Mayors of Bay City, Texas
 


The story of the municipal government of Bay City can be told best through the accomplishments of the mayors who have served the city since 1902. Each of the mayors had dreams and aspirations for the community, and, with his elected city council, accomplished goals which contributed to the overall development of the town.

In the beginning, city affairs were conducted in the mayor's place of business or in the old iron-clad, two-story firehouse which stood on the approximate site of the present county museum [Bay City Municipal Court building in 2012]. The building which housed the museum was erected in 1927 as a combination city hall, fire station, and auditorium. Municipal government was conducted in this building until 1965 when the present city hall, situated on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Avenue H, was built at an estimated cost of $173,116.
 

William M. Holland 1902 - 1904
Declined 2nd Term


Judge William M. Holland was appointed the first mayor when Bay City was incorporated in 1902. He was elected to a second term by popular vote, but he resigned before the end of the term. He was a representative for the railroad, and the state legislature declared the dual role to be "a conflict of interest." Holland later served as a state senator and district attorney for Matagorda, Brazoria, Wharton, Fort Bend, and Waller counties for 16 years. He resigned this position to accept an appointment as assistant district attorney for Harris County.
 

William O. Boney 1904 - 1907


William Owen Boney--horse trader, cotton farmer, and merchant--finished Holland's term of office and was elected to serve a second term. His political platform apparently was to make a garden spot of the "Bay Prairie." Many of the trees which beautify the city today were planted while he was in office. Boney is credited with erected the first two-story brick building on the square. That building is presently occupied by several prominent businesses.
 

John Sutherland
 
1907 - 1915
1917 - 1919


John Sutherland became Bay City's third mayor in 1907. He was the scion of the Alamo Lumber Company, and he was respected as a shrewd businessman. During his term the first sewers were installed.

 
Max G. Klein 1915 - 1917
Killed in Office


Max G. Klein succeeded Sutherland in 1915. During the final months of his administration, Klein was short by an unhappy constituent over a water bill. Klein was in the mercantile business, and he had two downtown stores. Shortly before Klein's death, "Uncle John" Sutherland had defeated him in an election; therefore, Sutherland stepped back into the mayor's office to served the remaining months of the old regime. Uncle John remained in office until 1919. Some citizens say he was offered the job for life, but he declined.
 

G. A. Moore
 
1919 - 1923

G. A. Moore followed Sutherland, and he served several terms. He was associated with the Union Warehouse and Elevator Company until his death on February 12, 1931. Moore was active in the First Methodist Church and the Masonic Lodge. He also was a member of the school board.



 

G. A. Moore

Bay City was grievously shocked last Thursday afternoon when the news of the death of a well loved and highly esteemed fellow citizen, Mr. G. A. Moore, was flashed from home to home over the city, the county and the state.

Mr. Moore, manager of the Union Warehouse and Elevator Company, had returned to his home from an active day at his warehouse checking and shipping rice. He was called to the table for his evening meal with Mrs. Moore and son, Glenon, and had just concluded his table prayer of thanks when  the end came. There was only a slight hesitation, but enough to cause Mrs. Moore and Glenon to look up to see his head droop into his hand. There was apparently no pain and certainly no warning of this great shock to the two members of the family present.

Mr. Moore was born in Fingerville, South Carolina, October 1, 1889, and was married to Cora B. Brashear in 1895. Four children, Mrs. C. Luker, “Billie,” Charles and Glenon and three grandchildren of the immediate family survive.

Under Masonic services connected with religious services conducted by the Rev. P. T. Ramsey at the Methodist church this morning at 11 o’clock, the last sad rites were said, after which quite a concourse of Masonic brethren and friends accompanied the remains to Weimar, his former home, where the funeral services were held this afternoon

A more fitting tribute to this splendid man will be published in Saturday’s Tribune.

The Daily Tribune, February 13, 1931
 

Pat Thompson 1923 - 1931


Pat Thompson, another active Methodist, was elected to the mayor's office in 1923. During Thompson's administration, the old wooden water mains and sewers were replaced with cast-iron pipe; concrete streets were laid (the first in the entire county); concrete culverts were installed to replace the aging wooden ones; and the city's first municipal swimming pool was built by popular subscription. Thompson also guided the city in purchasing the privately owned sewer system. It was to pay for itself through monthly charges to the customers.
 

