Dan Bilbrey steps under the scaffolding and around construction workers this week as he walks through the Civic Center — the new one under construction on 10th Street.
The $25-million structure, with its state-of-the-art council chambers, won’t be finished before Bilbrey leaves office as Tracy’s mayor. But 15 years ago, when he was still new on the council, he served on a task force that studied the feasibility of building a new City Hall. Back then, he didn’t think it was feasible at all — like a lot of things back then, he says.
Now, he counts it as one of the projects that make him most proud to say he’s Mayor Dan — along with the West Valley Mall and other retail job centers; the city’s parks that have accompanied every new neighborhood; the South County Surface Water Project, which provides a new water source to the city; and the city’s purchase of the Holly Sugar property.
Bilbrey has been in the spotlight since 1994 as the longest-serving mayor in this city. On Nov. 7, though, when Tracy residents go to the ballot box, they won’t see his name under the choices for mayor.
Here’s what he’s thinking as he approaches retirement.
Our Town: How does it feel to be retiring from official city service after all these years as mayor
Mayor Dan: I am so proud of our community and our citizens. I am proud of the city’s accomplishments and the fact that I was allowed to be involved.
No matter where I travel within the city, there is always a wave, a warm smile and a handshake.
I always knew the time would come when it would be time to step down. I am sad about that but honored to have represented the city of Tracy. The 12 years as mayor has passed so quickly.
OT: When you look back, what makes you most proud What do you think are your greatest accomplishments
Dan: The council has accomplished great things across our community; not any one person can take a bow for all of our successes.
As the mayor, I am most proud of working with the residents of Tracy, welcoming new people to our community and building a better place to live and raise a family.
The mall, new retail job centers and parks are impressive, but there are two projects that provide current benefit and will continue to pay large dividends in the future: •
The South County Surface Water Project provides 10,000 acre-feet of water to the city of Tracy annually. A partnership of south county cities made this project work, and this amount of water can be increased over the years, as the community grows. •
The purchase of the Holly Sugar property will, I think, be one of the city’s greatest projects. The opportunities for the property are endless; from park lands and open space to farmland preservation, the future will tell the true value of this property.
OT: What motivated you to run for public office in the first place, and what kept you running
Dan: While working in the community and raising my family, individuals suggested I run for office. They thought I might have something to offer. Little did I know where that first election night in 1990 would take me.
OT: What changes have you seen in Tracy since the time you took office
Dan: Where to start The changes are everywhere, but the most important change is that we’re a growing and healthy community, diverse and full of energy.
Our community has come alive with young children, the foundation of a community yet to come.
We have worked to add shopping, entertainment and workplaces. It is difficult to list those areas that have not experienced change.
For any decision I have made, it has always been in an attempt to make our community a better and safer place to live, work and raise a family.
OT: Is there anything the candidates should know about filling the shoes of mayor
Dan: Time! When you are elected mayor, your time belongs to everybody.
The mayor’s schedule is extremely busy. It’s not just the first and third Tuesday evenings of each month, but seven days a week. Just know you’re on your way to a meeting, planning a meeting or in a meeting all the time.
Be prepared to listen, to be understanding and to assist in solving problems.
Your diet will change, too. You’ll eat a lot of John Day’s famous chicken dinners; the mayor eats a lot of chicken dinners.
OT: Can you tell us about your work with the hospital Is it true that you got your start in the medical field as an ambulance driver
Dan: Being an ambulance driver was just one of the many jobs I had at the Tracy hospital.
During my nearly 40 years at the hospital, I was a medical equipment tech, purchasing agent, materials manager, director of general services and executive director of the hospital foundation.
As they say, those were “the best years of my life.” Sutter Tracy Community Hospital is a place with great people and a wonderful place to work.
OT: Do you plan to stay active in Tracy, or do you think you’ll take a break from all the public functions
Dan: I have a honey-do list that’s 16 years in the making. I have promised Josie that I will complete the list before I start anything new.
I will continue some of my community activities, but at a slower pace. I have had my time, and it’s time for others to carry on.
If I’m asked my opinion, I will share it; if my experience has value, I’m a resource. I’m not dead, just relaxing.
OT: Tell us about your family and your life as a husband, father and doting grandpa. What do you do, just for fun
Dan: I have a great family. Josie and I have been married for almost 38 years. As a couple, we are truly blessed. We are best friends and enjoy our time together.
We have a son and a daughter, both married. We have three wonderful grandchildren in Oregon, the center of the universe for us, and we enjoy our visits.
Future plans include all those things people say when they retire. Our goal is to enjoy each other’s company, run with the grandchildren and take things a bit slower.
This community has been good to the two of us, and we are thankful for all that we have. The city of Tracy is a great community and will become an even greater place to live in the future.
OT: What are your passions, and do you have any final words
Dan: My passions are friendships and laughing. Seeing people enjoy themselves. Being involved, seeing good things happen and looking for something else to do. And family.
At this stage of my life (career), I would encourage individuals to become involved in their church, schools or community. Everyone has a special talent and can make a difference.
• In the Spotlight is a weekly profile in Our Town. This week’s interviewer was Editor Cheri Matthews. To nominate someone to be In the Spotlight or to comment on this week’s column, call 830-4201, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.