Former Oxnard Mayor Lopez Dies

Bernie Sanders

Dr. Manuel M. Lopez, former Oxnard Mayor.

Dr. Manuel M. Lopez, noted optometrist in downtown Oxnard and mayor of the city from 1992 to 2004, died on Monday, January 27. He was 92 years old.

Lopez had a long history of business and community service in Oxnard. He first 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.

“I believe Oxnard has lost the original native son,” said Bill Higgins, a longtime friend and campaign manager for Lopez.

By anyone’s measure, Lopez lived a long life. None of his earlier doctors would have predicted it. Lopez had tuberculosis and spent all of his teenage years in and out of the hospital. He lost one of his lungs and was told he wouldn’t live past 50. Lopez was 5 when he lost his mother to tuberculosis.

His wife Irma noted Lopez’s lifelong love for the city of Oxnard and how he fought through health concerns when he was young. She attributed his determined leadership to that fighting spirit.

In particular, she mentioned two special projects he spearheaded while serving with the City.

The first was the new Oxnard Public Library located in downtown Oxnard. When Lopez proposed a new library, it was not well supported, particularly within the Oxnard business community.

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

Today, the expanded and updated library stands at the corner of 2nd and A Streets.

Lopez’s second project was The Veteran’s Memorial in downtown Plaza Park: The memorial was an important concern for Lopez, so much so 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.”

Lopez was also active in opposing the proposed LNG terminal at Ormond Beach and led the successful battle to keep it out of Oxnard. He also helped lead the fight to keep casinos out of the city.

Lopez’s additional community service included serving on The Port Hueneme Board of Commissioners, The Oxnard Community Relations Commission, The Oxnard Redevelopment Agency, and The Oxnard Planning Commission.

He also worked on various community boards and commissions, including the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Oxnard 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.

Last year he was honored 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 Lopez.

“He was a child of a farmworker in a segregated society but he never felt beneath anybody. He didn’t want us to feel that way,” said Lopez’s daughter Marisa Lopez. “He never felt like me and my sister were anything less than.”

Manuel Lopez is survived by his wife, Irma; daughters Marisa and Tiffany; sister Ruth Torres; son-in-law Fred Messecar; grandchildren Leila and Manny Messecar; two stepdaughters, eight step-grandchildren and 9 step-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services for Dr. Lopez are pending and will be announced soon.