If 2020 was the year that turned life upside-down, 2021 was the year that people started fitting the pieces back together. As COVID-19 variants taught us more letters of the Greek alphabet, we tried to figure out what staples of familiar life could return, and whether that would be outdoors, in masks or with vaccines.

Happily, several of Galt’s community events made triumphant in-person comebacks this year, such as the Independence Day Parade and fireworks, National Night Out, the FFA Farm to Fork Dinner, and Lighting of the Night.

The Galt area tragically lost community members — ordinary people fighting coronavirus infections and law enforcement members serving their community.

Meanwhile, various projects were coming to fruition: The Galt Area Historical Society opened its reimagined Rae House Museum. Multiple housing developments advanced.

Galt’s school districts and police department gained new leadership, and the area’s representative on the county board of supervisors announced he would not seek reelection.

Read on to see a selection of the defining people, stories and images from 2021.

Nottoli to not seek reelection

Signaling an end to nearly three decades representing Sacramento County’s District 5, Don Nottoli announced on Feb. 4 that he would not seek reelection to the county board of supervisors in 2022. Nottoli first won the District 5 seat in 1994.

“It’s been a privilege and honor to have received the support to continue for multiple terms representing District 5,” the Galt native told the Herald in February. “It has been a tremendous honor, but I concluded after giving a lot of thought that I’m not going to seek election in 2022.

Nottoli served on the Galt City Council in 1978 before becoming chief assistant to then-Supervisor Toby Johnson.

New education leaders

Both Galt school districts got new superintendents in 2021. Lisa Pettis and Lois Yount were selected to lead the Galt Joint Union High School District and the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, respectively. Notably, the two were promoted from within their districts.

Pettis, formerly the director of educational options, took the helm at the high school district in May, filling the position left vacant by her predecessor, William Spalding.

“My first goal is building trust and relationships with staff and students, getting students back to full time safely amidst the pandemic, as well as making sure that all students are prepared for post-secondary,” Pettis told the Herald after a month on the job.

At the elementary district, the superintendent of 14 years, Karen Schauer, told the school board in March that she would retire once her replacement had been found.

Yount was announced as the new elementary superintendent on June 23. Then the director of business services, Yount thanked the elementary school board and recognized Schauer for her leadership.

Schauer has “been a great role model for me,” Yount said after the announcement, thanking the board members for the opportunity.

In-person instruction resumes

After a year of online instruction, Galt elementary and high school students began returning to campuses for in-person learning on March 18. At first, the two districts split their student bodies into cohorts so that only a portion of students were on-site at a given time.

“I am so happy to be back,” Greer Elementary School fourth grader Ireland told the Herald. “Math has been really hard for me and when I got back to school, math is already so much easier!”

By the time the 2021-22 school year rolled around, California had lifted its COVID-19 tier system and both districts returned to fully in-person teaching. In a letter to high school district families, Superintendent Lisa Pettis said GJUHSD would use state and federal funds to provide academic and mental-health support to students.

“The district understands that things don’t just go ‘back to normal’ overnight,” Pettis said. “We are aware of the challenges ahead, and we are committed to providing additional support for our families and students as we all transition back to a traditional schedule.”

Mask and vaccine opposition

Though the state’s tier system of pandemic restrictions lifted in June, requirements meant to slow coronavirus spread continued to appear, often drawing the ire of various groups. In particular, state orders requiring students to wear masks in schools, and to eventually get vaccinated against COVID-19, angered many local parents.

The school boards regularly hear public comments against the requirements, and some parents have kept their children out of school or instructed children to ignore requests to mask up.

On Oct. 18, more than 100 people gathered along C Street to protest the state order that eligible K-12 students to be immunized. They portrayed the order as denying them parental choice and questioned the safety and necessity of vaccines.

The boards have written letters to state regulators asking for greater local control. Both school districts have reported significant absences as a result of the protests, which they said deprives them of thousands of dollars in funding.

Housing projects move forward

A plethora of proposed housing projects are making their way through city approvals and construction, with several hitting key milestones in 2021.

Pieridae, under construction north of Kost Road, announced its grand opening in March and now has houses for sale. When completed, the KB Home development will comprise 69 single-family houses.

Veranda at River Oaks sold most of its 60 single-family houses in 2021. Though the development on Carillion Boulevard and Walnut Avenue is the final piece of Elliott Homes’ River Oaks master plan, a spokeswoman told the Herald in May that the builder has “plans to continue to grow the Galt community.”

