Omar Ornelas is running for election to the Lathrop City Council.
Yes, a four-year incumbent is running to be “elected” for the first time to a position that was rife with controversy when he was named to fill the slot that was left vacant when Fire Chief Gene Neely announced he wouldn’t fill it even if voters elected him.
Naturally, Neely got elected.
And after the council at that time voted to appoint Ornelas to serve the remainder of the four-year term as the next leading vote getter, reaching a consensus on that topic wasn’t in the cards. There were legal threats. And Parliamentarians. And raised voices. And bruised egos.
But in the end, Ornelas got a full four-years to serve on the council and feels that he has been a part of a productive grouping that has really come together cohesively to solve some of the problems that Lathrop residents face on a daily basis and met those challenges head-on.
“One of the things that I’ve recognized about the past two years on the council as compared to the first two years on the council is that we’ve really been able to work together these last two years – to set apart our differences and get to work on what’s needed for this community,” Ornelas said. “My first two years, those kinds of things didn’t happen and it made for some very contentious meetings and relationships. I think everybody had the best interests of the community at heart, even back then, but they went about it differently.
“Today we’re going about it in unison. It makes a difference.”
And regardless of how things play out in the future, Ornelas said he can proudly hang his hat on some of the things that he’s accomplished since he has taken office.
On one hand he can look towards the Lathrop Generations Center – a hybrid teen center and library – and know that a lot of work by a lot of people went into a project like that and it’ll forever be a testament to Lathrop’s resilience and its ability to stay committed to a project even when they don’t know what the outcome will be.
On the other, he’ll look towards the budget reserves that the council has been able to stockpile by being conservative with money over the course of the last several years.
And realistically he didn’t know until a few months ago that he was going to run for “election” again.
Ornelas said that upon graduating from college he got a job offer from Sacramento and nearly took the position – a move that would have severely cut into his time spent at City Hall and likely killed any chance at a future run at the council. Instead a job of equal caliber became available in Stockton and he jumped on that chance instead and was able to remain in San Joaquin County – the place where he grew up and the place where he is watching his own younger brothers blossom into adulthood.
“There will always be a special spot in my heart for this place. It’s my home,” Ornelas said. “That’s not going to change. And I’d like another four years to represent it and do the kind of work I know that I’m capable of doing.”
Ornelas said that development – whether it’s River Islands finally breaking ground or companies like Saybrook stepping up and taking over the defaulted Richland Planned Communities Central Lathrop project – would be a major factor in the city’s future. The location of commercial projects and new industrial that feature head-of-household jobs, he said, will also play an integral role.