Ricky Gill: Youth didn't block Lodi man's bid for Congress
At the ripe old age of 25, Ricky Gill raised some eyebrows in 2012 by not only running for Congress, but giving three-term incumbent Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, all he could handle in his bid for re-election.
Gill ran on the platform of being a local candidate who could give San Joaquin County local representation after several years of being represented in Congress and the state Legislature by people from outside the county.
Gill was born at Lodi Memorial Hospital, attended St. Anne's and Mokelumne River schools, and is a 2005 graduate of Tokay High School.
He ran for the congressional seat in the newly formed 9th District at the earliest possible age. Candidates must be at least 25 years old to serve in Congress, and Gill turned 25 about a month before the June primary.
Gill not only gained widespread support among Lodi-area residents, but he was also recognized throughout the country. He was endorsed by former Stockton Rep. Norm Shumway and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
One of the highlights of Gill's campaign came in August, when he introduced himself to the nation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
"I think his fundraising ability was remarkable," Republican political consultant Don Parsons said. "Certainly his age was a factor in many people not considering him a particularly viable candidate in the beginning, but I think he made a lot of converts to create a viable campaign."
Parsons said he believes that Gill will have a better opportunity if he chooses to run again in 2014 because campaigns that don't include a presidential election tend to have a lower — and more conservative — turnout.
Ruben Y. Guardiola: Fighting gangs through recreation
Ruben Y. Guardiola doesn't have to ask for respect from the at-risk teenagers he works with. His presence, combined with his honesty about his own past in gangs, commands it.
Guardiola has worked with Lodi High School students for two years through Point Break, a Stockton-based gang outreach program. He started up a lunchtime handball habit which led to a citywide handball tournament in September. The sport has been able to bring together kids who wouldn't otherwise get along, said Guardiola.
In November, he was hired by the city of Lodi to manage a new outreach program for high schools and middle schools in town.
As a former gang member, Guardiola uses his history and stories about his friends and family members to get kids back on track. Three visits to prison and more time in jails finally convinced him to leave the gang lifestyle behind in his early 30s. Since then, he has created a 14-year landscaping business, bought his own home, and raised two kids to steer clear of gangs.
Guardiola said his methods for working with kids in gangs are very direct. He tells them that the only possible endings for gang members are death or time in prison, and often shows videos of what life is like behind bars.
In his outreach work, Guardiola also connects with the families of at-risk youths to see if there are issues at home that he can help with, and to refer families to community agencies.
Another tactic is to focus on the positive influence natural leaders can wield. Guardiola taps into the sense of pride gang members carry, in hopes of showing them that they have the ability to steer their friends in better directions.
Karen Schauer: Galt elementary superintendent challenges the status quo
Karen Schauer is no stranger to being in the news, whether it's for her outspoken opinion of the state budget and its trickle-down effect on local school districts or for adopting a novel way to evaluate teachers for the sake of the students.
When a school board trustee informally proposed that the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District apply for a multimillion-dollar pie-in-the-sky federal grant, Schauer did not hesitate to take the reins as the district's superintendent.
For a month, the former elementary teacher gathered other district leaders and they wrote the Race to the Top grant application, chock full of district statistics and community demographics.
And the hard work paid off.
The district found out earlier this month it was one of just 16 school districts nationwide to receive the funding. The $10 million grant will go toward innovative programs and improved teacher effectiveness training aimed at raising student test scores, among other things.
Schauer, who lives in Galt, was publicly lauded at last week's Galt City Council meeting, where new Mayor Marylou Powers congratulated her for the hard work she and her staff put in.
Always the team player, Schauer said the work was a joint effort among the district, the community, the city and the Galt Joint Union High School District, which was part of the initial effort, though it did not join with the elementary district when it came to submitting the application.
Frank Gayaldo: Local businessman thinks globally
Frank Gayaldo once chased down crooks.
Now he is in hot pursuit of business opportunities in places like China and Costa Rica.
Gayaldo's journey is unique, eclectic, and some might say visionary. After working as a correctional officer and park ranger, Gayaldo spent a number of years as a bounty hunter based in Stockton, pursuing men and women who had jumped bail.
Then he decided to give up the bounty hunting life and pursue business instead.
In 2012, he continued his quest to build local business through foreign opportunities.
He's made numerous trade excursions to Costa Rica and China, and drawn business delegations from those countries to Stockton, Lodi and Galt. (A zealous believer in the power of international perspective, Gayaldo suggests local high-schoolers be taught Mandarin.)
