Is it time for a policy change regarding Laguna Beach’s mayor and mayor pro tem assignments?
Not anytime soon.
Save for George Weiss, the remaining city council members say they’re happy with the status quo, one in which council members select a candidate and take a vote.
Council member Weiss’s proposal of a rotation, brought before council during its Nov. 21 regular meeting, suggested all elected council members should have the opportunity to be called “mayor” or “mayor pro tem” during their time in office.
“It’s been a longstanding tradition that council members rotate into the positions of mayor and mayor pro tem,” said Weiss, who was elected to council in 2020. “That time-honored tradition continued until the last five or six years. I believe it’s best to go back to that tradition that served Laguna well rather than positions decided by the majority of the council. It’s a ceremonial role, and I hope we can agree to do that tonight.”
Since 2013, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen has been mayor and mayor pro tem of Laguna Beach seven times in 10 years. Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf has held the positions three times in the almost five years she’s served on council.
Support from the public was mixed, with some agreeing the assignment of mayor and mayor pro tem should be available to all council members.
“I’m about to shock you. I think Peter Blake should have been mayor,” resident Michele Monda told council members during public comment. “To exclude him is exactly what I’m against. This was undemocratic. Did I like him? Oh, you bet not. Did I think he would have self-destructed, and would he have been the worst mayor we ever had? You bet. But people elected him. He had every right to be mayor in his time.”
Others argued against allowing all council members the chance to hold the mayoral role, saying the position is much more than just ceremonial and requires an adept public leader.
“George Weiss wants to be mayor. That’s what this is all about,” resident Chris Quilter said. “It’s certainly not about a time-honored tradition that says, ‘anyone elected to the council gets to be mayor.’ If that were the case, Peter Blake would have been mayor. Our mayors have always been selected by a majority of their peers. That’s the tradition. So, the question of whether or not George should be mayor should not be in the hands of his supporters or his detractors. It’s entirely up to you.”
During the discussion, Whalen said he isn’t seeking the re-assignment of the mayor.
The new mayor and mayor pro tem appointments take place at the next regular meeting on Dec. 12.
No vote was taken after the discussion, as the item did not require any action.