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Ornelas may get nod for position on LAFCo board

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POSTED January 5, 2013 12:38 a.m.

LATHROP – Omar Ornelas will find out on Monday whether he’ll represent Lathrop on the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission. It’s the agency that rules on matters such as annexations, incorporations of cities and the formation of special districts.

It’s a turning point in the political career of a relatively young council member.

But if you ask Ornelas, it’s just the rewards for the hard work and long hours that he puts in as a member of the council. His work ethic has won the respect of his peers and the endorsement of mayor and former LAFCO commissioner Sonny Dhaliwal.

“This is a position that requires a lot of hard work and dedication and knowledge to offer the good input necessary to be a contributing member,” he said of his council duties. “I think that the mayor has recognized the time that I’ve put into this, and I’m grateful that he is recommending me for this position.

“I always thought that I would play a bigger role as a council member, but did I think it would be this soon? No. But two years into this I think that I’m ready to do some good things for the City of Lathrop on a different scale, and I’m ready for that challenge.”

While Lathrop’s spot on the LAFCO board expired at the end of the year, Dhaliwal will have the chance to suggest Ornelas when he meets with the six other mayors on Monday, Jan. 10. It is a meeting that will determine the two, at-large council members that will fill the other two slots not included in the annual rotating schedule. A public member will also be voted in at the meeting.

Ornelas believes that his diligence and willingness to pay attention to what goes on beyond the Lathrop council chambers will play into his favor.

“I think that as a member of the council there is so much more that goes on that we need to be aware of, and those are things that I pay attention to – the Board of Supervisors, Reclamation District 17, LAFCO, the State,” he said. “They play a huge role and I think we need to have that understanding and realize that bigger role.”

And it hasn’t been easy for Ornelas, at times, to get comfortable in his position on the dais.

His initial appointment to the council was shrouded in controversy, and the way he conducts himself at meetings – asking questions of staff members and inquiring for further explanation – has been perceived by some as a lack of knowledge on his part.

But Ornelas says he trudges on knowing that he only asks questions so that he can boil matters down into their simplest form so that people in the audience and at home can understand.

“I like to look at things as if I wasn’t a council member and ask basic questions and get answer so that the people who don’t read staff reports all the time or understand the language commonly used around city hall can follow along,” he said. “I want to make sure that the citizens know what it is that we’re doing.

“It’s important to me that those who want to know what is going on are able to.”

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