Jose Ornelas, a San Joaquin city councilmember since 2014, died over the weekend, reportedly of a COVID-19-related illness.
“The City of San Joaquin is heartbroken to announce that our Councilmember and beloved member of the community, Jose Ornelas, passed away unexpectedly this past weekend,” San Joaquin City Manager Elizabeth Nunes said in a news release.
Nunes lauded Ornelas’ work on behalf of “organizations from the community of San Joaquin” and his vocal efforts “about improving his community and the region.”
Fought for Clean, Safe Drinking Water
Ornelas, who ran a tax preparation and immigration consulting business in San Joaquin, unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Brian Pacheco for the District 1 seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in 2018.
Asked why he was embarking on the longshot bid, Ornelas told The Fresno Bee’s Tim Sheehan that residents in small western Fresno County communities weren’t getting the representation they deserved.
“I see a lot of injustice and poverty on the west side,” said Ornelas, citing contaminated drinking water in Cantua Creek.
ABC30’s Corin Hoggard said on Twitter that Ornelas’ death was COVID-19 related.
SAD: San Joaquin city council member Jose Ornelas has passed away from a COVID-related illness.
The city manager confirmed to me.
Ornelas was known as a champion of the west side of Fresno County.@ABC30
— Corin Hoggard (@corinhoggard) July 20, 2020
The Fresno Bee’s Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado said on Twitter that Ornelas died Sunday night in Mexico City, but the family did not disclose the cause of death.
BREAKING: Just confirmed San Joaquin city councilmember Jose Ornelas has passed away.
He died last night in Mexico. I’m told his family has not disclosed cause of death. City manager only said death was unexpected.
The mayor says “Everybody is just trying to digest the news.” pic.twitter.com/Tia2mxfK4A
— Cres (@cres_guez) July 20, 2020
Passionate About Education
Ornelas won election to the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee in March.
He was passionate about education. In 2019, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Purdue Global University. He previously graduated from Fresno State with a bachelor’s in mathematics and from Kaplan University with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, according to his biography at the Water Education for Latino Leaders website.
Ornelas was born in Jalisco, Mexico. He and other family members moved to the United States when he was 13 to be with his father, a migrant farmworker in the San Joaquin Valley.
Ornelas is survived by his wife, Nadia, and five children: Jose Jr., Gustavo, Angel, Oscar, and Shayla.
Fresno County Democratic Party Press Release on Jose Ornelas https://t.co/Py9YijYZh8
— Fresno County Dems (@FresnoCountyDms) July 21, 2020