Modesto councilman fighting cancer but still governing

Modesto City Councilman Will O'Bryant has been fighting cancer for much of this year and plans to continue performing his elected work from home when he can't get to City Hall.

O'Bryant, 65, has attended three of the past 12 City Council meetings. He participated in seven by telephone, including this week's meeting.

Mayor Jim Ridenour said he prefers that O'Bryant continue to participate as a council member as much as his health allows.

"He's really dedicated," Ridenour said. "He's going through some rough times right now. The last thing I want is for him to show up when he really can't."

O'Bryant is managing his work from home, communicating with city employees and following up on his council agendas.

"I'm doing the job the best I can," he said. "There is no alternate. If I don't do it, it's not going to get done."

He expects to recover later this year.

O'Bryant is a retired Alameda County sheriff's detective who was elected in March 2002 in a runoff for an open seat against pastor Dan Hopkins. He won re-election in 2005 against challenger Dave Lopez.

He cannot run for re-election this fall because of a change in how the city chooses council members. For the first time, Modesto voters will choose council members who live in districts instead of on citywide ballots.

O'Bryant's neighborhood in north Modesto is not one that can select a council member this year.

O'Bryant has a reputation as an independent thinker who reaches out to residents when they come to the council for help. He's a skeptic about city spending and a consistent critic about projects that result in increased utility rates.

He leads the council's Safety and Communities Committee, which has the first say on law enforcement and recreation. He carried a controversial mobile home rent control measure in 2007 after complaints from senior citizens convinced him that there was no other way to keep them in their houses.

"I do miss him," Ridenour said. "You'll see him back once he gets through the next few weeks."

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.

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