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Chaka Era under way in City of Lathrop
Lathrop Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos
LATHROP — The era of Lathrop Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos is upon us.

In front of a packed house at Lathrop City Hall Monday night Santos donned a suit and tie as he was sworn in as the first new mayor of the community in four years after defeating incumbent Kristy Sayles by 150 votes in the November election.

Santos voiced his belief in the concept of teamwork and shared his vision of what he believes Lathrop can become.

“My philosophy is about the ‘we’ theory – not the ‘me’ theory,” Santos said. “There is no ‘I’ in me and there is no ‘I’ in people. I want to make Lathrop the best place that it can possibly be for the people that live here, bring in jobs, and bring in revenue.”

Friends and supporters of both Sayles and Santos packed City Hall to bid their previous leader farewell and usher in a new era in Lathrop government – one that has not only overseen a dramatic transformation of the layout of the community but also marred by controversy and infighting at periods as well.

While Santos made his presence and his beliefs at previous meetings known, and narrowly avoided getting thrown out of a meeting by Sayles for refusing to heed her call to order, he reached out to his fellow council members and called for a unified group to take the city in a positive direction.

“This is a community. This isn’t a city. Modesto is a city – Stockton is a city. We can take the wherewithal that we all have and we can make this a wonderful community,” he said. “I believe in participatory government, where as leaders, we get involved with our youth, with our seniors, and with our community. I believe in accountability, and I believe everything should be transparent.

“There’s a new era in this community.”

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal was also sworn in Monday night for another term after he easily won re-election in November with more than 42 percent of the votes cast in a five-person race.

After losing his mother two days before the election, Dhaliwal said that he was dedicating his term to her memory while offering his view of the future of the community and what he plans to do to help achieve that.

“I dedicate this term not only to my mother, but to all of the mothers out there in our city,” he said. “I promise that I’ll work harder this term. We have some big challenges in storm, but our best days in this city are ahead of us.”

And Sayles, who had a rocky run up to the election after it became public that her estranged husband was arrested for child abuse back in October, was sent off in style thanks to colleagues and friends who showed up to thank her for her two-terms and her dedication to her task.

She was presented with plaques from the City of Lathrop, Jim and Anita Montiel and Omar Ornelas, and San Joaquin Council of Governments Executive Director Andrew Chesley. California State Senator Lois Wolk also thanked her for her service.

“There are many people to thank for by being here today,” Sayles said. “I really want to thank my colleagues. We’ve had days when we’ve gotten along and seen eye-to-eye and we’ve had those days where we really had to negotiate and at times duke it out,” Sayles said. “But it has been a pleasure to work with all of you, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Lathrop.

“I’ll see you out there.”