CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Ramirez, the first and only Latino elected to office in Mecklenburg County, passed away Sunday after his two-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 67.
Ramirez, born to a poor family in Bogota, Columbia, moved to the U.S. in 1970 and to Charlotte in 1974. He was elected to a term on the Mecklenburg County Commission in 2004 and again in 2006.
Ramirez was diagnosed with ALS in February 2012. Last year, Gov. Pat McCrory awarded Ramirez the state’s highest honor, inducting him into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
During his time in office, Ramirez was largely known for his fiscal conservatism and had been praised for his friendly relationships across political differences.
Yet, Ramirez also held decidedly anti-gay views. In 2004, he and other Republican county commissioners, then in the majority, voted for a resolution supporting the late state Sen. James Forrester’s attempts to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Forrester was ultimately successful when legislators passed a similar measure in 2011 and voters approved the amendment in May 2012.
Ramirez also opposed Mecklenburg County’s adoption of non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, teaming up with former Commissioner Jim Puckett during the 2006 campaign. The two said then they wanted to repeal the protections and in a campaign ad attacked former Commission Chair Parks Helms’ support for equality.
“Liberal County Commission Chair Parks Helms is out of control,” the ad’s narrator said, “raising taxes, wasting money and advocating gay marriage.”