Three seats on the Laguna Beach City Council are being sought by seven candidates, according to an election notice posted by the City Clerk Wednesday.
Incumbents Sue Kempf and Peter Blake will seek their second four-year term after helping lead the city through the pandemic.
“My work isn’t done,” Kempf said in a press release. “I assessed that I have sufficient support from a broad coalition of residents.”
Kempf spearheaded COVID-19 relief programs for businesses, employees, and residents. Along with Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen, she was deeply involved in the creation of the 2019 wildfire mitigation report, which led to the City adding a helicopter refilling station and an expanded outdoor warning system.
Councilmember Toni Iseman’s decision not to run for reelection after 24 years of public service in Laguna Beach leaves a door open to five challengers, who are known quantities in Laguna Beach politics. These candidates are:
- Ruben Flores, Laguna Nursery owner and a tree advocate, earned 131 fewer votes than councilmember George Weiss in the 2020 election.
- Mark Orgill, a 39-year Laguna Beach resident and real estate investor behind seven-degrees event venue, Laguna College of Art + Design Residence Hall, and Sunset Cove Villas.
- Jerome Pudwill, a 36-year Laguna Beach resident and advocate for limited development. Pudwill works as a marketing director “with a prior land development career.”
- Alex Rounaghi, a Laguna Beach native and chair of the Housing and Human Service Committee. The 24-year-old is co-vice president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club and works full-time as a policy advisor to Orange County Sup. Katrina Foley.
- Louis Weil, a Realtor and design review board member, led the influential panel overseeing an uptick in home remodels amid the pandemic. Weil is the son-in-law of prominent local philanthropists Barbara and Greg MacGillivray.
A Laguna Beach High School graduate and third-generation Lagunan, Rounaghi returned to his hometown after graduating from Dartmouth College in 2020.
“I feel really lucky to have grown up in this community and so I feel sort of an obligation to step up and ensure that future generations get to enjoy the same unique, special Laguna Beach that I got to grow up in,” Rounaghi said.
Rounaghi’s top priority is seeing utility lines underground in Laguna Canyon.
“The power lines on Laguna Canyon Road and fire pose an existential threat to us. We’ve had two fires in the last year and the question is not if but when the next power line causes a fire,” he said.
He advocates pursuing all possible financing options, including a one or two percent increase in the hotel transient occupancy tax.
Before deciding to run himself, Rounaghi served as Kempf’s reelection campaign manager. He supports her reelection.