Paris Smith 1931 - 1937
Resigned


Paris Smith, Sr., succeeded Thompson in 1931. Smith's administration was instrumental in the building of Matagorda General Hospital. Smith resigned in 1937 to run for the state legislature.
 

James C. Lewis 1937


J. C. Lewis was chosen by a special election to serve the remaining few months of Smith's term.
 

Walter C. Lloyd 1937 - 1941


W. C. Lloyd was elected mayor in 1937, and it was during his term of office that Victor L. LeTulle gave the Gas Company to the city.
 

Sims Doughtie 1941 - 1947


Sims F. Doughtie followed Lloyd in 1941. Doughtie's administration enlarged the sewer system to accommodate the growing city. The project had been given a $175,000 government grant. During Doughtie's administration, more streets were paved, a new pump house was built, and the city water was chlorinated for the first time.
 

Richard C. Gusman 1947 - 1979  
Ernest J. Opella 1979 - 1981
Ernest J. Opella assumed the mayor's job in April, 1979, and served one term. He laid the groundwork for many improvements which would come during the next administration. Opella began the push for additional water storage, and he began up-dating the equipment storage warehouse. He also began the drive to computerize the city government.



 

Glen I. White 1981 - 1985


Glen White was elected in 1981 and served two terms. It was during his regime that the Sixth Street water storage tank became a reality, the disposal plant was enlarged, and an in-house computer system was installed in nearly all departments.
 

William M. Bell 1985 - 1989


William M. "Bill" Bell became mayor in April, 1985. A government grant was approved for additional above-ground water storage, and the city would once more be placed on the "Approved Water Supply" charts. Architectural plans for a civic center were approved and construction was scheduled  to begin in 1986.
 

Tommy Z. LeTulle 1989 - 1992  
Charles Martinez, Jr. 1992 - 2004
Richard Knapik 2004 - 2010  
Mark Bricker 2010 - Present  

List compiled October 21, 2009 by Kenneth L. Thames and updated December 27, 2010.
Biographies were written by Billie Jean Sanford and are from Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 454-456
 

 


Mayor Emeritus Richard C. Gusman

 


Mayor Richard C. Gusman

Richard C. Gusman's tenure as mayor--a love affair that was to last thirty-two years--began in 1947. Among the honors leaped upon Gusman was the title of "Mayor Emeritus." the only such title in the United States; his service is unequaled in length of time spent in office. He was once the subject of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" and of "The American Character," a radio program sponsored by Norman Vincent Peale. The program was broadcast over 250 radio stations on January 1, 1980.

Some of Gusman's accomplishments during his tenure were the completion of the Bay City fire station, expansion of city sewage systems, paving of streets, widening of two major highways through town, and installation of street lights and parking meters. Further achievements included new bridges, storm sewers, increased production and storage of water through a municipal water system, and curbs and gutters. Through the efforts of Gusman and the city council members, recreational facilities included additional swimming pools, a community center, and four lighted Little League fields. During his tenure, the city municipal airport was built and dedicated May 10, 1970, and a $550,000 olympic-sized swimming poll was built with revenue-sharing monies and a grant from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Gusman was active in the Methodist Church, American Legion, Lions Club, and many state and national organizations as well as in civic affairs. He received numerous awards including the Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen in 1958, the Eagles Home Town Builder Award in 1974, and an award for "Exemplary leadership in Conservation and Use of Water Resources in Texas" by the Texas State Conservation Board. For 32 years, he played a major part in the growth of Bay City, and during all of those years, his monthly salary stayed the same--$125 month.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 455-456
 


 


Mayor Ernest Jerome Opella
 


Ernest Jerome Opella
1 October 1936 – 2 June 2014

BAY CITY - Ernest Jerome Opella, 77, passed away suddenly June 5, 2014 in Houston, Texas and will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

