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Newly elected mayor vows to keep shorts in fashion at meetings
J. “Chaka” Santos is shown wearing the outfit he wore to the candidates’ forum. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATRHOP – J. “Chaka” Santos said he always felt “comfortable” about winning the Lathrop mayor’s race on Election Day.

So much so that when his excited daughter woke him up at 4 o’clock Wednesday morning shouting, “Daddy, daddy! You won! You won!” Santos simply replied, “okay, okay!” then rolled over and went back to sleep.

“A man, or any person, who is very comfortable with himself will get things done,” philosophized the Lathrop entrepreneur, businessman and Marine Corps veteran.

The numbers from all 10 Lathrop precincts, as reported by the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, gave Santos a comfortable margin with 37.23 percent of the votes cast (866 votes) to incumbent Mayor Kristy Sayles’ 31.94 percent (743 votes), with Steve Dresser receiving 30.61 percent (712 votes). Those figures include the absentee ballots received before Nov. 2 but not the ones that were dropped off at the precincts on Election Day which still need to be counted.

The first order of business for Santos on the day after the elections was to go around town and remove all of his large campaign signs, many of which featured his bearded and mustachioed face that is also prominently glued onto his grocery product M-M-M meat sauce.

He also spent part of the day “recuperating” from the campaign and fulfilling a promise he made to a young boy the day before – lunch at Wendy’s. The young student at Joshua Cowell School in Manteca is the son of a family friend, Santos said.

An advocate and philanthropist to young athletes, Santos has always been proud to talk about the same role he played in the life of three young athletes – two from Stockton and one from Oakland – who have since carved their own niche in pro football. Two of them are graduates of Edison High School in Stockton – Lynell Hamilton, an American football running back for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League, who also played college football at San Diego State and high school football at Edison; and Lavelle Hawkins, a wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. He also played high school (Edison in Stockton) and college football.  Hamilton and Hawkins are cousins. Chris John Henry is a football running back for the Seattle Seahawks, and was also a member of the Houston Texans. He also played college football at Arizona.

About two months ago, Santos said he invited Hamilton to come and give an inspirational talk and appearance to the athletes at Lathrop High School.

“He told them that I helped him a lot while he was in high school. I told him, ‘I don’t want anything from you, son. Just give something back to the community,” Santos recalled.

“He spoke to the team. This way the kids can have hope, that if he can do it, they can do it. They just need to apply themselves,” he added.

Santos and the two newly elected council members will be sworn in during the first council meeting in December.

The vacancy in the mayor’s seat was left open by the impending departure of Sayles whose second two-year term as an elected mayor ends in December.

Santos said among the first things he will do as mayor is to “bring the council together so that we are just one core; get that solidified so that we can go out and do the things that need to get done” such as the city “budget, (employee) morale, and break(ing) down the barriers between employees and city officials.”

The mayor in shorts
Santos, who has always made himself a familiar face at the podium during council meetings wearing a shirt, a pair of shorts and flip-flops, said that people can expect to see him similarly dressed as mayor during official meetings, albeit in more presentable types of garb.

“I’m not giving up my fashion unless necessary. I’ll wear a tie, a starched shirt, saddle shoes or Florsheim wing tips, or penny loafers with leather soles, a really nice polo shirt – very Ivy League, very GQ. On a hot day, I’m going to wear a Hawaiian shirt, and maybe I’ll wear pants once in a while. The shorts I wear are very fine piece of cotton shorts,” Santos further elaborated.

In the months leading up to election day, Santos made himself a familiar face at the podium during council meetings, either to criticize the sitting council officials’ actions on various items such as the Matt Browne wrongful termination case and the city paying $1,200 a month for The Rush publication, or to compliment someone on a job well done. During one council meeting, he even had a Havana-type of cigar in his hand – unlit – that he put in his mouth once in a while. The cigar was a prop in his hand when he addressed the council at the podium.

Santos and his wife Roseanne moved to Lathrop nearly two decades ago from the Bay Area. They have since made themselves familiar to their neighbors and many people in town with their annual Halloween and National Night Out extravaganza.