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New San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors chairman Steve Bestolarides asks county to help veterans

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Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:30 am, Tue Jan 10, 2012.

New chairman Steve Bestolarides encouraged his colleagues on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to do whatever they can to help veterans transition from the military into civilian life.

"We, as a distracted nation, show our gratitude to veterans, but gratitude never pays any bills," Bestolarides said after accepting the chairmanship during Monday's reorganizational meeting.

Bestolarides noted that there are 800,000 veterans nationally who are unemployed.

"We're putting them on their own," he said before a crowd that included several county department heads and some supervisors' relatives in the board chambers.

"Welcome to what we call a bloodless coup," Supervisor Leroy Ornellas told the audience. "It is only fair and just that everyone becomes chairman."

The chairmanship is rotated thanks to a county ordinance. Bestolorides, a North Stockton resident who represents District 3, will be succeeded next year by District 4 Supervisor Ken Vogel. Nevertheless, a motion was required to formalize the rotating of the gavel. That's where the humor set in.

"How long should we discuss it?" asked Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller, who served as the board's chairman in 2011.

Supervisor Leroy Ornellas added, "Can we get a staff report on it?"

In his closing remarks, Ruhstaller said the county was able to endure a relatively painless budget process in 2011 because former county supervisors built up a healthy reserve prior to the economic downturn.

"We didn't screw it up," Ruhstaller said of the present board's spending priorities.

But the current Board of Supervisors needs to replenish the reserve fund so that future board members have money to work with, Ruhstaller said. The board also needs to find a way to replenish budgets like the capital improvement fund and parks and recreation, which took a hit to avoid other spending cuts, Ruhstaller said.

Bestolarides, with several family members present, stood at the podium as he asked his mother, Maria Bestolarides of Lodi, to take her son's seat, grab the gavel and adjourn the meeting in appreciation of what she means to him.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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