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Neely drops out of Lathrop council race
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LATHROP - There were five candidates running for two council vacancies in the Lathrop City Council other than the mayor's seat.

Now, there are only four vying for the two openings on Nov. 2. Candidate Gene Neely, who was interim chief of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District when he filled out candidate's papers, announced via e-mail Friday that he was removing himself from the race. The reason: he was just appointed permanent fire chief succeeding the post vacated by former chief Fred Manding who retired last month under pressure from the union firefighters.

Neely’s name will still appear on the ballots as they have already ben printed.

"It is with great regret that due to unforeseen events, I will have to remove myself from the Nov. 2 election. I have just recently been appointed the fire chief with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District. This fact does not necessarily preclude me from running for the council position; however, the responsibility of the Fire Chief's position is one of great dedication that during these hard economic times will need my full attention," Neely wrote.

He added that his decision came "after deliberation and consideration" and that it was a decision that was not made "lightly."

He concluded, "I wish all the candidates luck in the election and best wishes in their political endeavors."

The four remaining candidates are incumbent Sonny Dhaliwal who works for Santa Clara County's Department of Transportation, chocolateer Rosalinda Valencia who works for Ghirardelli chocolate factory in Lathrop, San Joaquin Delta College student Omar Ornelas, and stay-at-home father and DeVry University student Brent Maynor who formerly worked in construction but is currently on disability.

The vacancies on the council are the result of the resignation in March of this year of former council member Robert K. Oliver and the end of Dhaliwal's four-year term.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Kristy Sayles is seeking a third elected term. She is being challenged by businessman and entrepreneur J. "Chaka" Santos and retired Pac Bell employee and current Escalon Unified School District computer staff Steve Dresser who is also a former member of the Lathrop City Council.