Due to health issues involving himself and his wife, Bill Fields has resigned from the Morada Municipal Advisory Council after 14 years as the unofficial mayor of the community.
Fields, 66, has been known as the go-to member on the MAC by keeping up with growth and water issues involving the city of Stockton and San Joaquin County.
"We're losing one of the mainstays," said Pat Gotelli, who has served on the MAC with Fields for several years. "He's been the one holding it all together. I don't know how we're going to replace him."
The MAC, a seven-member elected body, advises county officials about issues affecting Morada. County Supervisor Ken Vogel, who represents Morada, will accept applications from Morada residents to fill Fields' seat.
"We do need some young blood in there," Fields said Tuesday. "It's not good for the same people to run the show. It really isn't."
A MAC member since January 1997, Fields has been a strong opponent of the city of Stockton's plans to expand its boundaries east of Highway 99 to induce growth into Morada. As a member of another group, the Morada Area Association, Fields has attended numerous Stockton City Council meetings and conducted extensive research about Stockton and its potential developers.
The Morada Area Association is different from the MAC. It's a private organization of residents that has sued Stockton over its growth plans and sued the county when it approved a Muslim mosque on the eastern Highway 99 frontage road. Fields said he will remain on the Morada Area Association board, but he may be forced to resign from that group as well.
"For over 20 years, Bill Fields has worked diligently to preserve Morada the way it is and has attempted to restrain developers to a rational plan consistent with orderly growth," MAC colleague Ken Meleyco said.
"His guidance and skill in working with all these conflicting interests as chairman of the MAC will be sorely missed," Meleyco said. "We have benefited from his knowledge about our vanishing water table and used it to slow down some of the unrestrained growth that the city of Stockton and Stockton East Water District have promoted in the last decade."
Fields enjoys looking at the 400 acres of walnut trees on the south side of Foppiano Lane instead of a 2,100-home subdivision that was proposed a few years ago. Had Morada community leaders not protested the subdivision, he said, he could be looking at some foreclosed homes there.
"It gives me a real good feeling to go down there and see those trees," he said.
Fields credits the late Louise Peterson for prodding him and other Morada residents in the early and middle 1990s, when Morada's two main organizations were dominated by developers and their allies.
Peterson encouraged Fields and other Morada residents to seek a MAC seat so that the council could be more representative of the community, Fields said.
One of Fields' concerns is the impact churches create when they build in Morada and other rural areas. Churches don't pay taxes, yet they require water and sewer service.
"The county is not looking at that," Fields said.
He's also concerned about the increasing crime in Morada, especially burglaries. Fields would like the county Sheriff's Office to establish a "community car" program in Morada similar to ones in Woodbridge, Lockeford, Thornton and Linden, where deputies focus on a specific community and get to know its residents.
Fields is a devout Christian who submits letters to the News-Sentinel on a regular basis about religion, politics and other issue.
And on a lighter side, Fields is known for his long, gray beard. He says he hasn't trimmed it in more than 20 years. He combs it daily so it doesn't go too far down his body, but he says it goes down to his navel.
"I just wanted to see what all those old rabbis had to go through," he said with a chuckle.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.