After 12 consecutive years on Laguna Beach’s City Council, Mayor Elizabeth Pearson says she will not seek a fourth term, due to the demands of a new job, and looks forward to being a “normal” person with fewer demands on her evenings and time for her dogs, the gym and movies.
When Pearson was interviewed last year in consideration for the post as president and chief executive of the Pacific Chorale, the resident choir of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, she pledged she would not run to allay fears that her public duties might encroach on her job. “I made a commitment upon hiring that I would not run this cycle,” Pearson stated in her announcement on Friday. In recent months, though, she has repeatedly equivocated when asked directly about her candidacy.
Pearson said she believes long-term elected officials should consider a break before allowing stalemates that accrue over time to start blocking their creativity in exploring solutions. “It allows new people and ideas to surface,” she said.
While overall she greatly treasured her experience for many reasons – from meeting interesting people to carrying out a vision – Pearson said 2005’s Bluebird Canyon landslide stands out.
As mayor and the town’s standard-bearer, Pearson tirelessly pushed other government agencies to assist slide victims, seizing the opportunity to making a real difference in lives upended by a natural disaster.
Helping those affected “changed me as a human being,” she said. “My heart opened in ways it had never been opened before…”
Pearson also drew immense gratification in seeing the Susi Q Senior and Community Center evolve from a blueprint to a reality.
And, despite the controversy that ultimately defeated a proposal she championed for a village entrance and parking garage, Pearson stands behind a plan for the city’s “gateway,” with the city and the Festival of Arts each improving their side of Broadway Street. She believes it will evolve into “a beautiful entryway that we can all be proud of.”
Along the way, Pearson said she has encountered people who didn’t live up to personal pledges. “To me, it’s a matter of integrity. In my mind, if one isn’t good for their word, then I question what kind of person they are… typically not the type of person with whom I want to associate.”
Besides Pearson, the terms of incumbents Kelly Boyd and Toni Iseman also expire in November. Three challengers have so far entered the race, café owner Jon Madison, Planning Commission chair Robert Zur Schmiede and the former president of the local Republican Club, Michele Hall.
Pearson endorsed Boyd and Madison, as both meet her criteria for a serious candidate based on their service on a city commission or committee and their demonstrated support for businesses, the arts and seniors.
Her advice to prospective elected officials: be ready for a huge time commitment that goes well beyond scheduled meetings. She estimated chalking up 10 to 15 hours a week as a regular Council member, and up to 40 hours a week as mayor.
Pearson said she plans to keep living in Laguna Beach, stay involved in the arts community, and continue to stand behind the seniors and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce.
As for serving again at some point in the future, Pearson believes you can “never say never,” but for now, “I need to focus on my very demanding job as well as to create time for a personal life.”