Letter: Council Should Return to the Earlier Pattern of Mayoral Appointments


Updated from 12/9 edition (ed.)

Last summer, I wrote a letter to the editor that revealed that since 1970 only two full-term councilmembers failed to be entrusted with the mayor or mayor pro tempore roles during their four years on council. Mr. Blake was one of the two who attained this ignominious standing. On the flip side, I shared that Councilmember Bob Whalen had spent 60 percent of his time in office, serving as either mayor or pro tem. Since he was first sworn-in in December 2012, he’s served as follows (mayor/pro tem):

– Elizabeth Pearson/Bob Whalen 12-02-13 to 12-02-14

– Bob Whalen/Steve Dicterow 12-02-14 to 12-08-15

– Bob Whalen/Steve Dicterow 12-04-18 to 12-03-19

– Bob Whalen/Steve Dicterow 12-03-19 to 12-08-20

– Bob Whalen/Sue Kempf 12-08-20 to 12-14-21

– Sue Kempf/Bob Whalen 12-14-21 to 12-13-22

Mr. Whalen has laudably jumped in to serve consecutive terms due to various circumstances, including the topsy-turvy world brought to us by the pandemic. However, in 10 years, he’s served as mayor four times and pro tem twice. While Mr. Whalen has served us ably and no doubt at some cost to his personal life. I believe the Council would do well to return to the earlier pattern of appointments to both top positions. The pattern followed for most of the 20th century was one where councilpersons, on their second or third years, would advance to the pro tem seat, then in the next year, take the Mayorship. In this way, virtually every elected councilperson got to serve in either or both the pro tem and mayor position (with the few exceptions noted above). The status quo allowed our City to benefit by having the mayor and pro tem positions filled by almost all of the people elected to Council over the last 50 years. I hope we can return to the former pattern with the Council’s Dec. 13 leadership election.

Michael Morris, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thank you for these facts Mike. It appears though that it fell on deaf ears as council nominations for Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem repeated the incestuous pattern our city appears to be functioning under since 2014. IMO – new council members had an opportunity to correct this. I know many residents are interested in understanding the nomination rational proposed on December 13th. I know I am.

  2. The traditional rotation has been bypassed once again. Until about 10 years ago, the position of mayor has rotated. This used to happen on a regular basis and it began in 1944. It served us well for 68 years. The School Board used to rotate presidents as well, assuring a balance of power among all elected to serve.

  3. Hopefully our City Council will moved forward for the best of the residents & property owners of this beautiful city!
    The vote was 5-0 !
    In my opinion both Bob Whalen & Sue Kempf have done an outstanding job under difficult times!

  4. This added paragraph was left off of the re-post of 16Dec22, which includes some comments about the nominations raised on 13Dec22’s City Council meeting:
    Update: On 13 December 2022, councilperson Rounaghi motioned Mr Whalen for Mayor and councilperson Orgill motioned Ms. Kempf for Mayor Pro Tempore. Both motions passed unanimously. With this, the mayor and pro tem positions have continued to see-sawed back and forth and will result in Mr. Whalen having held the mayorship for 5 times since 2014. This council has taken what was a collegial rotation and converted it into a political spoil. That’s bad for city hall and bad for Lagunans.

  5. It is interesting that no one complained about the fact that Peter Blake was never appointed mayor. I am sure that Trish and MJ have enough a sense of fair play that this gets added to their long list of civic grievances.

  6. Peter Blake wasn’t mayor material attacking people that had concerns they brought to their council. Let us hope that this council will listen to all the citizens.

  7. Oh Ms. Marchant – that’s hilarious. Even Kempf and Whalen, while voting in lockstep with Blake, did NOT want him as mayor. I’m still laughing at his comment that they didn’t support him. What tripe. The three of them were a voting bloc if anyone cares to go back and look at the record. No, they recognized that he would have been a disaster and embarrassment representing Laguna. Thank God that among all their bad decisions making him mayor was not one.

  8. Maybe we should consider electing our mayor, as several other cities do.

    Hmmm. I hear no talk of term limits.

    And district representation may not be a half bad idea either – as is, there seems to be way too much focus on the downtown and zippity-do-da on other parts of town. Plus this might help break the stranglehold and concentration of political power.

    These may not be the right solutions, but I venture they’re worth discussing and exploring.

    Good luck on that though – those in power tend to do whatever they can to remain in power, regardless of what’s best for residents and the community as a whole. And we seem to be seeing a lot of that.


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