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New Lathrop councilman dies 2 days after oath
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As a lifelong resident of Lathrop, Ruben Sandoval had a host of ideas about how to improve the city that he loves.
Unfortunately, he’ll never get the chance.
Despite being sworn in as a Lathrop City Councilman on Monday night, Sandoval passed away at his home on Wednesday night according to city sources that confirmed his death through Lathrop Police Services.
It’s the first time in the 27-year history of the City of Lathrop that an elected council member has passed away while in office. The tragic circumstances surrounding his untimely passing left those that he was going to serve with shocked and saddened.
“It’s a sad day for our city,” Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said on Thursday evening – having just been sworn in for a new term along with Sandoval on Monday. “I’ve known Ruben for about 10 years, and he loved Lathrop – it’s absolutely tragic that he won’t get to serve the city that he loved and cared so much about.
“We will miss him.”
A Lathrop native, Sandoval cruised to a victory for a four-year term over appointed incumbent Mark Elliott – himself a lifelong Lathrop resident – and had plans to improve the city’s marketing position when appealing to high-paying jobs in order to provide Lathrop residents the chance to avoid the commute and work closer to where they live.
He was highly educated – with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a masters degree in business, a masters degree in human resources and a doctorate in organizational studies – and his vast knowledge would have given the proactive council another sharp mind to help the city more forward in its plan to grow into a midsized California city with a lot to offer both its residents and the businesses that moved into it in recent years.
His cause of death was not immediately revealed, but a city source said that they had contacted Lathrop Police Services, and that his next of kin had been notified.
Dhaliwal said that the discussion about what will happen with his seat has not yet been had amongst council members or city staff – noting that people were “too shocked” to visit the issue upon hearing the news.
His passing will, however, mark the third time in as many election cycles that the Lathrop City Council will have to address an opening after Dhaliwal’s elevation to mayor in 2012 and the departure of Omar Ornelas one year after being reelected to a four-year term.
While Sandoval had not held public office in Lathrop before, he had served on the board for the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce and worked to help organize the city’s first Diversity Celebration event.
“Ruben and I did have a chance to discuss the city and talk about the future for it, and we discussed a possible replacement for ITT Technical Institute,” Dhaliwal said. “He was very excited to serve a community that he loved very much. Everybody is just in shock right now.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.