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Lathrop leaders ponder how to replace Sandoval
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It could take as long as two weeks for the Lathrop City Council to decide which direction they want to go in regards to the open seat that came as a result of Councilman Ruben Sandoval’s untimely passing on Dec. 22.
Sandoval, who was sworn in to his position on Monday, Dec. 20, died in an ambulance that was transporting him from his workplace to the hospital. The shocking news caught the Lathrop community off guard, especially those who were looking forward to working with him on the council. On top of being a lifelong Lathrop resident, Sandoval had worked previously at ITT Technical Institute before the company shut its doors nationwide following a government probe over financing, and the night that he was sworn in had a conversation with Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal about what can be done to bring another institute of higher learning into the community to serve the growing population.
As a learned man – Sandoval possessed an undergraduate degree in computer science, masters degrees in both business and human resources and a doctorate in organizational studies – Sandoval had hopes of bringing new life to the council and steering the city in a direction he felt would be best to serve the flourishing community currently at a crossroads.
And his passing presents somewhat of dilemma for the Lathrop City Council on how best to proceed with picking the person who will provide the tie-breaking vote on the city’s governing body. This will be the fourth time in as many elections that the council will have had to address a vacancy on the council – the first being when Omar Ornelas was appointed to the full term that that was surrendered by Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely when he was sworn into that position and chose not to complete the campaign in 2010. After Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal defeated incumbent mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos in 2012, Paul Akinjo was appointed to serve out the remainder of his term and was subsequently elected in 2014. After winning his own election in 2014, Ornelas resigned at the end of the following year to pursue a career in teaching – the first-half of his first-term eventually going to Mark Elliott in an appointment back in February.
If the council were to choose to appoint somebody to the position, they would have to run in the 2018 election either for the remaining two-years on that seat, or at-large for one of the two full-term seats that will be available. With the Mayor’s seat currently up for reelection every two years, it will mark the second time in as many election cycles that four-fifths of the City Council will be up for grabs.
According to Lathrop City Clerk Teresa Vargas, the unexpected nature of Sandoval’s passing coupled with the holiday season will likely sideline any discussion amongst the council until after the New Year. The Lathrop City Council won’t meet again until January 23, and she said that she’ll likely have direction from the council as to what will be placed on that agenda the week prior to that meeting.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.