Stockton supervisor proud of his Greek roots

Although Ken Vogel represents the Lodi area on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, a Stockton supervisor may have as many ties to Lodi as Vogel.

North Stockton resident Steve Bestolarides grew up on Lodis Eastside and maintains his fondness for the community.

The son of a Greek immigrant mother and a father born in Wisconsin but with strong Greek ties as well, Bestolarides didnt learn English until he attended kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School. But he and his brothers learned English pretty quickly.

*quot;We assimilated really well because we were immersed in English,*quot; Bestolarides said.

Due to the language barrier as a child, Bestolarides said he became proficient at math, leading to his reputation as a supreme bean counter on the Board of Supervisors.

*quot;We need a good financial wizard like him,*quot; said Denise Warmerdam, Vogels legislative assistant.

Bestolarides, 53, was a banker and real estate broker before being elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2008.

*quot;It is, by far, the best job Ive ever had in my life,*quot; Bestolarides said of being a county supervisor. *quot;I love going to work.*quot;

Unlike city council members, being a county supervisor is a full-time job, allowing for more continuity with county staff and fellow supervisors.

*quot;Its nice working in a respectful environment,*quot; he said.

Bestolarides began his political career in 1995, when then-Stockton City Councilwoman Ann Johnston, now the citys mayor, appointed him to the Planning Commission. He wasnt seeking the position, but Johnston asked him to consider it. She chose him over three other applicants. Bestolarides was elected to the Stockton City Council after Johnston termed out in 2002, and re-elected four years later.

Bestolarides said he may very well have stayed in Lodi after getting married in the 1980s, but he and his wife moved to Stockton because the identical style house sold for $20,000 less, which in those days constituted a mortgage payment that was $250 a month lower, he said.

Bestolarides spent his childhood walking around Downtown Lodi, where many people either knew him or his parents. Hed walk from his home in the 500 block of East Pine Street to the public library. The old library is now Carnegie Forum, where Lodi City Council meetings are held.

*quot;Lodi was a safe enough community that a 9-year-old could walk Downtown,*quot; Bestolarides said recently after a hefty lunch at his mothers house in Lodi. *quot;I spent a lot of time there.*quot;

He and his three brothers worked at the family restaurant, The New Yorker, a 24-hour operation at 110 N. Cherokee Lane. His mother, Maria, would work a 12-hour shift, and his father, Harry, would work the next 12 hours.

The four boys would wash dishes, cook and wait tables. They waited on prominent Lodians as developers Alex Spanos and Angelo Tsakopoulos, trucking owners Frank Alegre and John Teresi, and former county Supervisor George Barber.

*quot;It gave me confidence to work with adults,*quot; Bestolarides said. *quot;That is what helped all of us kids.*quot;

Bestolarides was in the same Boy Scout troop with former Lodi Mayor and county Supervisor Jack Sieglock, and he made some extra money as a News-Sentinel carrier.

*quot;He brings a lot of expertise on budgets, working with people and working with government,*quot; Supervisor Ken Vogel said. *quot;I value very much his being on the board.*quot;

*quot;Hes a very straightforward person and doesnt bend for votes,*quot; Alegre said of Bestolarides. *quot;He and I get along pretty good. Very honest, and he has principles.*quot;

So did Harry Bestolarides. He never ran for public office, but he wasnt shy about telling the Lodi City Council what he thought, Alegre said.

Bestolarides credits his parents for insisting that all four children to get a good education.

*quot;I was a strict mother — very strict,*quot; Maria Bestolarides said. *quot;I wanted all my kids to get a diploma.*quot;

They did.

Steve Bestolarides at a glance
Born: April 25, 1956, at old Lodi Community Hospital on East Pine Street.

Raised: East Pine Street, between Garfield Street and Cherokee Lane.

Education: Lincoln School and Senior Elementary School. Attended Lodi High School for two years, then transferred to Tokay High School when it opened in 1972. Member of Tokays second graduating class in 1974. Was student body president at Lincoln School and vice president at Tokay, and he competed on the wrestling team.

College: Attended San Joaquin Delta College; baccalaureate degree in business administration and masters in finance at University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Career: Banking at what is now Chase, working in real estate mortgages and later construction and development lending. Is a licensed real estate broker.

Political career: Appointed to Stockton Planning Commission by City Councilwoman Ann Johnston in 1995; won council seat in 2002 when Johnston termed out, and re-elected in 2006; elected to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in 2008. Represents north Stockton, parts of the Delta, Lathrop and northern Manteca,

Family: Wife, Doreen; two sons, Danny, 20, and Paul, 17.

Supervisor comes from Greek immigrant family

Maria Bestolarides immigrated from Greece to the United States in 1951 without any money or job — just a small suitcase of clothes she took with her on an ocean liner to New York.

She was 22 at the time, but she wanted to get out of war-torn Greece. Bestolarides was taken in by an aunt and uncle after she rode the train cross-country to Sacramento.

Her stay in Sacramento led her to Acampo, where she picked and pruned grapes on Peltier Road. She met and married Harry Bestolarides in 1953. Harrys family was also from Greece, but unlike his wife, he was a naturalized citizen because he was born in Wisconsin. However, Harry returned to Greece with his family before moving back to America.

*quot;I thank God, and I thank this country,*quot; Maria Bestolarides said repeatedly during a recent interview. *quot;Im a very happy woman.*quot;

The couple followed the typical custom by European immigrants — they shortened their name to appear to be more Americanized, according to their son, Steve Bestolarides. They used the Bestolarides name on legal documents, but socially and in their business, their name was Larides.

However, they took back the Bestolarides name after retiring from the restaurant business in 1981, and their four sons returned to their given name after they graduated from high school.

Harry and Maria Bestolarides owned and operated a 24-hour restaurant at The New Yorker Cafe on Cherokee Lane for many years. They retired in 1981, and Harry died 11 years later.

Lodi trucker Frank Alegre recalls Harry and Maria Bestolarides fondly. When Alegre was just getting into the trucking business and had only one truck, Harry would let him work on his truck behind the restaurant.

As for Maria, Alegre said, *quot;She is something else. She gives it to the kids. That woman, bless her heart, shes an angel.*quot;

At Christmas time, Marias tables are absolutely filled with Greek pastries, Alegre added.

Retiring from the business didnt stop Maria from cooking.

At 81, she remains a whirlwind, but now its in her own kitchen in the 500 block of East Pine Street. She says she needs only three to four hours of sleep each night, which gives her plenty of time to cook during the wee hours of the night.

After one of her sons, San Joaquin County Supervisor Steve Bestolarides, told her he would bring a News-Sentinel reporter to her house for lunch, his mom began cooking up a storm. It resembled a multi-course dinner more than a light lunch.

Lunch consisted of a large bowl of lentil soup, green salad, thinly sliced beef, lamb shanks, rice and beef rolled in grape leaves, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes — all homemade.

*quot;When I came (to the United States), I didnt even know how to make a salad,*quot; she said.

To top it off, Maria Bestolarides baked some baklava and several other Greek pastries, all while wearing her perfectly coifed gray hair, makeup, a patterned maroon and black sweater and a red Campbells Soup apron.

Son Steve says thats pretty typical service for anyone who comes to the house. She made several trays of desserts for St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton because the bishop was paying a visit the next day.

*quot;I like to give,*quot; Maria said. *quot;I dont like to receive.*quot;