Former man of the year resigns from council
Louie Lopez accepts promotion to new job, forced to resign from council because of time constraints
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
WOODLAKE – Woodlake’s youngest councilmember took an early exit from his term last week.
On Sept. 9 the Woodlake City Council voted in favor of accepting former councilman Louie Lopez’s resignation. In a letter submitted to the Council, Lopez stated that a change in his job schedule no longer gives him the ability to serve on the council.
Lopez served his post for three and a half years, and says he’ll miss the camaraderie e he had with fellow council members.
“I’m going to miss Frances [Ortiz’s] wise cracks. Those punch lines she adds in there,” Lopez said. “I’m also going to miss Rudy who is the best dressed council member I’ve ever seen.”
Lopez accepted a promotion with The Gas Company as lead construction technician. Before he was an energy technician distribution. The promotion mandates longer, more dedicated hours, and he’ll be on the move more often, perhaps not living in the city limits which is a requirement for council members.
Woodlake community services director, Jason Waters said the Council will accept applications and resumes for the open seat. Their ordinance notes that the mayor and vice mayor will review them and discuss the qualifying candidates in open session. Applications are currently available under the city council tab.
Waters said they had not received any applications as of last week. Whoever is chosen to fill the position will fulfill the rest of Lopez’s term ending in December 2021.
Lopez was honored as the 2017 man of the year, and has dedicated much of his life to the betterment of Woodlake. After all Woodlake is where he lives, where he went to school and hometown to his entire family. For him making his town the best it can be starts in creating the Homegrown Project and showing up during the holidays to feed the less fortunate.
Lopez was appointed to the city council in 2015, but before that he helped found the Homegrown Project with fellow Woodlake native and current city administrator Ramon Lara. The two grew up together and began the organization by cleaning up lots and alleyways. Then they hosted community events like music festivals and horseshoe contests while still doing some cleaning projects.
“While we were doing some cleanups we started pitching around ideas and Homegrown sounded cool,” Lopez said. “We do some quarterly or monthly cleanups still, but if it were up to Ramon it would be weekly.”
Lopez is involved in the community year round. During Thanksgiving he helps the Persall family feed the less fortunate at Miller Brown park. Starting around 10 a.m. they manage to make sure a few hundred people are fed that day. And beyond food, they distribute coats and blankets to those who need them for the cold winter nights.
Overall, his willingness to jump in and get his hands dirty or help out others comes from his sense of community pride.
“We’ve always been proud of our community [getting involved] just kind of happened…it’s a community pride thing and setting a good example for the next generation,” Lopez said.
There may have been no better example for Lopez than his father, Louie Lopez senior. The elder Lopez owned a local auto parts store, Louie’s Auto Parts. When Lopez junior graduated from Fresno State, he returned to help with the family business. Having a local business in the family helping the community carries with it an inherent sense of pride. Unfortunately, the younger Lopez could not take it over, instead he went to work for the Southern California Gas Company reading meters part-time in 2005 until he was hired full time in 2007, and then relocated to Bakersfield in 2011.
In 2013 tragedy struck his family. Lopez’s brother-in-law called him at 3:30 on a Monday morning to tell him to hurry up and get to Woodlake.
“He didn’t want to tell me over the phone, so I rushed home and when I got there I saw a lot of my family’s cars and that’s when I knew it was serious…and he was gone,” Lopez said.
The patriarch of the Lopez family was only 52 years old and died of a brain aneurism. Louie Lopez senior was survived by his wife who still had Louie’s two younger brothers to look after, Louie and Louie’s sister. Things became clear for Lopez, he needed to move home and help his mother, so he relocated to Tulare County in 2013.
He memorialized his father by tattooing a license plate onto his arm that commemorates his dad’s 1963 Impala. The Impala’s license plate was printed “LILOUIE” because Lopez was the only son he had at the time he got the car. Lopez’s tattoo is just a bit different, his says “BIGLOUIE.”
Since 2013 to now he is keeping up with plans to expand the Homegrown Project by offering an open movie night in the park for kids this spring. And while not officially a part of the Homegrown Project, Lopez says he continues to get wrangled into helping out during Summer Nigh Lights when it is 100 degrees out.
While Lopez is constantly working within his community, the 35-year-old council member still has things to learn about his hometown. He views his role on the council as reviewing the months of work staff puts into projects but he is proud to watch it all come together.
“It was eye opening. Probably just the whole process of everything getting approved. It’s a tedious process of all the city management staff has to go through behind the scenes,” Lopez said when talking about what he learned while on council. “A lot of people don’t see that and [staff] does a lot of work to improve Woodlake.”