After a total of 20 years on the City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow offered his farewell comments to councilmembers, city staffers, and the public during his final meeting Tuesday.
Following a record voter turnout nationally, Dicterow said he foresees a new era of Democracy in Laguna Beach and the country-at-large.
“When we have participation, it’s not only people voting,” he said. “They’re educated, they’re smart and they know what they want to do. I don’t believe in the concept of the indispensable person—that one person we can’t get by without. I believe we need to act and work collectively to come to good decisions. That is what democracy is about.”
Dicterow had called into the Zoom meeting so audience members only heard his voice. During the pandemic, he was at times the only councilmember who sat on the dais during virtual meetings.
A fifth-place finish in the Nov. 3 election signaled a pause in Dicterow’s official role in Laguna Beach politics, which stretches back to 1994. The Brooklyn native has served in his latest tenure on the City Council since 2012.
Councilmember-elect George Weiss is scheduled to be sworn-in Dec. 8 by outgoing city clerk Lisette Chel-Walker.
Mayor Bob Whalen signed a proclamation outlining 20 accomplishments by Dicterow during his terms on the City Council. He added that the extensive list shows the breadth of projects his long-time colleague has cared for and been passionate about over the years.
“Steve you have provided outstanding service to the city,” Whalen said. “I think anyone who stays at this for 20 years deserves more than you’re going to get here.”
In his first term, Dicterow helped lead the city through its recovery from the 1993 Laguna Fire. He was also on the City Council when it reviewed and approved the development of the Montage Laguna Beach. Over the course of his political career, Dicterow has participated in hundreds of hours of city council meetings.
Councilmember Toni Iseman described Dicterow as a friend who is observant, kind, and has “a good giggle.”
“The thing about Steve is no matter what time the council meeting would be over, you know, he’d be up probably after two hours sleep and going to work out, which is depressing actually but impressive,” she said.
Councilmember Peter Blake said he first met Dicterow in 1993 after opening his art gallery. Dicterow was campaigning for city council for the first time. After losing a job, Dicterow asked to work with guests at the front door of Romeo Cucina, where Blake worked as general manager.
“He was the kind of guy who was willing to roll up his sleeves and do whatever it took to make sure he got whatever he needed to feed his family,” Blake said. “I learned a lot about him night after night.”
As for Dicterow’s latest political campaign, Blake said. “he took the high road in this election and I take my hat off to him.”
Dicterow wasn’t endorsed for reelection this year by Laguna Beach’s two major political action committees: Village Laguna, Inc. and Liberate Laguna PAC. Larry Nokes and Weiss were also endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County, which has a strong foothold in Laguna Beach.
Over the last two years, Dicterow often sided with the council majority on controversial issues such as the Village Entrance parking structure study, approving the Coast Inn’s rooftop deck, and the Downtown Action Plan. Whalen is part of this majority and received more votes than any other council candidate this year.
On Tuesday, Dicterow also offered high marks for city staffers, especially City Manager John Pietig, Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, Chel-Walker, and the various department chiefs—as well as contracted City Attorney Phil Kohn.
“We are a tiny city and we are so blessed to have a staff that compares to any city anywhere in the world,” he said. “The public sees what we do at the council level. They don’t realize the staff are the ones who make the city run well.”