Among new prospects, CalSTRS-backed Fairfield Residential sought public feedback on an envisioned development, also on Carillion and Walnut, with a mixture of multifamily rentals and commercial.

Galt Market master plan

On April 14, Galt City Manager Lorenzo Hines revealed a proposal for the future of the Galt Market, aiming to make it more attractive compared to e-commerce.

As initially designed, the Galt Market Community Master Plan would be implemented in five stages over 20 to 30 years. It would convert the paved vendor area to green space with amenities like a fountain and amphitheater. Housing, a hotel, a restaurant and space for other commercial buildings is included, as well as developments aimed at young families and older adults.

After presenting the plan to City Council, Hines and city staff presented the concept to many local and regional organizations. He has said staff will modify the proposal based on feedback from the groups.

While council members have generally agreed on the idea of acting to reinvigorate the market, not all have seemed on board with the plan. Council has asked staff to investigate the viability of weekend market hours.

Rae House Museum reopens

The Galt Area Historical Society announced at its Ladies’ Tea on May 18 that the Rae House Museum was reopening with rooms full of displays on the history of Galt and surrounding communities.

Each of the five rooms has its own theme: the founding of the local communities, the schools that have welcomed area students, the area’s founding figures, businesses of decades past, and fraternal and service organizations.

Historian Dan Tarnasky led the renovation, letting the historical society’s photography collection guide his choice of topic.

Kalinowski becomes police chief

On Oct. 11, nearly one year after the retirement of the city’s previous police chief, Brian Kalinowski was chosen as the permanent Galt chief of police.

“The Galt Police Department has a proud history and a bright future ahead,” Kalinowski said at the time in a prepared statement. He called for a shared effort “to move the  department forward while continuing to provide quality police services to the residents of Galt.”

After then-Chief of Police Ted Sockman retired in November 2020, Hines created a temporary arrangement in which Kalinowski served as interim chief for the next six months and Lt. Richard Small took on the role afterward, from April to early October. Kalinowski and Small have spoken about their close cooperation throughout that time.

Kalinowski, like other local officials, wrote a letter arguing against the placement of Joshua Cooley, a sexually violent predator, in a home just outside Galt city limits. The judge ultimately rejected the placement.

Galt PD also sought and received City Council approval to purchase body-worn and in-vehicle cameras in April, under Kalinowski’s watch.

Those we lost

Like 2020 before it, 2021 saw Galt lose multiple loved ones to COVID-19. Roughly 40 Galt residents died from the coronavirus in 2021. The Galt area also experienced tragic law enforcement deaths. Below are just a few locals who passed away in 2021.

Joe Grubba: After first volunteering with the Herald Fire Protection District, Grubba later served as the fire department’s assistant chief and, briefly, as its interim chief, rounding out 44 years of service with his retirement in 2016. Grubba died at 76 on Jan. 13. During a Jan. 16 service, friend and fellow firefighter Robert Moore said Grubba saved his life in a house fire. “Everything I’ve learned about structure fires confirms most firefighters don’t get a second chance. I did,” Moore said. “Thanks for that, Joe.”

Adam Gibson: The Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy and Herald resident was shot and killed on Jan. 18, along with his K-9 partner Riley, during a shootout at Cal Expo. He and fellow deputies had been pursuing a man whose vehicle matched one that had been involved in several burglaries. Gibson was 31 years old. Tributes for Gibson continued through the year, including a Cowboy’s Honor Ride in March and a float in the Lighting of the Night parade in December.

Harminder Grewal: A Galt Police Department officer, Grewal and fellow officer Kapri Herrera were driving north on Aug. 22 to assist with the response to the Caldor fire when a pickup truck broke through concrete barriers on Highway 99 and collided with the officers’ vehicle. Herrera was seriously injured, and Grewal died of his own injuries on Aug. 26. Multiple tributes to the 27-year-old took place over the following months. Since childhood, Grewal had aimed to become a police officer. That goal finally came to fruition in 2019, when he joined the Galt police. He was known among coworkers for his sense of humor and generosity.

Nicole Silvey: After 24 years of teaching a variety of subjects at Galt High School, Silvey died of COVID-19 on Nov. 22. She was 45 years old. Silvey taught classes in psychology, government, geography and criminal justice, and also had served as athletic director and activity director. Silvey joined a statewide march of educators in 2010 when legislators considered significant cuts to education funding.