Born October 1, 1936 in West, Texas to Ernest Frank Opella and Margaret Socha Opella, the family moved to El Campo in 1938. He grew up attending St. Phillips Catholic Church and graduated from El Campo High School in 1955. He was an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow. He held various jobs while in high school including picking cotton, working in a cotton gin and working as a butcher in his father's meat market. He graduated from Texas A & I University, Kingsville, in 1959 with a BBA Degree. In 1958 he married his high school sweetheart Jeanette Labay. Upon graduation, his career took him to Houston where he worked as a Field Auditor POD for the Internal Revenue Service for 2 years then transferred to Bay City. In 1966 he started his own Tax Preparation and Consulting Business and enrolled to practice before the IRS in 1967. At the time of his death he was a member of the Nat. Association of Public Accountants, TX Society of Enrolled Agents, Nat. Association of Enrolled Agents and TX Association Financial & Tax Specialist. He went to work every day to operate his business and was continuing to update his education in the tax field.

He entered Bay City politics in 1969 as a City Councilman and served until 1979. He was elected mayor of Bay City in 1979 and during his term, laid the groundwork for many improvements that would be carried out in the future years. He established the local Parks and Recreation Department and was proud of his vast improvements to LeTulle Park. He also started the drive to computerize the City government. He continued to be involved in issues of the City and was a strong vocal advocate for growth and progress.

He was unselfish in his motives and always strived to be a good citizen and businessman. Ernest loved Bay City with a sincere passion. He always supported local events and fundraising, and would always buy that BBQ or raffle ticket, especially from the youth. He was an avid collector for many years and had many interesting collections. He loved "the hunt" for that special antique or object. He served as a Scout Master, on many Advisory Boards which included the Board's regarding the Civic and Convention Center, the new High School and the City of Bay City Home Rule Charter Commission; he was past president and chairman of the Board of Directors of a local Savings and Loan; past president of the Matagorda County Museum Association and co-designer and builder of the award winning Children's Museum; served on the Board of the WCJC Foundation; and as a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church, was co-founder of the Parish Council and School Foundation. He was the 1966 Jaycees Outstanding Young Man of Bay City and in 2009, received the honor of being the Bay City Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year.

Presently, he was a member of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce, Museum Association, Knights of Columbus and Holy Cross Catholic Church. He was a proud member of the Bay City Lion's Club since 1966 and served as president, chairman of the Rice Festival and held many positions locally, in the District, the State and Nationally. He served as District Governor of District 2S-4 in 2004-2005. This past May, he was awarded the highest honor a Texas Lion can receive, as he was selected to be a member of the Texas Lion Hall of Fame. He was very proud to be a Lion and everything it stood for.

Ernest is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeanette Labay Opella; son and wife, Lt. Col (Ret.) Dwayne Opella and Gena of Weatherford; daughters and sons-in-law, Sharyl McDonald and Nathan of Bay City, Diane Morton and Randy of Hallettsville, Susan Maguire and Scott of Beeville; grandchildren, James McDonald, Taylor Opella, Jessie Opella, John Opella, Sydnie Maguire, Kaleb Maguire; and his brother, Robert J. Opella of Bay City. Ernest is also survived by his office assistant who has worked by his side for over 40 years, Julia Valdez of Bay City.

He was preceded in death by his parents and by his grandson, Neil McDonald.

Visitation will begin at 4:30 PM Monday with a rosary being recited at 6:00 PM at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home. Funeral service will be 10:00 AM Tuesday, June 10, 2014 At Holy Cross Catholic Church with Msgr. Gerry Cernoch and Msgr. Casey Jarzombek officiating. Interment will be at Holy Cross Memorial Park in El Campo.

Pallbearers include George Deshotels, Mitch Thames, J. L. Evans, Sr., Dan Hayes, Billy Mann, Bill Roe, Pasqual Martinez and Jake Foltyn. Honorary pallbearers are members of the Bay City Lions Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Matagorda Co. Museum Endowment Fund in memory of Ernest J. Opella or to the Texas Lions Camp at P.O. Box 290247, Kerrville, TX 78029.

