Bill Coats, who served as Tracy’s city attorney for 24 years, worked closely with Hastie and City Manager Mike Locke on city projects and said that Hastie provided much of the leadership on the City Council to accomplish projects.
“I don’t believe Tracy would be the same city it is today without Dick Hastie,” he said.
Coats remembers that Hastie was one of the organizers of several Congresses for Community Progress in the 1960s and ’70s, all-day sessions held at Tracy High School that crystallized thinking on what the community needed.
“The sessions looked into Tracy’s future and pinpointed the need to plan for growth that everyone was predicting would be coming Tracy’s way,” Coats said.
When Hastie was first on the City Council, especially the three years he served as mayor in the early 1970s, he always spent time analyzing staff proposals for new projects and making sure they squared with the facts, Coats said.
“And Dick was a stickler in making sure any projects could be carried out within the city’s budget,” Coats said.
Those initial projects included securing land from the Southern Pacific railroad for a new city corporation yard and building a new City Hall.
Orchestrating the building of a City Hall without the need for bond financing was one of Hastie’s most visible achievements as mayor. And that was accomplished in the face of stiff opposition by those who felt a public vote was essential, with or without a bond issue, Coats said.
Coats noted that not all of Hastie’s initiatives bore fruit. Twice he tried to create a large community park, but both attempts failed, “and those were major disappointments for him.”
Between 1974 and 1986, Hastie wasn’t on the council for 12 years, after he was defeated for re-election in 1974 along with two other incumbents on the ballot. During those out-of-office years, Hastie supported the city’s efforts to establish residential and industrial specific plans and to create funding instruments for water, sewage, storm drains, schools and other needs generated by growth. Those plans put Tracy well ahead of the curve in making certain growth paid for itself, Coats noted.
“When some of the developers learned what fees they had to pay to build, some went bananas, but they came through, and Tracy became known as a city that knew how to plan for and finance growth,” he said.
In 1986, when he became the first directly elected mayor, he insisted on a series of public meetings on the growth plans, so Tracyites would know what they involved, Coats noted.
During his years off the City Council, Hastie was busy as a local and then countywide leader of the United Way. He then turned his sights on leading the campaign to establish a Boys and Girls Club in Tracy.
Dorlane Thrasher, one of the key volunteers and later president of the board, was on the ground floor of that project, which was kicked off in 1984 and culminated with the opening of the Lowell Avenue facility in 1989.
“I truly believe the club would never have opened without him (Hastie),” Thrasher said. “Derone (her husband) and I would often tell Dick, ‘It’s all your fault that we even had a club to open, your fault for all the job opportunities for staff, your fault for all the kids who feel the club is their home!’ ”
Thrasher said that in the early going, Hastie urged those involved in the project to stay the course.
“Dick taught us all perseverance and tenacity,” she said. “Dick always made sure he involved people who could contribute in many ways — not just financially, but people who would have resources to make important decisions for timely action. The amazing thing to me is he did this for at least six years.”
Thrasher said she could recall Hastie never backing away from goals he set, even if that meant long hours on the phone or personal visits contacting possible supporters. And he continued supporting the club after it had been opened.
“Our town has certainly lost a giant,” she said. “He had so much to do with what Tracy is, and I doubt there will ever be another Dick Hastie.”