He was voted the tourism advocate of the year for 2012. He has also led the way toward establishing international markets for local wines.
"He has literally taken Lodi wines and put them on the international stage," said Nancy Beckman, Lodi Conference and Visitors Bureau chief, in recognizing Gayaldo.
Also in 2012, Gayaldo took over as CEO of the Galt District Chamber of Commerce. He has worked to rebuild the Chamber's website, adding video and map functions, and highlighting the area's business and agricultural promise.
He's eager to work with others toward the goal of establishing Galt as a commercial crossroads for tourism and agriculture. He intends to explore more ways that wine, cheese and other local products can be profitably exported.
In recent months, Gayaldo has written numerous guest columns for the News-Sentinel, ranging from trade and business subjects to advice for college graduates looking for jobs.
While Gayaldo's focus is on Galt and San Joaquin County, he has developed a wider reputation for linking products with overseas markets.
In early 2013, Gayaldo is traveling to Georgia. There, he will help farmers find ways to sell peanuts in China.
Travis Trotter: Stepping out of the shadows
Bay Area resident Travis Trotter stepped into the spotlight at the end of a lengthy civil sex abuse trial when the Diocese of Stockton agreed to pay him $3.75 million to drop his lawsuit against Father Michael Kelly of St. Joachim Catholic Church in Lockeford.
Trotter said he was sexually abused by Kelly as a child but repressed the memories. By the time the memories were recovered, the statute of limitations had expired, so he sued in civil court instead.
Trotter served in the Air Force and worked up to the rank of major. But he left the service due to emotional damage that prevented him from working.
He went on to become a pilot for Southwest Airlines, but lost that job because corporate policy did not allow him to continue taking his depression medications while on the job.
The civil trial against Kelly lasted nearly two months before it concluded in April, with the court finding Kelly liable of assault, and was the result of over four years of litigation.
During the trial, Trotter's identity was protected. He said the timing of the trial was right because he had reached a stage in which he was able to come forward and identify himself as a victim of sexual abuse. That identification was powerful for him, he said, because it provided closure for him while blazing a possible trail for other victims to come forward, too.
Joe Petersen: Changing the face of a struggling water district
One Lodi man joined the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District two years ago with very specific goals in mind. The first was to oust then-president Bryan Pilkington from the politically charged board. The second was to set the district on a path to financial solvency. With both of those goals reached, Joe Petersen completed his term and stepped down from the board of directors.
In his year as president, Petersen led the district to make some potentially risky decisions, which paid off. The district established the Tracy Lake Improvement District, a large-scale project to pull water from the Mokelumne River and fill an area in Acampo to act as a local reservoir. The project didn't bring in money, but it did show the State Water Resources Control Board that the district was serious about putting surface water to use.
Petersen also reached out to the neighboring Woodbridge Irrigation District for a plan to team up to bring water into Lodi's surface water treatment plant. While plans are not yet final, it has opened the door for both districts to work together and plan the use of Mokelumne River water.
Petersen stuck firm to his mission of finding as many secure outlets for Mokelumne River water as possible in an effort to lessen the draw on local groundwater.
If local groups like North San Joaquin do not transition to use more surface water, the state or federal government will make those choices, Petersen says. And that's a day he doesn't want to see.
Frank Kapiniaris: Highlighting pressures for Lodi wineries
All Frank Kapiniaris wanted to do was build a winery with a patio, tables and a little light music to highlight Stama Wines. But when he selected a location on Davis Road near Turner Road to expand his Lockeford tasting room, potential neighbors hotly contested his plans.
Several existing wineries in the area have been accused of sound and traffic violations due to too many patrons or too many events. Neighbors say the sounds distract from their peaceful countryside lifestyles.
Kapiniaris said he chose the location precisely because of its popularity with other wineries. He was baffled that the plans had spurred so much protest before construction even began.
The proposal to build was approved in November 2011, but three neighbors filed an appeal. Kapiniaris made changes to the winery plan, and the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved the project despite the protests. Stama Winery will be allowed 30 events a year with up to 150 people present.
But the debate surrounding the winery spurred the possibility of a moratorium on winery events until the current, 10-year-old winery ordinance could be revised. While the moratorium did not come to pass, a local task force of tourism officials, neighbors, growers and vintners are working on the new ordinance governing winery events.
Kapiniaris held firm that his family's winery would not cause a problem among neighbors. Their first event will be held in the spring of 2013.