Dicterow in Line as Laguna’s Next Mayor

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After Dec. 8, an elected official other than Bob Whalen will occupy the mayor’s chair during Laguna Beach City Council meetings and represent the city at government and civic functions.

If history is a guide, after a one-year stint as mayor, Whalen will pass the baton to Steve Dicterow, the current mayor pro tem, who would be serving in the post for a fourth time. “Traditionally the mayor pro tem is voted by the council to serve as mayor,” explained Councilmember Toni Iseman.

Dicterow, though, is unwilling to anticipate the outcome of voting next week by his colleagues. “The transition is not automatic,” said Dicterow, though only three votes are necessary for his ascent to the position. “If I am fortunate enough to be selected it will be an incredible honor to serve,” Dicterow said, declining to outline any specific future initiatives until the vote is recorded.

As  construction got underway in 2014 at the Urth Caffe, Council member Steve Dicterow, left. congratulates owner Shallom Berkman, center, and architect Todd Skendarian.
As construction got underway in 2014 at the Urth Caffe, Council member Steve Dicterow, left. congratulates owner Shallom Berkman, center, and architect Todd Skendarian.

Dicterow, 60, an attorney, has been a council member from 1994-2006 and was elected again in 2012. He served as mayor three times previously. Over that two decade span, he points to three significant accomplishments, representative of what can be done when “people on the council work together to find solutions,” he said.

He was instrumental in adding five police officers to the Laguna force, in 1994-1995, which he claims led to a 50 percent decline in crime. He also participated in negotiating a reduction in a $20 million court judgement against the city over development in the Diamond-Crestview neighborhood. Property owners had sued the city to overturn certain building restrictions. “We got in there and worked to turn that into a zero balance,” he said.

Perhaps his most notable mark was participating in the approval of the Montage resort, which opened in 2003. “Residents of the city were evenly split on building the Montage,” he said. “It took political courage to get the hotel built, and history showed that it was a great decision; everyone loves the Montage now.”

Reflecting on 20 years working for the citizens of Laguna, Dicterow praises the current council membership for their leadership. “I have never seen a council work as well together,” he said. “There are strong and independent views which are sometimes in conflict, but we work hard to fill-in the nuance.” As an example of pragmatic decision making, he pointed to the recent council deliberations on short-term housing rentals. “You have those that want a complete ban, and those that want the city to stay out completely. We are creating solutions that fit the situation,” he said.

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