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Ornelas repeats as Lathrop vice mayor

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POSTED January 3, 2014 12:43 a.m.

LATHROP – Omar Ornelas will get another year as Lathrop’s Vice Mayor.

Last month the 21-year-old councilman was appointed to serve as the de facto alternate to Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal should he not be able to perform his duties at the city’s council meetings. The term lasts for one year, but since councilwoman Martha Salcedo – who was reelected when Dhaliwal was elected mayor – served two terms in the position when she was appointed as the vice mayor and Christopher Mateo did the same, Dhaliwal felt it was only fair.

And Ornelas has been proactive in the position.

He was the youngest councilman in the city’s history when he was appointed to fill the vacant position that was created when Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely pulled out of the council race at the last minute – citing conflict of interest issues – but was ultimately elected anyway.

Ornelas was the next leading vote-getter, and the decision on whether he should have been placed on the council by a vote was a tangled web of objections and arguments and claims that parliamentary procedure had been violated.

The same process was used to appoint councilman Paul Akinjo to serve out the remainder of then-councilman Sonny Dhaliwal’s vacated term.

But he didn’t let politics get in the way of doing the things that he was put in office to do.

As an advocate for the local youth and the Youth Advisory Commission, Ornelas championed a city project that would provide local teens an outlet. When the city secured a $5 million grant, The Generations Center was born – a hybrid complex across the street from Lathrop High School that will feature a concrete skate park, a parkour course, a teen center, a library, a community garden and other state-of-the-art attractions that will likely make it one of the most high-used city facilities.

His work stretches beyond Lathrop’s city limits.

As a member a 2-by-2 committee with Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal that works in partnership with the Manteca Unified School District, Ornleas has ben a part of restoring the relationship that was at strained between the two entities. He also serves as the chair of a similar committee that reviews the contract with Lathrop Police Services every year.

Ornelas also serves as a member of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission – an entity that oversees the operation and the expansion of commuter serves like the ACE Train.

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