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Paul Akinjo takes oath as fifth Lathrop City Council member

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POSTED December 18, 2012 12:01 a.m.

LATHROP – For the second time is as many years the Lathrop City Council has appointed somebody to serve as an equal.

But things went a little bit smoother for Paul Akinjo Monday night than they did for the man that welcomed him with open arms and a firm handshake. It was a symbolic gesture that solidified Lathrop’s newest council and represented a new era for the city of nearly 19,000 residents.

And the Nigerian-born small business owner – who also works for the County of Alameda – had to compose himself as he took his seat on the dais that was previously occupied by the also-appointed Omar Ornelas.

Even though that wasn’t the one he was hoping for.

“Martha Salcedo – I was hoping to be able to sit in her chair,” Akinjo said after thanking God. “Integrity – it looks so simple but it’s not something that’s easy to come by. Thank you for your integrity and your sincerity in duty to the City of Lathrop.”

It took Akinjo nearly 10 minutes to offer his thanks to those that supported him during his endeavor to win election to the council and those that helped him along the way.

He recounted when fellow council hopeful Debbie Rock – who finished just a handful of votes behind him – came to his door when canvassing the community and asked to place a yard sign in his front yard.

“People thought that I was absolutely crazy for letting my opponent put a sign in my front yard,” he said. “It looked like a graveyard out there with all of these different things. But I saw it as people who were looking at ways to improve our city and move it forward.”

He also had kind things to say about all of those that came before him.

Akinjo went out of his way to thank past mayors and council members – naming Gloryanna Rhodes, Kristy Sayles and Joseph “Chaka” Santos specifically – for everything that they did during their time on the council.

“There are always those predecessors that have to put things in place,” he said. “Even though I don’t know all of them personally, they did their part for this community.”

And he had a personal message to the men and women in uniform that serve Lathrop.

“This is not an easy time for our country,” he said. “Thank you for the excellent job that you do. Together, with God’s guidance, we’ll make it through.”

Rev. Lou Davis swore Akinjo in.

Like Akinjo, Ornelas was the next leading vote getter when current Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Gene Neely announced that he wouldn’t be serving on the council. He made the announcement after the cut-off date to pull his name from the ballot.

After the council voted to appoint Ornelas, Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos attempted to squash it the following meeting when he was to be sworn in – citing a violation of parliamentary procedure.

Ornelas was honored two weeks ago by his colleagues when he was named the city’s next vice mayor.

He may also end up as Lathrop’s representative to the Local Agency Formation Commission – LAFCo – as well as the San Joaquin Rail Commission.

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