With lack of chal­lengers, Dhali­wal rolls up sleeves

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By JASON CAMP­BELL

Af­ter three con­sec­u­tive bat­tles to get elected as Lathrop’s mayor, Sonny Dhali­wal will now walk un­chal­lenged into another two years in Novem­ber.

Dhali­wal, who was first elected to the coun­cil in 2006 and served six years be­fore run­ning for the city’s top elected post, will be the only name on the bal­lot for mayor when Lathrop res­i­dents go to the polls for the midterm elec­tions this fall, all but guar­an­tee­ing him another two years at the helm.

But don’t ex­pect to see him tak­ing any

time off dur­ing the cam­paign sea­son.

“All of the time that I would have spent on the cam­paign I can now put into working for the res­i­dents,” Dhali­wal said. “We have a lot of things on the hori­zon right now and I’m look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing that.”

In fact, the way that he’s been do­ing the job since he un­seated Joseph “Chaka” San­tos in 2012 might have a lot to do with the fact that no­body will be chal­leng­ing him this cy­cle.

Back in 2008 when the Cen­tral Valley as a whole was hit hard by the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and the col­lapse of the hous­ing market that came as a re­sult of it, Lathrop was hit harder than most – prompt­ing the one large-scale res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment that was un­der­way to es­sen­tially col­lapse and leave vi­tal in­fra­struc­ture in­tended to serve the area un­fin­ished.

Al­most overnight the city was fac­ing bud­get short­falls that ex­ceeded $10 mil­lion, and lay­offs and fur­loughs re­placed the hous­ing per­mits that al­most ev­ery­body ex­pected to con­tinue flow­ing.

Things couldn’t be any more dif­fer­ent to­day.

In less than a decade the coun­cil has turned the mas­sive pro­jected short­fall into more than $5 mil­lion in gen­eral fund re­serves, ush­ered in a new era of com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, and pro­moted a busi­ness-friendly cli­mate that has po­si­tioned Lathrop as one of the fastest grow­ing in­dus­trial and ware­house sec­tors in the North­ern San Joaquin Valley.

While the re­cent growth boom isn’t quite enough for Dhali­wal to achieve his dream of re­vers­ing the com­mute for the ma­jor­ity of Lathrop’s res­i­dents who drive over the Al­ta­mont ev­ery day, it is progress – some­thing that he says he will make a pri­or­ity in the next two years on the coun­cil.

“Right now we’re look­ing at get­ting the South Lathrop Spe­cific Plan un­der­way, which will bring mil­lions of square feet of ware­houses and light-in­dus­trial prop­erty, and that will at­tract more com­pa­nies and there­fore more jobs,” Dhali­wal said. “We have the Pilk­ing­ton site ex­pand­ing, which will bring more busi­nesses and more jobs, and we’re go­ing to con­tinue try­ing to at­tract the head-of­house­hold jobs that will al­low res­i­dents to stay right here in Lathrop.

“I go to the Bay Area ev­ery day and I know how much time that takes away from the fam­ily, so if we can’t com­pletely re­verse the com­mute for ev­ery­body, at least we can work to re­duce it.”

But while Dhali­wal will walk into another term this elec­tion cy­cle, the coun­cil – which ul­ti­mately re­mained in­tact af­ter the tragic and un­timely death of Coun­cil­man Ruben San­doval opened the door for Mark El­liott’s ap­point­ment – will be dif­fer­ent head­ing into the new year.

El­liott is the only coun­cil mem­ber up for re­elec­tion that is not go­ing to seek another term, in­stead se­cur­ing one of the two avail­able seats on the Lathrop Man­teca Fire Dis­trict Board of Directors.

While that means a change, Dhali­wal said that he’s con­fi­dent that re­gard­less of who ends up claim­ing seats this cy­cle, the peo­ple that the vot­ers put onto the dais will have the best in­ter­est of Lathrop in mind.

“For the last six years our coun­cil has been working to­gether – we all have dif­fer­ent points of view, but we all do what we feel is in the best in­ter­est of the city,” Dhali­wal said. “I’m con­fi­dent that who­ever takes seats af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion, it will be a uni­fied body – there won’t be any per­sonal agen­das.

“I see ev­ery­body working to­gether for the best in­ter­ests of the city.”

Dhali­wal said that he sees Lathrop as cur­rently be­ing in a very strong and promis­ing po­si­tion mov­ing for­ward, and noted that he’s thank­ful for an out­stand­ing city staff that goes above and be­yond de­spite hav­ing lim­ited re­sources.

There will be things, he said, that will be chal­leng­ing for the coun­cil, and de­ci­sions that will be dif­fi­cult – like whether to con­tinue to go with the San Joaquin County Sher­riff’s Of­fice for po­lice pro­tec­tion or take the nec­es­sary steps to cre­ate Lathrop’s own in­de­pen­dent po­lice depart­ment – but stressed that he has faith in the coun­cil and the city as a whole to work co­he­sively to han­dle any is­sues that emerge.

“We have a lot of res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment on the way and there is a big chal­lenge in what we’re go­ing to do with the po­lice con­tract,” Dhali­wal said. “But we have to work to­gether to steer Lathrop in the right di­rec­tion, and I’m look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the work that we have started to­gether.”


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