A Lodi woman had the time of her life when she hosted a fundraiser for Ronald Reagan when he was running for president in 1980.
Liz Williams, founder of Lodi's Tea Party chapter in 2009, lived on Atherton Island, west of Country Club Boulevard in Stockton when Reagan ran for president. She was thrilled to host a fundraiser for him that year and have him in her house.
"It's OK, you can call me Ronnie," he told Williams.
Reagan was born 100 years ago Sunday, a day that the state Legislature designated "a special day of significance," according to Board of Equalization member George Runner, who served the Lancaster-Palmdale area in the State Senate last year.
"I think he was a very genuine person," Williams said on Sunday. "He was the same person privately and publicly. He was passionate about his beliefs, but he didn't hammer us on the hand with a sledge hammer about it. He had a warm smile and a good sense of humor."
Williams recalls one of the highlights of Reagan's presidency: when he stood by the Berlin Wall and made his famous pronouncement in 1987 — "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Williams said, "I was proud of him because he was talking from his gut. He was really comfortable in his own skin."
Williams recalled one part of Reagan's personality — he never drank alcohol until his day was finished. Then he'd drink a small glass of brandy.
"That was his salute to the end of the day," she said.
Also speaking about Reagan's legacy on his 100th birthday were Cindy Charris, new president of the Greater Lodi Area Democrats, and Greg Wright, a government teacher at Lodi High School.
"I liked Reagan. I liked his charisma, how he spoke and presented himself. I had trouble with him closing health facilities (when he was governor). I think it was a start of our homeless problems. Those folks used to know where to go when they needed help.
"I certainly don't think he was the worst president we had. He did bring people together, and we needed it then."
"Ronald Reagan was the 'Great Communicator' who was positive and gave the American people hope after the Vietnam War, Watergate and recessions in the 1970s. He was never mean or used negative campaigning.
"He was very tough against his opponents and would not back down, particularly against the Soviet Union. Reagan's buildup of our military basically bankrupted the Soviets as they tried to keep up.
"Reagan lowered the tax rate on the wealthy from 70 percent to 28 percent. He wanted to free up money for capital investment and to deregulate industries that were hamstrung by government interference. This has become the rallying cry for Republicans and Blue Dog (fiscally conservative) Democrats. If you want to win, you have to promote tax cuts.
"But Reagan was practical and pragmatic. He raised taxes as president 11 times, and as governor, his tax increase equaled 30 percent of California's general fund. Reagan believed in freeing up money for business, but he believed in fiscal responsibility.
"Ironically, politicians have used Reagan's name to create a system where the top sliver of Americans are becoming wealthier, and the middle class is shrinking. Ronald Reagan was the champion of the middle class. He would not have allowed this to happen.
"Ronald Reagan rates with Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and FDR. These were all great men with great successes and failures, too.
"Biographer Parson Weems wrote a biography of Washington after his death that made him godlike. Grover Norquist is creating an image of Ronald Reagan that no Republican can achieve.
"Tax cuts in the time of war and trim the budget without touching Social Security, Medicare or the military. These are the biggest parts of our budget. I hope Republicans can remember the real Ronald Reagan — to be positive, practical and also be great leaders."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.