea was brought to life by fifth grade teacher Stacy Graham.

Opening a few weeks ahead of last year’s schedule – and extending the market by four weeks total – the Oakdale Farmers Market kicked off May 4. The market returned to the downtown area that drew shoppers in the past, moving back there from a one-year trial run at the Oakdale Town Plaza adjacent to the Gene Bianchi Community Center. Courtney Smith of Bloomingcamp Ranch, which has taken over running the weekly market, said they decided to offer it for 22 weeks, starting May 4 and running through Sept. 28.

After a nearly two-year absence from the streets of Oakdale, the familiar rumble of a Harley Davidson Electra-glide Police Package motorcycle will be heard again as Officer Rockford ‘Rocky’ Anderson hits the streets as part of the police department’s rejuvenated Traffic Division. Anderson, a six-year veteran of the department, recently completed an 80-hour emergency vehicle operation course sponsored by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department tailored specifically for riding motorcycles.

With an April litigation regarding water sales against the Oakdale Irrigation District going through various motions in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Directors Gail Altieri and Linda Santos who cast March 15 dissenting votes for the sale, voluntarily provided the plaintiffs’ attorney with declarations containing emails they had with OID General Manager Steve Knell. The directors’ move set in motion a series of court hearings and a restraining order barring the women from closed session discussions.

With threatening skies days before the annual event, Mother Nature cooperated over the weekend, providing pleasant, but occasional cloudy, weather for the 24th Annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival on May 21 and 22. Friday, while crews had just set up, winds had blown down a city tree on South Yosemite Avenue as forecasts of possible showers threatened the weekend. It was not to be, though, as Saturday and Sunday saw mostly sunny skies resulting in a crowd estimated at over 70,000 turn out for classic cars, entertainment, food, merchandise and crafts, and most of all, the chocolate.

In a hectic, pre-long holiday weekend blitz, graduations were hosted over three separate nights in Oakdale. The graduation week kicked off Wednesday, May 25 with two alternative education program ceremonies, continued on Thursday for Oakdale Junior High School and wrapped up with the Oakdale High School commencement ceremony on Friday night, May 27.



A former US Club Program Director with the Oakdale Youth Soccer League was arrested by Oakdale Police on June 1 after a two-month investigation into over $18,000 of embezzled league funds. Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Johnson stated that on Wednesday, June 1 at 10:30 a.m. investigators in the case went to the residence of former OYSL board member Jo Harris to serve a search warrant and arrested her on suspicion of embezzlement. Harris has continued to proclaim her innocence as the case makes it way though court.

With city parks taking on the look of a KOA campground and the river’s edge developing its own shanty town, the Oakdale City Council on Monday, June 20, took steps to enact four new ordinances targeting its vagrancy problem. Over the past few years, business owners and residents have been outspoken regarding the various homeless and vagrant problems throughout Oakdale, requesting action as city officials sought answers.

“Our focus is to protect business owners and residents, not to criminalize being homeless,” said City Attorney Tom Hallinan when introducing the ordinances.

Sheriff’s detectives were called to investigate the case of a man found stabbed to death in the 9000 block of Sawyer Road, just outside the city limits of Oakdale on Thursday, June 23. Stanislaus County Sherriff’s Sergeant Anthony Bejaran stated that the department received a 9-1-1 call at 9:10 a.m. regarding a man stabbed in front of a residence on Sawyer Road. When deputies arrived they found a 30-year-old man on the ground with apparent stab wounds to various parts of his body. Emergency medical crews attempted lifesaving efforts for the victim, however, he was pronounced dead at the scene. Detectives and crime scene personnel were then notified to respond to the residence. During the investigation, deputies detained and later arrested Ren Arnell Bellido, 42, of Escalon on the property.