Business Commitments & Time Demands Force Lopez To Leave Needles City Council

(February 18) Jim Lopez resigned as Needles city councilman last week after six years and three months in that post.
Lopez said he regretted having to leave office but felt it was necessary because the demands of running his company made it impossible for him to provide his constituents with the level and intensity of service they deserve.
Lopez owns Colorado River Distributors, Inc., which formerly included distribution, industrial gas, and beverage machine servicing divisions. Colorado River Distributors is affiliated with Coca-Cola.
“In the last year, I sold two of my divisions, the ones for distribution and industrial gasses, specifically helium, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide,” Lopez said. “My territory for the Coca-Cola servicing has expanded, all the way to Barstow and Fort Irwin. This is not a normal eight hour job. I service restaurant chains – Denny’s, McDonald’s, Chili’s – and casinos. If I get a service call, I have to go right now. Travel time to Barstow or Fort Irwin takes a minimum of five hours, and you can’t put something like that off until tomorrow. This has meant severe time constraints. Before [when he had other employees] I would not schedule myself to go out on the two Tuesdays of the month [when the city council met]. But for the last five meetings [since he sold off the two divisions of his company and, with them, his employees] I have shown up 15 or twenty minutes late. That was not fair to the people I was elected to serve.”
Lopez said that when he was first elected to the council, “The council members were showing up in t-shirts. I insisted that change. I said ‘We’re all going to wear ties from now on.’ With the time constraints for me going crazy, I was the one showing up in my work clothes and then after the meeting, I was going out to work again. I have been working 13 hours a day. If I cannot commit 110 percent to what I am doing on the council, then I should not do it at all. I was being more reactive in my role on the council than pro-active. The city deserves better than that. The people who elected me deserve more than what I was able to give.”
Lopez shot down suggestions going around town that the economic downturn had forced his company to take out loans from Bing Lum, to whose company, AM Pharmacy/Community Healthcare Partners, Inc., the city had sold the Colorado River Medical Center, and that this potential or real conflict was the reason behind his resignation from the council.
“There is nothing at all to that,” said Lopez. “I went to high school with Bing Lum. The only thing that was involved here were my time constraints. It had nothing to do with Bing Lum or any kind of falling out with the city. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leaving Needles. I will still come to the council meetings, if I have time. I still love Needles. I’ve been a part of this community for 45 years and I still believe in it.”
He said his decision to leave the council “was hard to make. I did not feel good about creating a vacancy.” His preference is for the mayor and council to fill the gap with someone already approved by the voters. “If the mayor does it right, this won’t be that much of a disruption,” he said. “I think he should appoint the person who got the next most votes in the last election.”
He said he was leaving office with his head held high. “For six years and three months, I was doing this for all the right reasons,” he said. “The city is in a better place than it was when I came onto the council. We have a great city manager. I’m not a politician. I just tried to look at things the way they are and tell the truth.”

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