Guillermo Ochoa, known for his outreach to the Latino community during his six-year service on the Ceres City Council, was found dead in his home early Monday afternoon.
Ochoa's lifeless body was found face down inside his Eastgate home by his son, Christian Ochoa. Efforts to resuscitate him over a period of approximately 20 minutes were unsuccessful.
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra said he had heard that Ochoa had suffered flu-like symptoms recently and may have suffered from a heart attack.
Ochoa had served on the Ceres City Council for six years from 2005 to 2011. His term came to an end when he lost his re-election to Mike Kline by a margin of 32 votes during the November 2011 election.
"Guillermo did a lot for the Hispanic community," said Mayor Vierra. "I think the people will remember him a lot for those things. He was a conduit for a period of time between the city and the Latino community when we needed that. Even after he left the council he was always there and able to bridge the difference, and help between the language barriers."
Ochoa blamed his 2011 defeat on the campaign tactics of Daniel Padilla which split the Latino vote tilted the vote in favor of Kline.
Mr. Ochoa had surfaced at a number of council meetings in 2013 and 2014 where, as a member of the public and the Latino Community Roundtable, he endorsed the concept of district elections for Ceres City Council seats. He advocated the change saying that by-district district elections - whereby candidates would be voted on only by voters in that district and not citywide - would be less expensive. Some observers say that Ochoa was interested in getting back on the council in the near future.
Mr. Ochoa first got involved when he unsuccessfully ran for Ceres City Council in the Nov. 8, 2005 election. The next month Ochoa was appointed by the council to serve out the unexpired council term of Anthony Cannella who had been elected mayor. Ochoa served out Cannella's term for two years and was elected in 2007.
During his council tenure, Ochoa supported the building of the Ceres Community Center, the development of five new city parks, the renovation of Costa ball fields in Smyrna Park and the completion of the Whitmore interchange and overpass.
"Guillermo was a true gentleman and worked hard for our community," said Maggie Mejia, president of the Latino Community Roundtable.
She said Ochoa will be honored at the 14th annual Cesar E. Chavez Si Se Puede Empowerment Luncheon set for 11:30 a.m. on March 12 at the Red Event Center, 921 8th Street, Modesto.
Ochoa was a native of Mexico who came to Ceres in 1971. He attended Caswell Elementary School, Mae Hensley Junior High School, and Ceres High School from 1976 to 1979. After studying at Modesto Junior College, Guillermo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Economics from St. Mary's College in 1984. Ochoa left Ceres in 1982 but returned in 1998 and had lived in Ceres since.
In recent years he was self-employed as co-owner/operator of Garcia's Market in Empire. Previously he worked for the Center for Employment Training as a job developer. In 1987 he went to work as a Human Resources manager for Campbell Soup in Santa Cruz where he remained for 10 years. Ochoa also worked in Human Resources for Chef America in Los Angeles from 1996 to 1998 and in 1998 at Diamond Walnut Growers in Stockton while living in Ceres. He resigned in 2003 to run Garcia's Market in Empire. In 2005 he sold El Mercado Market in the Caruso Shopping Center. That freed him up to work for Yellow Transportation in Tracy, where he was the workers compensation coordinator.
Ochoa was a member of the Hispanic Leadership Council and St. Jude's Catholic Church.
Besides his son, Ochoa leaves behind his wife Martha and daughter Kimberly Ochoa, all of Ceres.