San Carlos Mayor Omar Ahmad died suddenly this morning after suffering a heart attack, according to Council member Randy Royce.
Paramedics responded to a 911 call from Ahmad and took him to Sequoia Hospital, but Ahmad passed away before he arrived. He was 46.
“Losing a son has to be the worst thing in the world,” Royce said as he choked back tears. Royce had called Ahmad's parents in Florida as soon as he had heard the news. Royce and Ahmad ran together for city council in 2007. "Losing anybody is hard," said Royce as he choked up, "but losing a son has to just be the worst thing there is."
Council member Matt Grocott expressed his own condolences for Ahmad's passing.
"I am just shocked," he said. "We were in closed session until about 10:30 last night and everything seemed fine. Just shocked."
Assistant City Manager Brian Moura seconded Grocott's shock.
"I think what makes the whole thing so shocking is that we were just with him last night, got finished with closed session around 10:30, said our goodbyes and said 'See you tomorrow,'" said Moura. "Omar was his usual self last night with that big grin of his. When I heard the news this morning I just couldn't believe it."
Ahmad was appointed mayor in January. In addition to being a councilmember since 2007, he served on the City’s Economic Development Advisory Commission, the Airport Roundtable, Caltrain Board of Directors, San Mateo Council of Cities, Economic Development Advisory Commission, the Harbor Industrial Association and many other groups.
Born in Ohio, Ahmad was raised in North central Florida and attended the University of Florida where he majored in Material Science Engineering. He lived in Washington D.C. for several years before moving to California in 1998 where he worked for @Home Networks and then Netscape years later.
Ahmad was well-known throughout the country, having made an impact in Democratic politics in Sacramento and Washington D.C.
"We're all shocked," said Vice-Mayor Andy Klein. "He was such a great man and such a great friend." Klein had known Ahmad for four years and said Ahmad was the first person to endorse him as a city councilman.
Klein will be acting-Mayor of San Carlos due to Ahmad's passing. Klein said either Council member Royce or Grocott will be appointed as Vice-Mayor and the council will continue on with just four members until their legal counsel advises them the best route to take, whether it be a special election or waiting until November when Ahmad would've been up for reelection.
"He was one of my best friends in addition to being a fellow councilmember," Redwood City Vice Mayor Alicia Aguirre said. "I'm just in shock."
The San Mateo County Transit District lowered its flags to half-staff in memory of Ahmad.
“This is a kick in the stomach, a loss that cannot be fully described," said Caltrain Board President Sean Elsbernd. "He was everything anyone could want in a human being, a public servant, and a friend. He had a good sense of humor. He was absolutely dedicated to public transit and his dedication was matched by his commitment.
"He also had something you don’t see often – an ability and a willingness, an eagerness, really, to look ahead, to see what the future could hold and to plan and prepare for that future. He loved working on the problems of today, but he loved even more thinking about the possibilities tomorrow could bring. I will miss him dearly.”
Rebecca Elliot at the League of California Cities, Peninsula Division in San Jose, echoed the sentiment.
"It was with shock and profound sadness that I learned of Omar's passing this morning," she said. "I liked Omar so much; he was a dedicated servant of the people and a kind and generous man.”
Early Tuesday morning, the city released their official response to the untimely death.
“It is with great shock and sadness that the City of San Carlos has learned that Mayor Omar Ahmad passed away earlier this morning,” the city said in an official statement posted on its website.
Ahmad’s life outside of the political realm was as a technical entrepreneur, and he was involved in many start-up companies through the years.
He was a well known entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, having been involved in the start up of a number of companies including the Discovery Channel, @Home, Trusted ID, Grand Central Communications, Napster, Netscape and most recently as the co-founder and CEO of SynCH Energy Corporation.
"Those of us at City Hall who had the opportunity to work with and get to know him are devastated by his loss,” said City Manager Jeff Maltbie. “Omar's dedication to the citizens of San Carlos and his passion for democracy will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."