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Humor and serious issues mix at Lodi’s first Leadership Forum

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Posted: Saturday, June 25, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:18 am, Mon Jun 27, 2011.

We thoroughly enjoyed Thursday's Leadership Forum, a first-ever program of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, and were proud to help sponsor the event. Here are some random notes we gleaned from the day's festivities:

Speaker Dante Nomellini, after a glowing introduction by County Supe Ken Vogel, began his talk by noting, "The older I get, the more nice things people say about me."

Billy Beane, GM of the Athletics, was asked what he thought about the LA Dodgers' sad state of affairs. "I want what is good for baseball, and the Dodgers are a great part of baseball, so I want to see them succeed. Their rivalry with the Giants is one of the best in the game. I have no special insight. We'll just have to see how it plays out."

Beane said the A's are one of the few teams that has to share a stadium with a football tam, and it is a problem. He was talking with an agent for an infielder, and extolling the quality of the Oakland playing surface, a key feature for infielders. The agent, according to Beane, told him: "Yeah, it is a great surface, until the Raiders start playing on it in August."

Chamber President and CEO Pat Patrick acted as master of ceremonies, and several times urged those attending to protest tentative political district maps that, he said, make Lodi a political non-entity. "If you think you've lost your political identity, you are right," he said. "The people who put these maps together are well-meaning, but they are like sheep who lost their way. If they don't hear from us, we are in trouble." Before the event began, Vogel shared that he's heard the city of Davis is lobbying to be included in the state Senate district Lodi is trying to remove itself from.

Political comic Will Durst was introduced by none other than Lodi Mayor Bob Johnson, fresh off his weekend stint as judge of the taco truck cook-off. Durst was skeptical, though. "Bob Johnson? Are we sure? Come on, Bob Johnson. That's a name right out of the witness protection program." Durst said Lodi was nice, clean town. "Looks like you sent all the bad hippies to Stockton, where they work in the granola mines."

The day included a salute to veterans, including several who appeared on stage: Word War II vet Glen Biddy; Sgt. Frank Carillo; Iraq war vet Ryan Dinkle, recently cited by Assembly member Alyson Huber as her district's veteran of the year; and San Joaquin County United Way Chief Andy Prokop, Vietnam vet.

One of many bright spots during the day was the singing of the National Anthem by Joshua Raphael, the owner of Raphael's flooring in Lodi. The musical composition, "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland, was played to kick off the forum. The music was a hallmark of a leadership summit held for several years in Stockton, after which the new forum is patterned.

At the end of the day, Patrick asked the crowd, "What do you think? Shall we do this again next year?"

The question drew hearty applause.

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