Dave Lopez laughed when a Modesto nonprofit leader introduced him at an event as the man who "shook every hand in the city."
It was an exaggeration, but not by much. Lopez knocked on doors and shook hands at parades for 10 years before he won a seat on the Modesto City Council on his fifth bid for office.
That was in December. Since then, he had a baby, got a crash course on City Hall and started work on launching a curbside recycling program.
He's making a good impression on his colleagues, who call him a diligent councilman.
"The most important thing about Dave Lopez is he's committed," Councilman Will O'Bryant said. "He's there, he's going to do the best he can, and I'm happy for him. I guess it shows that if you try hard enough, you can get things."
Lopez sat down with The Bee last week to talk about his first months on the council.
Q: You ran for office four times before you won your race, and then you had a baby, Lourdes, in March. How are you handling all these changes in your life?
A: It's a little scary. I was in the hospital in a quiet moment -- the baby was in the bath -- and I was talking to God, saying, 'I hope this isn't going to end, because it's all going so well. Why are you doing all this for me?' It's scary when things are going good because you don't know when it's going to end.
Q: In your campaigns, you ran against two incumbents who now work with you on the council -- O'Bryant in 2005 and Janice Keating in 2001. Any hard feelings?
A: We're cool. We talk a lot. They both stopped by when we had the baby and brought gifts. It's like I've got a new group of friends I get to work with on the city's problems.
Q: What are your thoughts on the blue bag recycling program, and would you prefer a curbside pickup program?
A: A lot of folks feel we're not doing a tremendous job recycling. I think we need to get a new program. We called one company that would charge $3.50 to $5 a month up front, but people could earn between $32 and $38 in refunds in the form of gift cards for different stores. All in all, I think it can be real productive.
Q: Anything else you want to accomplish?
A: I want to find a way to make sure the Fourth of July parade never goes away. The Jaycees are doing a great job, and the city subsidizes it. We need to find a way to sustain the parade. It's important for the morale of the city. I haven't missed one in 10 years. You see the same people in the same locations. Even in bad times, the Fourth of July parade brought the community together.
Q: What did you take from your first council meeting when you were on the short end of a 6-1 vote to institute new charges and record keeping for kids at the Maddux Youth Center?
A: Growing up on the west side, I know there's a lot of paranoia there -- paranoia of police, paranoia of folks learning their business. It wasn't the cost. It was the fact that they are going to have to take home these forms. I was afraid that those handfuls of kids that weren't going to sign up were going to get into gangs, get into drugs.
I got calls after the meeting from people. They were impressed. They said, that's why we voted for you. Even if we don't agree with you, you're going to vote for what you think is right.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.