Former political consultant and nearly lifelong local resident Michele Hall declared her candidacy for Laguna Beach’s City Council this week, filing a campaign organization statement, the city clerk reported.
She joins Robert Zur Schmiede, chair of the city’s Planning Commission, as the only other declared candidates in the November race for three seats held by incumbents Kelly Boyd, Elizabeth Pearson and Toni Iseman. The latter two have yet to publicly declare their intentions, while Boyd maintains he will run unless his health deteriorates.
Hall, who was encouraged to seek public office by several people, said in an interview this week her decision to run stemmed in part from the realization that her immediate family obligations are diminishing. Son Austin, 17, will graduate from Laguna Beach High School in June and daughter Teddie, 15, will soon be old enough to get behind the wheel.
While involvement in her children’s lives has kept Hall out of the work force since 1995, in recent years she’s kept her hand in politics. For the past two years, she served as the volunteer president of Laguna Beach Republicans.
And by virtue of her personal history, from attending the defunct Aliso elementary to graduating from LBHS in 1985, Hall’s cultivated her own priorities about her hometown. Clean water and marine safety as well as economic vitality, among them, she said.
Hall, though, expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress by current leaders in tackling traffic congestion and wooing merchants to fill empty storefronts. “Tourists keep the city alive, but building a concrete parking structure is archaic,” said Hall, critiquing the village entrance initiative spearheaded by Pearson but abandoned in the wake of withering public criticism last year.
“I’m not an outsider, but I’m not so entrenched in it,” said Hall, who intends to borrow Council member Steve Dicterow’s playbook and postpone outlining a platform until she canvasses neighborhoods and asks residents about their concerns.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1991 with a degree in conservation and resource studies, Hall worked for a political consultant on state assembly races, anti rent-control measures and Orange County’s transportation tax, Measure M.
She returned to Laguna in 1993 to lead the 80-member activist group United Laguna, which supported controversial development in the Diamond-Crestview neighborhood and Treasure Island mobile home park, among other issues. The group’s members had swelled to 1,200 when Hall left two years later to marry Richard Hall, who partnered with Merrill Lynch in selling the land since developed by Montage resort.
“I believe in this town and see so much potential in so many different areas for us to grow and improve,” she said in a letter to supporters last week.