Published in the Victoria Advocate on June 07, 2014
 

Community Grieves, Remembers Former Mayor and Councilman
By Barry Halvorson

Through both his political and community service, Ernest Opella was one of the most influential figures of the past half-century in Bay City. Opella passed away Thursday, June 5 in Houston.

But for all he did for the community, Opella was first a family man in his heart and soul. In a number of interviews with the Bay City Tribune over the years, Opella always insisted his greatest accomplishment is the four children he and his wife Jeanette raised.

Those children are son and daughter-in-law Lt. Col. (Retired) Dwayne Opella and Gena of Weatherford and daughters and sons-in-law, Sharyl McDonald and Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald of Bay City, Diane Morton and Randy of Hallettsville and Susan Maguire and Scott of Beeville.

"He was a selfless public servant," Judge McDonald said. "It was never about himself, but about serving the public in all of his capacities.

"I met him the first time 33 years ago when I started dating his daughter and he was the mayor of Bay City. But he wasn't the mayor for his own purposes, but the mayor for all of the residents of the city. And having watched him do it, since he has left public life he has been just as selfless."

"He loved his four children immeasurably and loved his grandchildren even more.

Among those counting themselves as a friend of Opella is Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Executive Director Mitch Thames. Thames said Opella greeted him at the chamber office several days a week with ideas on how to improve the city.

"We have lost a real great man," Thames said. "A real hero. He never thought of himself as being important. His kids, grandkids, employees and the people of the city were always his number one concern."

In 2009, the Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture named Opella the Man of the Year. That same year, his daughter Sharyl McDonald was the chamber’s Woman of the Year.

His political career in the city spanned a dozen years and included five terms on the city council with one term as mayor, 1980-81. His community service included membership in the Bay City Jaycees, Noon Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

Born in McLennan County but reared in El Campo, Opella is a graduate of El Campo High School, Wharton County Junior College and Texas A&I. After working for the Internal Revenue Service, Opella moved to Bay City in 1966 and began a career in tax preparation and other business-related services.

Opella first came to the attention of the community as a member of the Bay City Jaycees, being named that organization’s “Outstanding Young Man of Bay City.”

Opella considered the Jaycees as proving ground preparing a younger generation for service to the public. Among his contemporaries was Tom Uher, who served Matagorda and its surrounding counties for 20 years in the Texas Legislature, including as Speaker of the House.

It was shortly after that time he transitioned to the political arena, winning his first term on the city council in 1969. In a six-person race for three seats, Opella was one of the top three vote getters. During his service on the council, he helped initiate a number of changes, including requiring council elections be based on running for individual positions.

“When I was elected, there were six of us running for three positions,” he recalled in a 2012 interview with the Bay City Tribune. “There were three openings, but what they did was they just counted the votes and the three with the highest total filled the empty seats. No on ran for a certain council position, so in my way of thinking, there was no accountability to anyone.

“I worked real hard and it took me about two years to get that changed. I felt that if you were going to be elected to the city council then you ought to answer for the position you held and not hide behind six other people.”

Working with then BCISD School Board President Glenn Quillin, a friend, Opella also led the effort to consolidate the city and school board elections at the same time and location for the convenience of local voters. Other council accomplishments during that time included the hiring of the first detective for the BCPD and the start of construction on STP.

But for a man of Opella’s energy and vision, things were not moving fast enough. With Mayor Richard Gussman retiring after 32 years, Opella ran for and won the office. At the time, Opella figured he would have one term in office to make changes.

“There were more people set in their ways than wanted change so I decided ‘Well, we’re going to have to go as fast as we can and get as much as we can done in those two years because that’s about all I’d have.”

And a whirlwind of change followed Opella‘s taking office. Among his first actions was to lead the council in revising the city’s building codes and the passage of a subdivision ordinance requiring developers to put in all concrete streets. There was also the creation of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the purchase of Amistad Park and a $250,000 upgrade of LeTulle Park paid for through funds raised by the community.

He also guided the effort to purchase the downtown city block on which City Hall and the Bay City Police Department buildings now stand.

“We didn’t have very much money back then because our taxes were so low,” he said. “So to pay for that building, we took $250,000 that was the annual street paving and patching budget. I said the building was going to be forever but we could drive on these chuck holes maybe another year.”

