As a personnel department employee with the city of Lodi in the 1970s, Bill Hinkle was given an assignment that would change his life.
The late City Manager Hank Glaves made Hinkle the city's liaison to the Sister City program. That meant keeping in touch with Lodi's two Sister Cities, Kofu, Japan, and Lodi, Italy.
Hinkle hasn't worked at City Hall since 1988, but he remains firmly attached to the Sister City program. He is the Lodi chapter president and headed the Northern California chapter, which includes 55 cities, for the past three years.
Hinkle was firmly in the spotlight on Friday and Saturday, when he organized the Northern California Sister City conference at the Japanese American Civic League Hall on Stockton Street. That included welcoming the president of the U.S.-China Business and Culture Association, whose office is in Shanghai, China.
Tie Zhang, the Chinese official, was the keynote speaker on Saturday, a gathering that drew about 60 people from throughout the northern half of the state. The gathering also included a welcome from Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen and a luncheon address by Lodi's Taj Khan, whose topic was, "Engaging the Muslim World."
Hinkle really got hooked on the Sister City program in 1979, when he flew to Kofu as an emissary for the city of Lodi. He took a display of Lodi memorabilia and became a volunteer once he left City Hall.
"I enjoyed going to Japan," he said. "It turned out that my daughter wound up working in Tokyo after college and marrying a Japanese (man)."
In 1990, the mayors of Kofu, Japan, and Lodi, Italy, participated in the Lodi Grape Festival Parade, which Hinkle considers one of the highlights of the city's involvement in the Sister City program.
Hinkle will be busier than ever as Lodi hosts the 50th anniversary of its Sister City relationship with Kofu next year.
Besides hosting Sister City representatives from Northern California and the national organization Friday and Saturday, Hinkle stepped down as Northern California president after three years. He was replaced by Debi Davis, of Santa Clara. He will remain the Lodi chapter president.
Born in Spokane, Wash., Hinkle grew up in Portland, Ore., and moved to Lodi in 1971 to take the City Hall job. He left the city in 1988, worked for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District for eight years and then the San Joaquin County Retirement Association before retiring in 2008.
He is also involved in the Japanese-American Civic League and efforts to renovate Lodi's old Japantown area on Main Street and nearby streets.
Hinkle and his wife, Judy, have a son, Greg Hinkle, of New England; a daughter, Debbie Funakawa, of Honolulu; and three grandchildren.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.