Turlock Mayor Indebted to Stan State, Community
March 08, 2024

Amy Bublak arrived at Stanislaus State in 1983 with two goals: to play sports and distance herself from her hometown of Latrobe in El Dorado County. 

The 1989 graduate did so much more, emerging as the epitome of a Warrior.  

The Mayor of Turlock, serving her second four-year term after re-election in 2022, is hard-pressed to explain her improbable journey, from unhappy childhood to athletics success, bachelor’s degree in sociology, president of Stan State’s Associated Students, Inc., police officer and the leader of a city of 73,000. 

“I’m very blessed. I can only thank so many people that took a chance on me,” Bublak said. “Between the Turlock community and the campus community, I am where I am.” 

The first to take a chance was the late Mark Erickson, the Stan State track team’s throwing coach. He saw the Ponderosa High School student compete in the shot put and convinced her to attend Stan State. 

The University was a place for her to start anew and to be something other than the people she’d seen all her life make bad decisions. 

Still, she admits, “I had no intentions of getting an education. I was just going to play sports.” 

Athletics had been her lifeline. 

She played basketball and competed in track at Ponderosa High School and walked on to Stan State’s non-scholarship, Division III women’s basketball team. 

Bublak soon learned she had to maintain her grades to compete. 

On her first day of school, in an Introduction to Sociology course, she responded to a comment by Professor Walter Doraz with, “I thought sociology was about not being labeled.” 

Doraz asked her to stay after class, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and mentorship. 

He was the first to “whisper in her ear,” a phrase she uses to explain those who helped guide her. 

She got a student job in the office of the Sociology Department and Doraz inspired her to become a sociology major. Later, he pushed her to complete her master’s degree in urban government and public administration. 

She needed no push athletically. Erickson asked her to compete in the javelin as well as shot put. Bublak established school records in both, was a three-time NCAA Division III All American and two-time Northern California Athletic Conference champion in the javelin.  

She was successful despite four knee surgeries and one shoulder surgery. Javelin is a “violent” sport, she said, because of the planting of the lead foot and throwing motion. 

Erickson also asked her to serve as the Recreation Department’s representative to the student council.  

That position led to her becoming the ASI vice president, and ultimately, two terms as ASI president. 

It also introduced her to Ray Piro, who was the ASI president when she was vice president. Ray and his twin, Romeo, introduced Bublak to their family, and she became an adopted daughter. She would spend holidays with the Assyrian family until the matriarch passed away two years ago. 

The Piro family was emblematic of the embracing arms of the University and the Turlock community wrapped around the girl who was reborn at Stan State. 

After graduation, Bublak went on to become an emergency medical technician in Contra Costa County. In seven years, she often was called to Richmond, where she faced gunfire from gang members in a situation where she was trying to help victims. Police officers on scene suggested she become an officer. 

She did, serving in Richmond’s police department for 13 years. 

“I think I saw every single crime happen in front of me,” Bublak said. “I was never scared, because I thought I was invincible. I loved it. It was an amazing community.” 

In 2001, when inducted into Stan State’s Athletic Hall of Fame, she met Athletics Director Milt Richards, and they married in 2005. She commuted to Richmond before joining the Modesto Police Department. She retired after seven years. 

Bublak was elected to the Turlock City Council in 2008 and in 2018, was the first woman to run for and be elected as Mayor of Turlock. 

Ironically, it wasn’t only serving as student body president that prepared her for the role, she said. 

“Being a cop made this job so much easier,” Bublak said. “Because you are always dealing with people who aren’t going to be happy with your decisions. You’re always dealing with problems and trying to solve them, and you don’t put a lot of emotion into your decisions. You look at things pragmatically and don’t get too excited.” 

She was appointed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to the Social Problems Working Group, a subcommittee of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice in 2019. The work is almost complete, she said, despite a change in presidential administrations. 

Her priority as mayor is improving the roads in Turlock. 

Running for elected office is competitive, and Bublak relies on the adrenaline that courses through her. 

That adrenaline also helped push her to compete in the World Police and Fire Games, where she set a world record and walked away with a gold medal. It was her first javelin competition since she trained for the 1996 Olympics before an Achilles injury ended her dream. 

She won’t compete again. Her focus is on her city, and after some time away, on Stanislaus State. 

Bublak and Stan’s State Interim President Sue Borrego have connected and talked about more University-City collaboration. 

Bublak arranged a bus tour of Turlock for Borrego and other University leaders, and Borrego accepted Bublak’s invitation to ride with her in the city’s holiday parade. 

Riding in the parade is a perk for the mayor, but Bublak’s commitment isn’t about that. 

“When I first ran for council, I felt I had to do it for Turlock,” Bublak said. “I have to give back for everything I’ve gotten. I’ll probably never be able to repay what I feel I got out of this community, Stanislaus State and Turlock.” 

The competitor in her, though, drives her to at least try.