Community leader Jerry O’Banion, whose service included seven terms as a Merced County Supervisor, passed away on Feb. 14. The cause of death was not immediately clear.
O’Banion was born and raised in Dos Palos and graduated from Dos Palos High School. He earned a bachelor of science in General Agriculture, and a teaching credential in Agricultural Education from Fresno State University.
He was part owner of O’Banion Ranches, a diversified farming company started in the 1930s by his father.
He served on the Dos Palos City Council from 1980 to 1990, and was mayor during the last three years.
He was elected to the Merced County Board of Supervisors, serving from 1990 until his retirement in 2018. During his 28 years as supervisor, O’Banion never faced an opponent in an election. He became the second longest serving supervisor serving in consecutive years in the State of California. An he was named chairman of the board six times.
O’Banion represented District 5, which includes the cities of Dos Palos and Los Banos, and the unincorporated communities of Dos Palos Y, Midway, Santa Nella, South Dos Palos and Volta.
He was especially proud to represent the West Side of the county, where he was born and raised and where he raised his own children, Lynnette, Carrie and Jeremy, with his wife, Dollie.
He once said, “I have seen many difficult issues come and go throughout my service on the board, and I’ve been fortunate to serve alongside some very outstanding men and women who were equally dedicated to representing their districts and the county as a whole.”
O’Banion also served on the Merced County Local Agency Formation Commission, starting in 1983.
Among the many organizations he supported were the 4-H Youth Program, Merced County Spring Fair Heritage Foundation, Dos Palos High School Athletic Boosters, Dos Palos Y Service Club, and the Dos Palos High School Ag Boosters.
Upon retirement from public service, O’Banion said, “With the love and support from my family, friends and constituents over the years, my public service was made possible.”
News of O’Banion’s death prompted condolences from community leaders who were quoted in the local media, including current District 5 Supervisor Scott Silveira, Supervisor Daron McDaniel, and Congressman Jim Costa.
Silveira called O’Banion a “great mentor” who left “big shoes to fill.”
McDaniel praised O’Banion’s “down to earth way of approaching every item that we discussed.”
Costa called the former supervisor “one of the good guys.”
Local writer Steve Newvine told the Times he didn’t know Supervisor O’Banion all that well, but back in the early 2010s, they met at a small community event they both had worked on.
“I showed up to the hall where the event was going to be held and found Jerry setting up chairs and tables,” Newvine recalled. “I asked him why he was doing it, and he said, “That’s what I do.”
Newvine continued, “A few weeks ago, I did a column for Merced County Events on a grant application to improve O’Banion Park in Dos Palos. I was interested in who Jerry’s father Emory was, as the park was named after him. I reached out to Jerry’s son Jeremy who helped me by answering my questions. Several of Jeremy’s email responses used the phrase “Dad said” or “Dad thinks” — so I knew Jerry saw the questions and gave answers. Toward the end of our email exchange, I asked Jeremy how his dad was doing. I had heard he had been in the hospital. Jeremy said Jerry had come home that week (late January). Jerry O’Banion helped me write the column about his dad.”