Mecklenburg commissioners pay tribute to former member Dan Ramirez

03/18/2014 10:32 PM

03/19/2014 8:05 AM

Mecklenburg County commissioners on Tuesday paid tribute to Republican Dan Ramirez, the county’s first and only Latino commissioner, who died Sunday.

Ramirez, first elected to a two-year term in 2002 and again in 2006, was portrayed by Democrats and Republicans as a thoughtful, kindly commissioner who looked after people from all backgrounds.

Democratic commissioner Dumont Clarke said he sat next to Ramirez during one of his terms, sharing experiences on fathering young daughters.

“There are people in the world you always feel better after engaging them,” Clarke said. “Dan was one of those people.”

He said Ramirez was a “thinker,” not an “ideologue of any sort. He came to the issues with an open mind.”

A funeral for Ramirez, 67, will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne.

His life embodied the American dream, commissioners said.

Ramirez grew up poor in Bogota, Colombia, but got a college degree in civil engineering that took him, his wife, Cecy, and their first daughter to the United States in 1970. They arrived in Charlotte four years later, and in 1978 he started Nova Digital Systems, a geographical information systems company.

After Gov. Pat McCrory, a longtime friend, honored Ramirez with the state’s prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine last year, Ramirez told the Observer that his parents’ upbringing trained him well for his fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“They told me when you have a situation that you fall down, you get up and continue,” Ramirez said. “That is what I’m doing.”

Republican commissioner Karen Bentley read a resolution honoring Ramirez. She said she served with Ramirez during her first term, his second. “Dan really got it when it came to constituent service, responding in a thoughtful, meaningful way,” she said.

Bentley took time to honor Cecy Ramirez, too: “The grace through which she walked this journey (of the disease) with Dan was wonderful.”

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