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San Joaquin Fair board gets major shakeup

One Lodi resident is removed from office with four others, while three Lodi-area residents are appointed to fair board

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Mitch Slater

Denis Lewis

Joe Valente

Posted: Thursday, January 6, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:08 am, Thu Jan 6, 2011.

There will be a major shakeup of operations at the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton. Lodi resident Mitch Slater, who served on the fair's board of directors for eight years, and four others on the nine-member board were removed from office in one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's final acts as governor.

However, Schwarzenegger appointed three other Lodi-area residents to the fair board on New Year's Eve. They are Carolyn Van Exel, Denis Lewis and Joe Valente.

Thomas Sawyer of Stockton and David Cultrera of Escalon were also appointed for the first time on Friday.

The new fair board members replace Karylene Mann and Thomas Streeter of Stockton, Ken Yasui of Tracy, Art Perry of Manteca and Slater.

Victoria Salazar, Nanette Martin and Greg O'Leary were reappointed to the fair board, while board chairman James Jimenez of Escalon has two more years on his term.

Slater, maintenance and operations director for the Lodi Unified School District, said he received a phone call from Schwarzenegger's office shortly before Christmas informing him that his services are no longer desired.

"I put my life's blood into this thing," Slater said. "Eight years on the board, and eight good years."

There was no explanation why he was being replaced, Slater said.

Slater and Mann said they are willing to help out with fair operations in a non-official basis. They added that they don't harbor any hard feelings with Schwarzenegger's office about being removed from the board.

"I would imagine they're qualified people that are coming on," said Mann, a 10-year board member. "It will all be fine."

Valente and Lewis said they have yet to attend a fair board meeting, so they don't know exactly what to expect.

Valente, vineyard manager for John Kautz Farms in Lodi, served for three years on Friends of the Fair, which provides scholarships for students who show at the fair, and trophies for student exhibitors.

"I'm not going in with any agenda," Valente said. "It will be a learning experience."

Valente said it's really critical for fair officials to encourage community involvement.

Lewis has owned Lewis Livestock on East Harney Lane since 1990.

"I felt that people have to get involved if that fair is going to get back to what it used be," Lewis said, explaining why he applied for the board.

Lewis said that improved promotion and attendance are needed.

Van Exel was unavailable for comment this week.

Board members don't receive a stipend or benefits for their services from either the state or fair, Slater said.

"The new board has some real challenges," Slater said.

In addition to not having a CEO, Slater said he wonders how the new board will take to the fair's probable move in 2012 from June to a two-week period in September to coincide with the Northern California horse racing schedule.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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