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John Weed at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif. on Friday Nov. 12, 2010 is retiring from the Ohlone College board of trustees. He's served on the board for the past 33 years and knows every inch of the school and its history. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

FREMONT -- John Weed is taking a few secrets with him when he leaves the Ohlone College board of trustees next month after 33 years, but here's one he's willing to share.

The loin cloth flowing across the bare midsection of the muscular Ohlone man in the school cafeteria's mural was a last-minute addition.

At first it appeared the college might refuse to pay the artist, or that the artist would refuse to alter his work. But the loin cloth satisfied everyone.

"It's the Ohlone way," Weed said. "We find a way to get around the problems and resolve issues for everyone's benefit."

Weed, who attended his final board meeting last week, first was elected in 1977 -- by 21 votes.

He beat back every challenge since then, serving with 19 different trustees before deciding not to seek re-election this year.

"It had been a long while. There had to be some turnover," said Weed, a commercial property owner who plans to continue serving on the Alameda County Water District board of directors.

Weed joined the Ohlone board as a 30-year-old Air Force reservist who knew a thing or two about higher education. He already had a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, an M.B.A., and was just finishing up law school.

Colleagues described Weed as a policy wonk who pushed hard for Ohlone's Newark campus. "He made it clear that Newark deserved a facility that was more than just an old middle school campus," former Ohlone President Floyd Hogue said.

Newark Councilman and former City Manager Al Huezo said Weed was one of the smartest guys he ever met, even though he might have rubbed some people the wrong way.

"He played the role of a challenger, always asking a lot of questions," Huezo said. "Some people might say he was being annoying, but you need someone like that."

True to form, Weed brought a copy of Ohlone's recently approved long-range facilities plan to an interview last week.

He panned the plan, which is supposed to guide the school's recently approved $349 bond measure, saying it underestimated enrollment growth and didn't add a single parking space.

Weed, who expects the plan to be revised, joked that he contributed to the bond measure's success earlier this month by "keeping my mouth shut."

Weed is the last in a line of longtime board members, including Ruth Foster and Dan Archer, whose tenure on the board spanned several decades.

"It's the end of an era for me," said Trustee Nick Nardolillo, who will now be the board's senior member. "John has been the real historian of the board," Nardolillo said. "He was very helpful to new trustees who came in. He was the first one to greet them."

Weed has served with plenty of interesting characters, but said the heart of Ohlone hasn't been its colorful board members, but "the wonderful service it provides the community."

"We've always been protective of the institution, the staff and the students," he said. "All of the issues that come along, as bizarre as some of them may have been, they always get resolved. It's the Ohlone way."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. For more Fremont news, read his blog at www.ibabuzz.comtricitybeat.