BURLINGAME -- Ricardo Ortiz was born at New York's Long Island Jewish Medical Center, but grew up in Bogota, Colombia. He returned to the United States in 1981, moving with his family to Foster City just shy of his 19th birthday. He studied at College of San Mateo, where he met his future wife, then went on to UC San Diego. The couple moved to Burlingame in 1993 and had three children. After many years at City National Bank, he starts a new job in January at Princeton Capital. Now 51 years old, he was elected to the Burlingame City Council in November.

We interviewed Ortiz on Dec. 20 at Il Piccolo Cafe. The interview has been edited for space and clarity.

Q: What made you decide to move to Burlingame, and why have you stayed?

A: My wife grew up in Millbrae and went to school in Burlingame her whole life. She had a lot of friends there. We found this beautiful little house. There's a real sense of community in Burlingame. Once you start digging in roots, you stay, and the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. My wife does a little traveling for work -- it's close to the airport. It's also close to San Francisco. Just everything about it is perfect.

Q: You ran for City Council in 2011 and came in third out of three candidates. But you were able to get 27 percent of the vote. What did you learn from that experience, and how did it help you this time around?

A: The biggest thing I learned is that you don't take anything personally. It's not personal, it's politics -- the reasons people support you or don't support you. You have your real friends and you have your political friends. And these guys are always my friends and the other guys can come and go. And I'm not offended by it; it's just part of the game.

Q: This year you won, coming in third out of nine candidates. But you had to sweat out a seesaw battle with Russ Cohen. You were up 10 votes by the end of election night, but hundreds of ballots remained to be counted. You were down three votes when the county released its next batch of results a couple days later, then finally won by nine votes. Tell us about that experience.

A: Well, it started the night of the election. I started off behind in the first report around 8 p.m.; the second report Russ' lead was a little bit smaller; and the final report for that night I was ahead by 10 votes. And then it went on like that for the next two weeks, and even until we got the final certified results a few hours before I was sworn in Dec. 5.

To me that was nerve-racking; it drove me nuts. Because even though I had talked to Russ and people were running around congratulating me, saying things on Facebook -- in the back of my mind, until I got that final, final result, I wasn't comfortable. So that was a very good day when I got sworn in.

Q: What do you want to accomplish during your first year on the council?

A: There's a few things. There is a building at Ogden and Trousdale drives that's been under construction forever and a day. It's a company called Sunrise Senior Living that's apparently had some financial difficulties. And so this shell's been sitting there for over five years. If, after four years on the council, that thing's still up there, I'm going to feel like a real waste of time. There's other issues, such as the beautification we're doing on Burlingame Avenue that I'd like to spread to the side streets.

Q: How do you think the beautification is going? Some merchants have found it to be a trying process.

A: Oh, I think it's looking great. I think what they've done up to now is wonderful. I can't wait to have it finished and, again, I'd like to spread it some. I think it will be interesting trying to find money to do that. But I think it's great. It slows traffic a bit on Burlingame Avenue -- but, man, the pedestrian experience is wonderful.

Q: Lots of people seem to be concerned about a lack of parking downtown along Burlingame Avenue. What do you think the city should do to address the problem?

A: It's a big issue, but it's like they say: It's so crowded nobody goes down there. The reason it's hard to find a place to park is we have a successful downtown. But we need to add more parking, clearly. I heard that over and over again as I was knocking on doors during the campaign. We need to look at doing a parking structure and maybe find a creative way of getting it financed through a development deal.

Q: Which do you prefer, Broadway or Burlingame Avenue? (There are two main streets in Burlingame, ritzy Burlingame Avenue and somewhat grittier Broadway.)

A: I spend a lot of time on Broadway. I live not too far away. During the election the merchants of Broadway were extremely supportive -- partly because I've been going to the candy store, Nuts for Candy, forever and a day; I've been going to the Thai restaurant, Bua Thong; to my dry cleaners; Rocca and Village Host. So I love Burlingame Avenue, I go down there a lot. But, definitely -- my family and I, we're Broadway.

Q: What's your favorite TV show?

A: Well, I'm originally from Colombia, so "Modern Family." I listen to Sofia Vergara talk, and it just cracks me up.

Q: What's your favorite book, or a good one you've read lately?

A: There's a book called "The Pillars of the Earth." It's a great read. The story kind of falls apart, but it's such a great read. Then you know my old standby, being from Colombia, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," in Spanish. Gabriel García Márquez -- I'll read anything of his.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-34-4357 or akinney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.