A longtime Costa Mesa resident and relative newcomer to the city's political scene announced Tuesday his candidacy for City Council.
Lee Ramos, 70, has lived in Costa Mesa for 67 years and witnessed the growth of the city, once known for farming and a small-town vibe.
"The city has improved so much," Ramos said in an interview with the Daily Pilot at the First United Methodist Church, where he has attended service for decades. "My vision is to be part of it as we improve. I think the council is on the right track, and improvement is the key.
"There was a time when our infrastructure went down. It's time for us to revive that. That's very important to me."
Other important issues include addressing problem motels and sober-living homes, Ramos said.
He acknowledged that 2014 is going to be a difficult time to enter the council race because of political tensions in the city but said his passion for his hometown will aid him. He wants to bring disparate groups together.
"I feel I can lend some credibility and wisdom," Ramos said.
Ramos, a registered Republican, is believed to be one of few Latinos ever to run for Costa Mesa council. If elected next November, he would be the first Latino to serve on the five-member council in the city's nearly 60-year history. As of 2010, about 36% of Costa Mesa's nearly 110,000 residents were Latino, according to U.S. Census data.
Ramos, who lives in the city's Eastside, said he doesn't think much about the ethnicity factor.
"Hispanics will treat me no different," he said. "If they vote for me, it'll be because of my values. That's the way I look at myself: as another person. Yes, I'm culturally Hispanic, but I'm also American."
Latinos are a very loyal and hardworking group of people, Ramos added, "and if they see my values correspond to their values, they'll vote for me. If not, they're not going to vote for me. They all want to be a part of things, just like anybody else."
Ramos was born in Los Angeles and moved to Costa Mesa in the 1940s, to a plot of land in the Westside at West 19th Street and Anaheim Avenue. An In-N-Out Burger is there now, he said.
He graduated from Newport Harbor High School and attended Cal State Fullerton.
Decades ago, he owned his own business, Pacific Graphics, in Santa Ana. He also worked in the credit industry and, for a time, within the Orange County Fairgrounds administration. He left the fairgrounds around 2009.
Ramos does volunteer work for the Self-Help Interfaith Program, or SHIP, and First United Methodist Church.
He's also a frequent walker. He walks with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's "Costa Mayberry" walking group and on his own.
Earlier this year, he was nominated to serve on the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory and Charter committees — his first foray into local politics.
"I think the city is in a real paradigm right now," Ramos said. "It's reaching its paradigm, and it's time to move forward."
Ramos is the second known candidate for Costa Mesa's council. Tony Capitelli, 28, an aide for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, announced his candidacy in August.