The people of Corcoran is what Corcoran City Councilman Jerry Robertson loves most about his hometown. He also feels that people should give back to their community so that’s how he got started serving as a councilman—that and a visit from two locals is what kick started his public service career. Robertson was born a raised in Tulare. He attended University of the Pacific in Stockton and graduated with his degree in pharmacy at just 23 years old, which was no easy task. Fresh out of school he began to work in Corcoran for Ray Mustain at R&M Drugs where he was employed for 10 years. However, after less than a year he moved his family; his wife, Patty and children to Corcoran.
“I loved my job. I loved the people. I spent a lot of time on the road and I didn’t want to do that anymore plus the quality of life here is great and it’s getting better all the time. We have a great town and it is so underrated.” Robertson said.
After working for Ray, Jerry opened his own store which he ran for 20 years and that’s where he was visited by Terry Kwast and Jon Rachford.
“Terry and Jon dropped into my pharmacy and told me it was time to give back and that there was a seat open on the city council and they wanted me to run. I had never considered running for council until they showed some enthusiasm and confidence in me. They thought I could do the job. That was 25 years ago and so I ran,” Robertson noted.
After a short two-years off somewhere in those 25 years, Robertson saw his return to council after he was appointed to serve out the remainder of Larry Hanshew’s term. Jerry was then reelected after that appointment for another four-year term. And just like that he was back to serving his community.
“I love our town. It’s the same reason you’re a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Rotary club. You need to give back to community,” he noted.
And in all those years on council, Jerry says he is most proud of the development of the new well field, downtown revitalization which was spearheaded by Darrell Frey; and Christmas Tree Park among other things.
“Everything we do on council is a team effort. We may disagree from time to time but everybody on the council has the best interests of the City of Corcoran at heart. That’s one of the marvelous things. It’s been that way for the vast majority for the 23 years on council. We’ve had a lot of changes since then but everything is a group effort,” Robertson commented. “It’s everybody working together to get it done.”
As a result of all his efforts in public service Jerry was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as man of the year in 2013.
“That was humbling because you do all this stuff with the service clubs, the YMCA and soccer and working with high school, and the football programs and all the stuff you do and to be recognized for those efforts. It was humbling to me,” Jerry said.
Robertson has been active in a variety of clubs and organizations which include YMCA Indian Guides, The Masonic Lodge, Rotary and Corcoran Community Church.
When asked what makes Corcoran a Great Place to Raise a Family, Robertson recalls the change in the city motto to that from Corcoran the Can Do City.
“We used to be the Can Do City but I wanted to change that. We got to talking about it and I said you know what—Corcoran is a great place to raise a family. And that was the one that stuck. Because I truly thought Corcoran was a great place to raise a family. We have good schools, fabulous YMCA program. We have three times as many churches as bars; really good restaurants. We have people who come from out of town to eat at New China. We are kind of the best kept secret in the San Joaquin Valley,” Robertson said. “We have a very low crime rate; very low gang activity compared to those around us. The Corcoran Community Foundation has done so many fabulous things for the City of Corcoran. I just think they are unbelievably good to us–name somewhere else that has that. It’s phenomenal what The Corcoran Community Foundation does for our city.”
Jerry went on to say that Corcoran also has several clubs who give back.
“Corcoran has the 50-50 Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, band boosters, football boosters and the list goes on and on. These are groups that support the city in some way or another,” he added.
After selling Jerry’s Drugs, Robertson worked for Rite Aid for 10 years before retiring a year ago in January. In his free time, he helps his wife of 51 years, Patty, at Safety Management Systems—a drug testing service. He also helps her with Jerry’s Self Storage business. The couple still has their real estate investment company and if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy he does work for his church—which includes a new building project. He’s also an avid dirt biker although you can no longer find him on the racing circuit, he quipped, now he just rides for fun.
Jerry really believes that no matter how old you are it’s never too late to learn something new so two years ago he took up playing the bagpipes. He plays in the Fresno Stag and Thistle Pipes and Drums group, which performs for various events and festivals throughout the area. He also surprised Corcoran residents with music last month near Christmas when he played for customers in both Cost less Foods and Rite Aid. “I’m 75 percent Scotch Irish from genetic testing and I’ve always been interested and I said I need to do this,” Jerry remarked.
However, Jerry plays much more than the bagpipes and music is a big part of his life.
Jerry has played saxophone since the fourth grade. He has played with orchestras and will play with the Tulare Adult School Band for the Encore Theatre in February. He plays bass guitar in several Western Christians Bands. He also plays bass guitar at church and has played regular bass for 30 years. In fact, music is how he and wife, Patty met.
“That’s how I met patty. She plays and she’s very musical. When I met her she was 15 and the church organist,” Jerry noted. “Now she does all our music for the church. We used to have a vocal group. We even had an album out and we went up and down the valley with our daughter, Jennifer and a friend of ours from Tulare and we did services for churches and outreaches. It was an outreach music ministry.”
