LULAC Honors Former Mayor Manuel M. Lopez

Dr. Manuel M. Lopez, noted optometrist in downtown Oxnard and mayor of the city from 1992 to 2004, was honored on Thursday, January 24 by Chapter 3147 of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). To commemorate his lifetime of community service, the Ventura County LULAC officially renamed its council for Manuel M. Lopez.

Asked why LULAC was commemorating Dr. Lopez, David Rodriguez, Interim President of Ventura County LULAC, acknowledged Lopez for “five decades of service in the community, for serving as an elected official, and being a role model to young adults and a role model to adults.” Rodriguez believes that Lopez paved the way for more active Latino leadership within the city. “The fact that he ran and got elected in a town that wasn’t so friendly at one time,” he said, “and he was reelected mayor four times, it was quite an accomplishment.” The role of leadership Lopez provided extended both to the political structure of Oxnard and to its community infrastructure.

Lopez opened his optometry business in Oxnard in 1962. In 1978, he was elected to the Oxnard City Council and served in that capacity until he was elected Mayor in 1992. Lopez totaled 26 years of service within the Oxnard City Council. Currently Lopez is serving on The Port Hueneme Board of Commissioners.

Appearing on his behalf, his wife, Irma, stated that Lopez had “broken some records for being the longest serving public servant in the city of Oxnard.”

District 5 County Supervisor John Zaragoza remembered Lopez for his ability to be forward thinking and to get things done. Serving with Lopez on the Oxnard City Council, Zaragoza recalled: “Not only did I participate with him in making policy for the city of Oxnard and the constituency of Oxnard, we did a lot of good things that are now in fruition for the city of Oxnard.”

In tribute, Zaragoza presented Manuel Lopez with two certificates of recognition from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. Lopez’s wife, Irma accepted these certificates in his stead. Irma spoke of Lopez’s lifelong love for the city of Oxnard and how he fought through health concerns when he was young. She attributed that fighting spirit with his determined leadership. She mentioned two special projects he spearheaded and fought for: • The Oxnard Public Library: When Lopez proposed a new library, it was not well supported, particularly within the Oxnard business community.

“He fought so hard for that and they didn’t have the votes,” Irma recalled. “But he thought it was very important for the children.”

Today, a beautiful library sits on the corner of 2nd and A Streets in downtown Oxnard. • The Veterans Memorial in downtown Plaza Park: The memorial was an important concern for Lopez, important enough that he personally appealed to the community to raise funds for the project. “He led the effort to raise funds for the memorial at Plaza Park,” Irma explained. “He went to the different unions. He raised money. It was not built at the city’s expense. It was built with the funds that the community donated.”

The Veterans Memorial has become an important gathering spot for veterans, particularly for ceremonies on Veterans Day every November. During the presentation, Jose Barrera, the Deputy State Director for California LULAC, read off a list of Lopez’s community activities, including: • Serving on The Port Hueneme Board of Commissioners • Serving on The Oxnard Community Relations Commission • Serving on The Oxnard Redevelopment Agency • Serving on The Oxnard Planning Commission.

Lopez also worked on various community boards and commissions, including the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the development of the Oxnard Ocotlan Sister City, The Boys and Girls Club Board, the Oxnard College Foundation, the Women’s Legacy and the Ventura County Community Foundation.

He was recognized in 1991 as an Oxnard Distinguished Citizen of the Year and received the Patrick Henry Medallion for Patriotic Community Achievements.

Lopez certainly gave Latinos more visibility in leadership roles in Oxnard and planted the seed for future generations of Latino leaders within LULAC to follow in his footsteps.

Rodriguez contends that for Lopez’s example of service and leadership, LULAC should honor his achievements in a permanent way.

“In his spirit of what he did,” said Rodriguez, “to move ahead the community, I think that the LULAC chapter is going to follow in his footsteps, hopefully train young leaders to follow in his footsteps to run for office, and to give back to their communities. I think it’s important.”