Kelly Bates hopes young people will do what he did not: stay in Lodi after high school.
The first-time candidate for Lodi City Council says creating jobs and keeping young people here will be two of his top priorities in office.
"This town is going to die if we don't have job growth," said the 57-year-old Stockton high school teacher, who left for college and work in Southern California after graduating from Lodi High School in 1969.
"You know how many leave this town after high school and never come back? Almost all of them," Bates added, finishing a pumpkin spice latte at the Downtown Starbucks last month. "I think we need to do something for the young people. A hook, something that would keep them here."
Hiring an economic development director for the city would be a start, he said. Pushing for a San Joaquin Delta College satellite campus and promoting the local wine industry are two other job creation paths, he said.
College trustees dropped plans for a Victor Road campus this summer. They've expressed some interest in looking at other sites for a campus in the Lodi area.
When it comes to leading a city, Bates acknowledges he's no expert.
Kelly Bates at a glanceAge: 57.
Family: Married to Karen; son Brett and daughter Annie.
Occupation: High school social science teacher.
Education: Degree in political science from California State University, Northridge; teaching credential from California State University, Stanislaus.
- Served one year as Stockton police officer.
- Field service worker for several years at Southern California
- Ran mortgage credit company in Stockton for five
- High school teacher at Stockton Unified School District, off
and on, since 1998.
Hobbies: Golf, bass fishing, travel.
He realizes Lodi's finances "are in trouble." But he's not sure where he'd trim expenditures.
Layoffs would be a last option, he said.
"In a pinch, yes, I guess you would have to cut services - not emergency services," he said, pausing. "Where do you cut services? Garbage?"
Bates has some leadership experience, serving a union stewardship at his job with Southern California Gas Company decades ago. He said he was also president of a pre-law club in college at California State University, Northridge.
He has not, however, served on any city of Lodi boards or commissions.
"I'm not going to tell you I know all the answers, but I listen well," he said.
When it comes to new development, Bates said the city must encourage smart growth. He elaborated that projects like office buildings or an expanded wine industry should be encouraged.
He opposed the council's recent vote to allow for a doubling of retail space at the Reynolds Ranch project.
And he said he's not in favor of the Wal-Mart Supercenter project. Other city leaders see the massive retail development as a way to boost sagging sales tax revenue.
"That's not what I mean by growth," Bates said. "It's kind of a Band-Aid on a bigger wound."
Another priority for Bates is public safety.
He said he supports putting a sales tax measure on a future ballot to raise money for law enforcement.
When it comes to establishing a greenbelt between Lodi and Stockton, Bates said he's not yet familiar with any specific plans.
Representatives from the city, property owners in the proposed greenbelt area and San Joaquin County leaders have held several meetings over the past year-and-a-half about an "AL-5 zoning" compromise plan.
That plan, which is still being studied, would allow property owners to build one new home for every five acres they own.
"I know that's a sensitive issue," Bates said. "I'd have to take a close look at it."