Omar Ornelas has said his final goodbye.
Last week the Lathrop councilman who still has three years left on his term sat on the dais at Lathrop City Hall in his last formal meeting before moving to the next chapter of his life as a teacher in Sacramento.
He announced his resignation at the beginning of the month and circulated the letter detailing how he arrived at his decision.
While it was a bittersweet moment for Ornelas – who doted over his love for the community and the way that he has grown from the position bestowed upon him – it was also the last chance that his colleagues would get to thank him for his years to service to the community he grew up in.
“I wish him the best of luck – I’m excited for him,” Councilman Paul Akinjo said. “I hate to see him go but he has to move on and I wish him good success in every endeavor. Thank you for your encouragement, thank you for your sense of leadership and thank you for your sense of determination in maintaining positions that may not have been popular at the time, but at least you make it more dignified by exposing new areas and giving a new perspective to some of the things that we do.”
Ornelas didn’t win his seat outright in the election that landed him on the council, but a peculiar situation where Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely had recused himself from the position after being promoted and before he was able to pull his name from the ballot left an opening after the dust settled.
The council chose to appoint the person with the next highest amount of votes, and after a brief period of contention, Ornelas was sworn in at only 19-years-old.
Since then he has championed for the youth of the community, especially poignant since he was a Youth Advisory Commissioner prior to running for council, and played a role in securing the funding for the Lathrop Generations Center – a multi-faceted community use facility that includes a state-of-the-art skate park, teen center and library.
“To Councilman Ornelas – Omar – it has been a sincere pleasure working with you and watching you develop,” Councilwoman Martha Salcedo said. “I have known you for a long time and I am very proud of the man that you have turned out to be. Keep up the good work and know that Lathrop will always be your home.”
While Ornelas was skeptical about running for another term because of an uncertain job future, he chose to seek another four years and took a job at a charter school in South Stockton to stay closer to home.
The move to Sacramento, he said, will be the next chapter in his life as he continues down his path of education.
“I do want to say thank you very much for everything. It’s difficult to find words to describe or show somehow how much you appreciate what they’ve done or how they’ve played a role in your life,” Ornelas said. “I think the best words are ‘thank you’ so I’ll say ‘thank you’ as much as I can. To the council, staff, and residents – you’ve helped me get to where I am today not just a councilman but also as a human being.
“I will always owe this city so much – they’ve already given me more than I can give back. I really, truly appreciate the last five years – they’ve been unforgettable.”
The council will vote in January on how to replace the remaining three years on his term.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.