View Mobile Site

Paul Akinjo gains appointment to Lathrop council

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED December 4, 2012 12:07 a.m.

LATHROP – Paul Akinjo pressed the flesh, pounded the pavement and did everything else that candidates hoping to secure one of two Lathrop City Council seats did to get elected.

And while he finished third out of the field of 10 candidates, he’s still going to get the chance to focus on the key platform issues that he ran on. Those issues include transparency, public safety and ending the tumultuous relationships that at times brought the council down.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council – with newly-elected Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal at the helm, unanimously voted to appoint Akinjo to serve out the remainder of the term left on Dhaliwal’s vacated seat. Also installed Tuesday was incumbent Martha Salcedo starting a fresh term and Steve Dresser who voters returned to the council after an absence.

Akinjo’s term will expire in December of 2014. Newly designated Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas – who himself was appointed to serve out the full term vacated by Fire Chief Gene Neely because of perceived conflicts of interest in 2010 – made the initial motion.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve this community,” Akinjo said after the unanimous decision. “I realize right now that I’m being appointed to this position as the next leading vote getter and I will work hard to earn the respect of the citizens.

“I ran on transparency – bringing the city government to the people – as well as safety and jobs and ending the acrimonious backroom fighting. We all need to work together and I’m happy that I’ll get to be a part of that.”

Despite the fact that the vote was unanimous, arriving at the decision didn’t come quite so easily.

With three options before them – appoint the next leading vote getter (Akinjo), accept applications from qualified legal residents or hold a special election – the council had until Feb. 1 to make a formal decision about how they wanted to proceed.

Shelling out the $50,000 for a special election that would be held in an off-year was nixed early on. When Salcedo voiced her support for appointing Akinjo, Dresser countered by saying he’d like to open up an application process to possibly draw in candidates that might have been scared away by the political process.

Only 20 votes separated the next three candidates outside of Salcedo and Dresser. Akinjo secured 9.74 percent (669 votes) of the ballots cast. Debbie Rock finished right behind him with 9.58 percent (658 votes) while Joey Ermitanio wrapped up 9.45 percent (649 votes).

It was former San Joaquin County Supervisor Steve Gutierrez that drove the point home.

“The people of the City of Lathrop have spoken. They put you there. Is that enough?” Gutierrez asked. “I remember when there were calls that said you (Ornelas) shouldn’t be up there and now you’re Vice Mayor. That worked out. Give this man a chance.

“The people spoke. Just listen to them.”

Ornelas said that he had a “gut feeling” about Akinjo and that his own personal beliefs helped him arrive at the decision to make the motion for his appointment. He had previously stated that he would go along with whichever of the two decisions the council wanted to take.

The necessary paperwork will be drawn up and brought back to the council for their approval on Monday, Dec. 17. Akinjo will then take the oath of office and immediately assume his position on the council.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...