Other big parts of Jerry’s life are camping and firearms.
“We like to camp. We camp with our family and friends; go to Mojave and dirt bike. And we like to go to our cabin when we have the opportunity,” Jerry said. “Also, I’m a firearms advocate. I’m a second amendment guy.”
Robertson loves his firearms and he recently started participating in competitive shooting competitions.
“I’ve started IDPA which is a competitive shooting event and I attend a defensive firearm school in Pahrump, Nevada. Cowboy shoots are where you dress up in cowboy gear and you shoot firearms that are reproductions or originals that were made before the turn of the century in the 1900s. Everything is 1800s except for one firearm. We have revolvers and rifles and shotguns–lever action shot guns. You shoot a timed competition. I just started doing it.”
Jerry said you have to use an alias during the competitions so since he’s a pharmacist they call him JR Pillman. Jerry’s church, Corcoran Community Church also holds Camo Sunday.
“Camo Sunday is a dress for the day in camouflage. We go to church; we have lunch and the church provides clay pigeons, shot guns and ammo. We will quadruple church populace for that day and we get to minister to the people at least one time and hopefully they come back,” Robertson added.
Corcoran Community Church has held the event about five times and it has been very successful, he said.
In addition to that Jerry has some classic cars he enjoys.
“I like hot rods. I have four classic cars. I have a 1926 Model T, a 56 T-Bird, a 68 Cadillac Convertible and 63 Vanden Plas Princess Rolls Royce,” he said.
However Jerry and Patty’s latest venture is renting out their home for special events. More information on renting his residence which has a party garage with full kitchen can be found at Jerry’s Self Storage office at 1110 Dairy Avenue.
There’s no doubt that Jerry is a bright businessman and he says that he likes to bring that business mentality to the city council.
“I’m proudest of trying to bring a business mentality to our local city government because if you don’t have business experience and you treat this like a governmental agency then you have chaos like we have now with our state government. Yes we are a government agency but by the same token it’s about providing services to the community. When you turn on the faucet water comes out; someone picks up your trash; you have roads to drive on; if your house is on fire someone comes to help; when you have a problem someone with a gun comes to help you. Everything else above and beyond that is gravy-the wonderful parks, service from city staff and public works that’s all great. We are a business and you have to be cost effective. You have to deliver quality goods, make sure everything is working properly and that’s what government is about.”
According to Jerry, Joe Faulkner is a good example.
“We needed a new pump and the high bid was $74,000 and Joe says he found one basically brand new and the city can buy it for $28,000. So, we paid for this pump which was necessary, for about a third of what we could have paid because it was a good business decision,” Robertson commented.
Finding ways to better the city is what drives Jerry as a Corcoran City Councilman. Robertson said he loves Corcoran and he loves the people.
“The best thing about Corcoran is the people. The people are wonderful. I could walk outside this store and walk down the street and I can have a ride home in 10 minutes. Someone will come by and I could motion or wave at them and they would be there to take care of it. That is the people of Corcoran,” Jerry said.
Jerry also recalled that when Dick Haile’s daughter had a brain tumor. There were people, without Dick’s knowledge, got together and held a fundraiser and raised thousands of dollars.
“Dick came to me and he didn’t know what to do because he had insurance and said he’s fine. He came to me and said he didn’t think he needed it. I said you hold on to it. You’re going to need that money for trips for her care over the next several years and you need to keep it. He came back to me a couple of years later and said I’ve used every dime of it and I don’t know what I would have done without it. And that’s what I’m talking about. Corcoran will come to bat every time there is a need and you don’t get that in big towns.”
He also spoke of major projects which came to fruition because of volunteers.
“Do you realize that our stadium was built with volunteer labor; our baseball diamond–volunteer labor; the beautiful par–the James G. Boswell II Park was built on donated land; and because of the money to develop it which came from The Foundation we have a phenomenal facility. Because people in this town give back and if you’re not a person in this town that gives back it’s your loss because you’re not being a part of it and it’s truly your loss. Everyone has tried to do their very best for the city. We may disagree but we want the best for our city,” Jerry added. “We are losing a lot of the younger generation to other communities because of the perception of this is Corcoran. But, if they were to stay and make the efforts they make in the other cities we could take Corcoran to another level. Just look at Nate and Vivian Butler and all that they do. Go down the list of man and woman of the year and it’s unparalleled to other communities. Look at the mix of people we have on city council. It’s wonderful and it works. We get credit for sharing in it when something good happens and the blame when something bad happens. Thank goodness there is more good than bad. Corcoran is a great city.”
Alexia Marmolejo-Juarez and Jasmine Gonzalez Bautista are this year’s Col. J.G. Boswell Scholarship winners. The girls will each receive a full-scholarship which will pay for four years (up to $25,000 per year) of a college institution anywhere within the United...