Contributing writer

I grow weary of some people criticizing Greg Hostetler. While I cannot speak as a close associate, I have worked with him over the decades, although we’ve never had a business connection, never.
Let’s start with Atwater when I was serving as its city manager many years ago. The city was literally facing bankruptcy if we did not get hustling and bring in business to generate an improved tax base.
Greg owned a piece of property we needed to move forward with  a development that was to become the Applegate Shopping Center.  After meeting in closed session with the Mayor, Rudy Trevino and the city council, I was given direction to make Greg an offer, as I recall several hundred thousand less than the then appraised value.
So I met him at his office and said I was there for a “stand up meeting,” a favorite of mine to get endless meetings over early with staff.  After all, if Greg took offense at the low-ball offer, instead of throwing me out all I had to do was turn around and walk!
He was sitting behind his desk and roared with laughter after hearing the city’s offer. He stood up all of a sudden, stretched out his hand and simply said “deal” and shook my hand. Less than a five-minute meeting, a record in my book.
That piece of ground was crucial in allowing the city to attract a 184,000-square-foot Super Target plus a 164,000-square-foot Super Walmart. Yes, located next door to one another!! And I was losing sleep worrying they would cannibalize each other located so close. That is, until hearing from both companies delivering the same exact message: “Wellman, go home and get some sleep, we have been in this business awhile and are good at what we do. We have done our homework. Relax. “
That five-minute session with Greg Hostetler was key to the City of Atwater avoiding insolvency but also being able to use sales, property tax, gas tax, and others to fill vacancies at the police department. We needed economic development to improve public safety.
Just like other businesses, cities are prone to the ups and downs of the economic cycle. The trick is to lay aside plenty to cover for the unforeseen.
The mayor and city staff worked together in traveling to other cities to sell Atwater as a place to do business. These large and small businesses need to see developers, mayors, councilmembers and staff working together to closely create a welcoming and exciting business climate.

On to Merced, which is my home. I am aware of Greg and his many efforts with the homeless, his stepping up to establish a baseball field as a remembrance to two brothers drowning near San Luis Reservoir many years ago. So impactful.
In my first week in Los Banos when I was acting city manager, we had a meeting in Greg’s offices to go over property Greg owned which in my view needed to be annexed into the city. Greg had to leave early. Why? To get to Merced to attend a dedication of a football stadium named in honor of his beloved wife, Cathie.
Leaders are often complex people but bring something extra to the table. I would venture that Greg cannot count the times he has been asked to come to the rescue of a noble cause.
So next time people might be tempted to criticize,  they should take a ride out to the intersection Henry Miller and Mercey Springs Roads and see the amount of heavy equipment and recruitment going on nonstop for truck drivers.
Then add to that his offices in Los Banos and houses being built in Los Banos and Merced and think of the number of jobs created. Truly amazing and makes all our lives better in the effort.
While business leaders are never the saints we would prefer, they do an immense amount of good ; often the left hand does not know what the right has done, just as the good book says.

(Greg Wellman served 35 years with Merced County, retiring as CEO/UC Merced Project Director. Later he served as city manager for Atwater, Oakdale and Los Banos in addition to managing three water districts in the Central Valley. His consulting firm, Wellman Advisors, was formed in 2022.)

The Westside Express