Working with the Texas Department of Transportation, the city got its first turn lanes at the intersection of Highways 35 and 60 and was able to repair 70 to 80 homes and make sewer system improvements through Community Development Block Grants.

Also taking a long view, Opella was the first mayor to attempt to establish a Home Rule Charter for the city.

Taking his leadership abilities from city hall to the Noon Lions, an organization he joined in 1966, he served as the club’s president and Rice Festival Chairman.

For his service to the Bay City Lions Club, he twice was awarded the Jack Wiech and Melvin Jones fellowships, the District and Lions International 100 percent President’s award and numerous other awards.

Opella has served District 2S4 as zone chairman, district convention and cabinet meeting chairman and district governor. As district governor, he was awarded the state’s past governor’s state retention award and the membership increase award. The Texas Lions Foundation awarded him the Ed Flood award.

Most recently, Opella was named to the State of Texas Lions Hall of Fame.

“We get to make one nomination every three years and are competing against four other districts,” Lion Mitch Thames said. “For all practical purposes, this is the highest award you can receive as a Lion and is even more significant because you are nominated for it by your fellow Lions.”

Opella’s service to the community also included serving as a Scout Master, on numerous community advisory boards including those involving the Bay City Civic Center, Bay City High School and the home rule charter commissioner, and as a past president a chairman of the board of a local savings and loan. He is the past president of the Matagorda County Museum Association and co-designer and builder of the Children’s Museum. A member of Holy Cross Catholic Church, he was a co-founder of the Parish council and the school foundation.

Visitation is scheduled beginning at 4:30 p.m. with a Rosary service at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 9 at Taylor Brothers Funeral Home in Bay City. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Bay City on Tuesday, June 10. Burial will follow later in the day at the El Campo Catholic Cemetery next to his parents as he requested.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Matagorda County Museum Endowment Fund in the memory of Ernest J. Opella, the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville or the Holy Cross School Foundation.

Bay City Tribune, June 8, 2014
 

 


Mayor Charles Martinez, Jr.
 


Charles Martinez, Jr.
(October 17, 1927 - August 15, 2014)

Charles Martinez, Jr., 86, of Bay City passed away August 15, 2014. He was born October 17, 1927 in Bay City, TX to the late Charles Martinez, Sr. and Annie Moralez Martinez.

After graduating from Bay City High School in 1945, Charles served in the United States Army as a Staff Sergeant in Korea from 1945-1947. He worked as a printer at the Daily Tribune for 13 years and as a postal clerk with the United States Postal Service, retiring after 28 years of service. Known as “The People’s Mayor,” he diligently served the Bay City community for 12 years where he worked with many local leaders and caring citizens to create a better quality of life for the city. Since 2006 he has been employed as a real estate broker with Thompson Land Company.

Charles has left a lasting imprint on the Bay City community. His volunteer work is well chronicled with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and various organizations including Bay City Chamber of Commerce, Bay City Community Development Corporation, Matagorda County Economic Development Committee, Economic Action Committee, Unite Way, Historical Committee, Red Cross, Little League, and the Girls Softball Association. He held memberships with the Knights of Columbus #3070, Life Member of VFW Post #2438, American G. I. Forum, Bay City Booster Club, Bay City Community Education, Lions Club, Texas Region K. Water Planning, Cen-Tex Committee, and Commissioner of Matagorda County Sheriff Reserves.

Charles received numerous awards and appointments for his extensive contributions to the community including Headquarters Bicentennial Branch Award, United States Postal Service Award, Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, and Bay City Independent School District Distinguished Alumni Recognition; he had also served as President of Matagorda County Board of Realtors and Commander of American Legion Post II.

While assuming many prestigious roles in his lifetime, he always maintained key priorities in his life – faith, family, education, and friends. He leaves behind his wife, Mary Louise Martinez; daughters Julia Anita Ebanks & husband Ernie D. Ebanks of The Cayman Islands and Cecilia Martinez of Austin; sons Charles Martinez III & wife Theresa of Bay City and Mario Martinez & wife Louanne of Austin; grandchildren Charles Fabian Martinez, Stephanie Nicole Martinez, Mallory Louise Warnock & husband Staff Sgt. Sean Warnock, Annemarie Ebanks, Avery Martinez and McKenna Martinez and great grandchildren Clarice Renee Warnock and Addison Marie Warnock.

