Honor for Turlock Olive Garden general manager

Ron Ghaffari

Ron Ghaffari, General Manager of the Olive Garden in Turlock just achieved Diamond Club status, one of the top honors at parent company Darden Restaurants.
Ghaffari was recognized this year for his commitment to delivering guest experiences at the highest level, while making a difference in the lives of guests and team members, as well as in his community. This is the third time he has received this recognition.
“Ron welcomes every guest and team member that comes through his restaurant doors like family,” said Dan Kiernan, President of Olive Garden. “His passion for creating a vibrant, engaging team member culture make him an incredible asset to both the Turlock community and our Olive Garden family.”
Ghaffari attributes his professional success caring managers with a great work ethic and genuine love of the job.
Ghaffari joins an elite group of 44 General Managers selected from more than 850 Olive Garden restaurants in the country this year, making this a truly exclusive honor.

New Merced College Board of Trustees members welcomed

Newly elected board members John Pedrozo, Sue Chappell and Mario Mendoza were introduced to the Merced College community at the monthly Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 12.
The board consists of seven elected officials, each representing a region in Merced County. Its purpose is to support the mission, vision and core values of the Merced Community College District, while helping to ensure equitable access and success to all students.
Departing trustees Dennis Jordan, Cindy Lashbrook and Leonel Villarreal gave a few parting words before giving way to their replacements. Lashbrook and Jordan were the board’s longest tenured members, having served the last eight years.
“I’m proud to have this opportunity to serve this institution that has played such a pivotal role in our community,” Pedrozo said. “I’m ready to get to work alongside my fellow board members and continue to build upon the excitement and momentum that President (Chris) Vitelli has brought to the campus.”

New judge for Merced County

Steven K Slocum, 41, of Merced, was appointed to a judgeship in the Merced County Superior Court and was formally sworn in on Dec. 7.
Judge Slocum served as a commissioner at the Merced County Superior Court since 2018. He served in several positions at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office from 2005 to 2018, including as supervising deputy district attorney.
Slocum earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

New faces for City of Modesto

Scotty Douglass

Caluha Barnes

Scotty Douglass and Caluha Barnes, have joined the City of Modesto’s leadership team as Deputy City Managers.
“I’m excited for Scotty and Caluha joining the city of Modesto family,” said Joe Lopez, Modesto City Manager. “The two new deputy city managers will focus on collaboration in efficiently meeting the needs of our customers, and will be instrumental in leading the charge toward a more responsible, innovative organization.”
Douglass began his career in public service by working for the City of Santa Cruz as a police dispatcher. He joined Stanislaus Regional 9-1-1 Joint Powers Authority as the Executive Director in mid-2016. At this agency, he was responsible for all aspects of the organization that provides emergency dispatch and public safety technology services to all agencies within Stanislaus County. Recently, he was given an opportunity at the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency as Interim Executive Director, a role he has used to begin a strategic visioning process to be used in the development of a robust business plan. While overseeing both agencies, Douglass has been responsible for over 90 employees and a combined budget of over $13 million.
Douglass has a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in leadership.
Barnes has more than 25 years of experience in the public sector and has worked at every level of government – federal, state, county, city and special district. A significant part of that time has been in administrative management, budget development and oversight, organizational change management, and process improvement.
Barnes served at the City of Santa Rosa as Director of Community Engagement, where she was charged with implementing recommendations of a Mayor’s Task Force on Open Government. The Department also staffs a 14-member Charter-directed Community Advisory Board for which she launched the first strategic planning process since the Board’s inception in 2002. In July of 2018, Barnes assumed the additional responsibility for the Recreation and Parks Department as the Interim Director.
Barnes holds a master’s degree in public administration.
The two will act as liaisons to the City Council for many of the high-profile projects from city departments. Douglass will also act as a critical resource on the city’s performance management, while Barnes will provide oversight on the Strategic Plan and homeless program.

Convenience store group supports food bank

The Central Valley chapter of the American Petroleum & Convenience Stores Association led by President Sukhi Sandu donated $500 to the food bank operation that serves as the distribution center to supply nearly 100 food closets throughout the 209 region. The chapter has more than 200 members from Lodi to Merced.
The donation comes on the heels of the successful Turkeys R Us drive that assured 750 struggling families in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop had traditional turkey or ham meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is in addition to 200 turkeys provided to the community Thanksgiving dinner effort by the Manteca Rotary and Sunrise Kiwanis that provided more than 2,300 meals for people in the three communities.