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Woodbridge MAC to meet for first time with new faces

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Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 10:00 pm

Big leadership changes are in store for the Woodbridge Municipal Council as it gets ready tonight for its first regular meeting since the November election.

The MAC has been under the strong leadership of chairman Tasso Kandris the past two years, but Kandris chose to step down and not seek a second four-year term on the council. It advises San Joaquin County officials about issues affecting Woodbridge.

Not only did Kandris decide to forego another term, so did three others -- Pat Langhoff, Bert Bulkin and Tad Platt.

The departing council members have been replaced by newcomers Mary Avanti, Robert Durham and Ron Rader, who ran unopposed in the November election.

A fourth person, Shirley Ballard, ran unopposed as well, but she said on Monday she turned down the seat about a week before the election because a job change prevented her from serving on the MAC. Ballard is a registered nurse in the cardiac unit at St. Joseph's Hospital in Stockton.

The Board of Supervisors will appoint a replacement, but the vacancy hasn't been advertised because Ballard hasn't submitted a resignation letter, Supervisor Jack Sieglock said Wednesday.

"She spoke to us last week," Sieglock said. "She said she will send a letter in."

The MAC normally meets on the fourth Thursday of January, April, July and October, but a meeting -- announced only by a posting at the Woodbridge Post Office -- was held in December to elect new officers and establish committees.

Michael Devencenzi, elected to the MAC for the first time in 2002, was named committee chairman, and Avanti was appointed secretary.

Avanti, 57, who moved to Woodbridge in September 2003, has an ambitious agenda for the MAC.

Rader, on the other hand, is waiting to get his feet wet at tonight's meeting. Durham was unavailable for an interview this week.

Appointed to the MAC's community development committee, Avanti said she wants to upgrade southeastern Woodbridge, bring sidewalks and safety lights to all the streets, continue work with the downtown business owners to make Woodbridge a place where people want to visit and providing youth activities.

She also wants to continue the work she began last year reducing crime in Woodbridge. She feels the community has done a pretty good job lately of getting rid of abandoned vehicles.

A San Jose resident for 30 years before moving to Woodbridge in 2003, Avanti had to become accustomed to life in an unincorporated community after relying on city services for most of her life. One of the adjustments she faced was less police protection.

Woodbridge is governed by the county, including the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. Last year, when she was a crime victim, Avanti didn't understand why a deputy couldn't respond in a few minutes like police officers can in cities like Lodi.

"What happened that stirred me up was theft on my property, and then destruction of the community park," Avanti said. "I'm not as comfortable and secure as I would like it."

Last year, she began a Neighborhood Watch group and worked with county officials to add lights to Woodbridge Community Park and replace playground equipment damaged by vandalism.

But after complaining vociferously about the Sheriff's Department, Avanti met some key leaders in the department, such as Lt. Steve Moore, who is now acting sheriff, and Lt. Bruce Wuest, commander for rural areas in northern San Joaquin County.

"This last year has been an incredible learning experience for me," Avanti said. "I have turned from being one of the biggest critics of the Sheriff's Department to one of the biggest supporters of the Sheriff's Department."

Avanti retired in 2003 from Santa Clara County, where she worked primarily for the county in rehabilitation counseling along with drug and alcohol services. She was also an investigator for county public defender's office.

She recently completed a year as a legislative aide on prison and education policy for Santa Clara County State Sen. John Vasconcellos, who was termed out at the end of 2004. She now "dabbles" in real estate and mortgage loans.

Avanti said that anyone with concerns about Woodbridge may contact her at 333-9280.

While Avanti has immersed herself into community issues, Rader admits he needs to learn more about Woodbridge.

"I have no goals really defined (on the MAC)," Rader said. "I want to get familiar with the community, find out what the needs are and find out what I can do."

Rader, who says he has a history of community involvement wherever he's lived, grew up in Sacramento and moved to Woodbridge six years ago from Saratoga. He is a retired advertising and publicity manager for several high-tech Silicon Valley companies.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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