Newport Beach has a new mayor and mayor pro tem, both voted into office at the Newport Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Former Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery, who won re-election to the city council in November, was selected as the new mayor, replacing Will O’Neill, who was also re-elected to the city council in November.
Councilmember Kevin Muldoon, who has served in the past as mayor and mayor pro-tem, was chosen to be the new mayor pro tem.
Newly elected councilmember Noah Blom took the seat on the council vacated by former councilmember Jeff Herdman, who lost to Blom in November’s election.
The meeting began with Tim Whitacre, the District Director for OC Supervisor Michelle Steel, making a presentation on behalf of Steel to O’Neill as the outgoing mayor.
“Thank you for your outstanding leadership this year,” said Whitacre. “Who knew we were gong to endure a pandemic. The way you have guided this ship has been nothing short of stellar.”
“A year ago, I envisioned a year different from the year we actually had,” said O’Neill. “I envisioned taking on tasks that were normal to the everyday life of a vibrant city. COVID has overshadowed the year we envisioned, but we cannot ignore the milestones we reached.”
O’Neill went on to thank the Newport Beach Police Department and Fire Department, and other city departments, for their efforts over the past year. [Most of O’Neill’s council meeting comments are contained in his Mayor’s Message at https://www.newportbeachindy.com/mayors-message-eternally-grateful/]
“Thank you for your leadership, you really have done an incredible job,” said Councilmember Joy Brenner.
“It was an outstanding year of leadership,” agreed Councilmember Diane Dixon. “You did not have the picnics and parades, but you probably performed more acts of substance than any previous mayor in our city’s history. We benefitted from your wise council and your steady hand, you are appreciated by the staff and the community. Thanks for your dedication to the city of Newport Beach.”
“So often we see in extraordinary times that leaders are forged,” said Councilmember Avery. “One of the aspects of this [COVID] is that it really brought all your skills to the forefront for the benefit of this city. It’s been incredible to watch as Mayor Pro Tem. Your intellect and time and skills, reaching out to people at all levels, making people feel safer, that’s hope. One of the greatest things you can give a community is hope.”
After the remarks, Councilmembers Avery, Blom and O’Neill were sworn into office.
Then came time to nominate a councilmember for Mayor. Mayor Pro Tem Avery was nominated for Mayor by Councilmember Dixon, while Will O’Neill was nominated to repeat as Mayor by Councilmember Blom.
“I know I am extremely new here” began Blom. “I was elected by the city, my responsibility is to the city. I am here to represent Newport Beach.”
Blom acknowledged that “this is not a popular thing I am doing, but I am not here for popularity. I am here to make the right choice. It is what I believe will keep us stronger for the next year.”
In response to his nomination, O’Neill noted that “it is confusing that we have elections and then rotate among ourselves for mayor. A majority of cities do this. Thank you to those who have reached out and offered support and said kind things about me. We are conduits for the people we represent. We have provided consistent communications, and we owe it to our residents to continue that transparent communication.”
O’Neill said one of the best things about the past year was to serve alongside Avery.
“He has seen what this position has become. Because Brad knows what this job is, the ongoing responsibilities, I am confident that Brad will rise to the occasion. If he were not confident, I would of course offer to serve, but Brad is ready to rise to the occasion. I plan to support Brad for Mayor.”
“I woke up this morning expecting to support Mayor O’Neill for another term, but I have been convinced by the Mayor that we can make this transition easily and confidently,” said Councilmember Brenner. “I do believe its time for a representative from Brad’s district. I believe he can lead us. I support Brad because of Will’s remarks.”
The council voted 6 to 1 in favor of Mayor Pro Tem Avery becoming Mayor. Councilmember Blom dissented.
Next came the nomination for Mayor Pro Tem. Councilmember Dixon nominated Councilmember Muldoon, while Councilmember Brenner nominated herself.
“In my campaign two years ago, I promised to open the doors and windows and shine a light on city hall and what happens here,” said Brenner as she explained why she wanted to be Mayor Pro Tem. “I feel strongly that I deserve this seat and will do the best job. Kevin (Muldoon) has already served in both positions.”
Brenner noted that “if women don’t advocate for themselves, who will? We have had some fine women mayors, but have passed over other women.”
Brenner also stated that she and Avery were retired and could focus their time and energy on city business.
“There is no question in my mind that Joy Brenner will make a fine mayor, but I made a commitment to Mr. Muldoon,” said Avery. “He is a very articulate person, knows how to do the work. We are good with disagreeing with each other. We have our disagreements and move on. Joy is great, that is understating it, she is very much loved by the community. It’s difficult to choose, but I will honor my commitment to Mr. Muldoon. I am very happy to vote for Miss Brenner the next go-around.”
The council voted 6 to 1 for Muldoon as Mayor Pro Tem. The dissenting vote came from Councilmember Brenner.
Once the voting ended, the councilmembers changed seats, with Avery taking the middle seat, Muldoon to the right of him, and Blom at the far right.
The next City Council meeting will be on January 12, 2021.