A rosary will be recited at 6:30 PM Sunday at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home. Funeral mass will be 10:00 AM Monday, August 18, 2014 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Interment will follow at Cedarvale Cemetery.

Former Mayor Remembered
Long Time Community Leader Died Friday, Aug. 15

Barry Halvorson

A devoted advocate of the city for most of his adult life, former Bay City Mayor Charles Martinez Jr., will be remembered as a person who worked to improve his community every day.

Still affectionately referred to as Mayor Martinez by many of the city's long time and newly arrived resident, he died Friday, Aug. 15, at the age of 86.

"He served Bay City long and well both as mayor and a resident," Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald said during Monday's meeting of the Matagorda County Commissioners Court. "His passing is certainly a loss to the Bay City community."

According to a biographical interview appearing in the Bay City Tribune, Martinez first announced his intent to run for mayor in 1992. He was successful in that campaign and followed it up with three additional terms of office bring his total to 12 years in that office.

During his mayoral administration, Martinez was able to initiate a number of projects to enhance the city's appearance and generate economic development. Those included the Texas Highway Commission grant-funded Streetscape project. That grant was for $647,000.

"Streetscape is one of the projects that came about during my administration and yes, it's brick sidewalks and curbs to people can walk around, but look at what difference it made in beautification compared to what it was," Martinez said in a 2012 interview.

The Streetscape grant was one of many obtained by the city during Martinez's time in office. During the course of those dozen years, the city was able to secure more than $14 million in grants and other outside funding to address a number of projects. Those include  updating the city's emergency response equipment, the Bay City Civic Center building and much needed improvements regarding the drainage issue in the city, relieving many neighborhoods of excessive flooding problems.

Martinez was notable for his ability to work across economic, ethnic and other dividing lines to build a consensus of support for projects he believed would improve the community.

Those included the Cottonwood Creek Diversion Plan, initially proposed during the Tommie LeTulle administration. While the project was initially placed on hold due to a lack of available funding, it became a reality under Martinez's administration with the former mayor giving the credit to "all the hardworking individuals that brought it to life.

"This diversion relieved all that flooding we used to have a long time ago and let me tell you, we had a lot of flooding all over the city, but I would have to say that It was made possible because of the many individuals that were able to work together to make this a reality for the City of Bay City, said Martinez.

"It happened and it's there. Am I proud? Yes, because it happened during my administration, but I sure didn't do it alone, there was a lot of people involved, and I have a letter from the Matagorda County Drainage District that says, 'Never before have we ever had the availability of working together the way we have now,' so yes, I was really proud of that."

When asked about the project of which he was most proud, Martinez cited the 48 homes built for low-income families during his administration and the satisfaction of knowing he was a part of something so meaningful to many families who were unable to obtain adequate housing on their own.

"That was also something that I was real proud of because it helped the people that had property, but their houses were falling down," Martinez said. "They were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. The homes were built for free on their lot and their old homes were demolished and carried off. They were given brand-new stoves, refrigerators, washer and dryers central air and heat. I mean, that was amazing and it was fantastic.

"We were fortunate enough to receive those grants to make it possible for those families and because of that these people were so grateful. I went to a house that was blessed by one of the local ministers and the lady who was there cried and said, 'Mayor, I would have never, ever believed that I would have a home such as this,' and it made me proud to be a part of that. Even now, people still stop me and say, 'Mayor, do you think we will get some more homes like this?'"

In 1994, the city's centennial celebration was held giving Martinez a reason to form a committee to make the event something to remember, celebrating every month of the entire year.

The community turned out to say their final farewells to the beloved former mayor at a Funeral Mass held Monday, Aug. 18 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

Bay City Tribune, August 17, 2014
 

 

Copyright 2009 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Oct. 24, 2009
Updated
Jun. 26, 2014
 

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