admin's picture

Santos is top dog in Lathrop, northern California

By Shaun Bevan HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 11, 2010) - A newly elected California mayor is going to bring a taste of island life to his small community.

J. "Chaka" Santos, a former Guam resident, is redefining the business attire in the small town of Lathrop in northern California. During his campaign for mayor against two-time incumbent Kristy Sayles, Santos often attended forums and meetings dressed in pressed shorts, a crisp tie and sandals, he said.

Although Santos was born in California to Chamorro parents, he lived in Guam for several years when his father was stationed at Navy Base Guam. To this day, he speaks the Chamorro language fluently, he said.

Santos said he’s spreading Chamorro culture to the California community.

"I brought my culture here. We break bread at my home," he said. "When someone comes to your home, do they ask you what you want to eat? We say, bring the meat because we’re going to be grilling."

He said his wife makes the red rice and adobo.

Santos has made a living for two decades selling his brand of sugar-free marinade, Chaka’s MMM Sauce, which is derived from a Chamorro recipe. The bottle of marinade is on shelves at more than 1,500 stores across the country, he said.

Santos said he was asleep when the final votes were tallied up. When his daughter came to wake him up to tell him that he was going to be the next mayor of Lathrop, he said "OK" and went back to sleep.

"Big deal. I’m not in it for the glory," he said. "It’s all about the people, because they’re tired of being ‘jacked.’"

Santos defeated his opponent by a small margin, garnering 37 percent of the vote. His campaign focused on transparency and accountability, because it was an issue the community had forgotten, he said.

His first initiative, he said, will be to attract new businesses to the small town, which is 75-miles east of San Francisco.

"I’m not a politician, I’m a business politician," he said. "Some of these guys have never been on the streets before and they have no idea. They don’t know when people need things, but I do because I’ve been there and done that. I’ve done my share."

(2 of 2)

For many years, Santos has been giving back to his community by helping young adults work toward a better life. He was president of the Union City, Calif., chapter of the U.S. Junior Chamber, or Jaycees, which focuses on leadership training to develop business management skills.

Santos said he played an important role to three young high school football players who eventually made it to the National Football League.

"I helped them with the books, food and whatever they needed," he said. "Once they got scholarships, I let the college take care of them."

All he asked in return was for them to remember what it was like when they were kids.

"If you see some kid running down the street asking for an autograph, don’t ignore him," he said to New Orleans Saints running back Lynell Hamilton.

Santos said he’s planning to return to Guam to visit family and friends, and would be happy to go to some of the island’s schools to talk about the lessons he’s learned.

"Just remember, I don’t let people tell me that I can’t," he said. "With or without them, I’ll get it done without stepping on other people."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment