Gurminder Singh is first Sikh American on Manteca board

Manteca, California— The Manteca Planning Commission could also be called the Melting Pot Commission.

Two appointments Tuesday by the Manteca City Council are a clear sign that the political landscape in Manteca is changing just a bit.

Commission alternate Jose Nuno was appointed to fill the rest of the term of Jeff Aksland that expires in December. Aksland, who makes his living in real estate, has moved out of Manteca.

Taking Nuno’s place is Guriminder (Gary) Singh.

Singh is the first [Sikh] American appointed to a Manteca city commission.

[Sikh] Americans have deep roots in the Central Valley stretching back more than a century.

Singh told the council that he wants to work to build a bridge between Manteca’s Millenniums and its older generations. 

Singh has co-owned the Manteca Mart convenience store with his father since 1989. He is also a real estate agent associated with Coldwell Banker. The Sierra High grad also graduated from the University of the Pacific with a Bachelors in Business and a minor in Biochemistry.

Singh is a member and a volunteer with the Manteca Sikh Temple. He also serves as chairman of the Woodward Community Association and has volunteered with Doctors Hospital of Manteca and Give Every Child a Chance.

Nuno is director of the non-profit Visionary Home Builders of California. The non-profit provides an array of services from offering affordable housing to assisting people struggling to keep their homes. He has served eight years in the Army Reserve. He earned a master’s degree in Public Administration and Bachelor’s in Psychology from California State University Stanislaus.

Nuno has been involved in various community leadership programs and advisory committees including the Great Valley Center & Leadership in Stockton. He also served a term on the Stockton Mayor’s Task Force on Persons with Disabilities.

He moved to Manteca in 2006. Nuno has served as an alternate since August 2011.

Also on the commission are Eric Hayes, Roberto Alaniz, Leonard Smith, and Mike Morowit.

Morowit was in attendance at the council meeting. That means all three candidates declared so far for the two council set vacancies in November — incumbent Vince Hernandez and Richard Silverman — were present. Silverman was there as chairman of the Measure M Oversight Committee to give a report on the status of the public safety tax.

Morowit’s diverse background is typical of the current planning commission plus the four applicants that sought appointment. He has owned Miner Mart Liquors for the past 20 years. When he was appointed to the planning commission in 2008 he was the first businessman to serve on that body in two decades. Morowit has a degree in criminal justice and worked with the Alameda County probation department several years before becoming a route salesman.

The rest of the commission has impressive backgrounds as will including Leonard Smith. 

Smith immigrated to the United States in 1967 and has resided in California for the past 47 years. He was born in Indonesia and moved to The Netherlands when he was 10. He immigrated to the United States at age 20.

Smith is the retired assistant city engineer of Hillsborough — a San Francisco Peninsula town that has the highest income among United States communities of at least 10,000 people.

Smith authored the hillside ordinance for Hillsborough. 

He retired in July 2010 from civil engineering after almost 37 years working in public works of several cities. They included Mountain View, Santa Clara, and Milpitas.

Also seeking appointment to the commission were Kenneth Koopmans and Jeffrey Zellner. 

Koopmans moved to Manteca in 2013 to be closer to his three sons and their families who live in the Bay Area.

He served 24 years in the Air Force and then 14 years as transportation manager for Columbia in Missouri. There he oversaw the transit system, was interim airport manager for six months and oversaw the construction of as 10-story parking structure

Zellner, a New York Life insurance agent, grew up in Manteca.

He also has worked four years as a project manager after earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. Zellner has served on various committees including the Manteca Chamber of Commerce board. He is past president of the Manteca business organization.



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