I never met Omar Ahmed, but I remember first hearing of him when he famously responded to a question about whether his being a Muslim affected his position as Mayor of San Carlos City, California, that “there’s no Muslim way to fill in a pothole.” It was with great sadness that I learnt today that he had suddenly died of a heart attack at the young age of 46.
Omar Ahmad – born in Ohio to Pakistani parents and raised in Florida – was elected to the city counil in San Carlos in 2007 and became mayor in 2010. According to an interview published in Illume, he was “an experienced entrepreneur and community leader who founded several companies including SynCH Energy Corporation, TrustedID and Logictier. He was also in leadership positions at Grand Central Communications, Naptser, @Home Network, Netscape and Discovery Channel.”
A serial entrepreneur, an NBC story on his death reports that he “was a Silicon Valley techie before running for office and continued that work while in office. He moved to the Bay Area to work for @Home Networks and then Netscape. His city biography says he was the CEO of a new Silicon-Valley technology startup CynCH Energy Corporation, which is renewable energy company.” An obviously passionate and articulate leader, Omar’s TED talk on “political change with pen and paper” is worth a listen, as a window on him and on politics:
The San Francisco Examiner had these details:
The mayor of San Carlos died suddenly Tuesday morning, hours after attending a City Council hearing that went late into the evening. Omar Ahmad died after calling 911 around 7 a.m. with reports of severe chest pains, and died en route to the hospital, according to city officials.
The 46-year-old had served on the San Carlos City Council since 2007 and was sworn in as mayor in November. He was an engineer and entrepreneur who moved to the Bay Area in 1998 to work in Silicon Valley. He was also a pilot, photographer and mountaineer.
Assistant City Manager Brian Moura said his colleagues on the board and are “all stunned” by the loss, particularly because they just saw him at a City Council meeting that lasted until 10:30 p.m. Monday. “We literally just saw him late last night,” Moura said. “It was just hours ago. We talked to him as he was heading to the parking lot.”
Ahmad grew up in Ohio and then moved to Florida, where he went to school at the University of Florida. “He was quite proud of that,” Moura said. “You might see him around with a Gator shirt on. He certainly didn’t hide his allegiance to the sports team.” Ahmad leaves behind his parents and a large extended family, as well as a broad network of friends and colleagues, Moura said. “It’s hard to imagine that somebody with that much energy and passion and enthusiasm for all things San Carlos would be here last night and gone this morning,” Moura said.
Along with his role as San Carlos mayor, Ahmad also served on the Caltrain board of directors. He is the third board member of a local transit agency to pass away in the last two months. Cameron Beach, a director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and Charles McGlashan, a board member for the Golden Gate Bridge District, died nine days apart from each other in March.
Omar Ahmad’s interview with Illume – on what it means to be a Muslim politician in America – is also worth a read.