Dolores Otting was a juggernaut, that’s the only way she could be described, and she will be greatly missed.
I heard that she had passed away from Councilman Keith and (his better half) Pamela Curry while we were frivolously chatting away at the Mayor’s Dinner on Friday evening. And quickly did my mood change. The pit I felt at the bottom of my stomach could only be matched by the sad expression on Pamela’s beautiful face. The stunned silence between us deafened the loud chatter that encompassed the room.
And instantly the stars that fill the Newport Beach sky did not seem as bright, and my memories of running for City Council don’t seem as novel.
Against the wishes of her family, I am writing this tribute to her. But if you had the venue to do so, wouldn’t you also?
I had the privilege of getting to know Dolores Otting during my ill-fated, ill-conceived run for the Newport Beach City Council in 2006. She was running, too, in another district. Once you got to know Dolores, and if you lucky enough for her to like you, she would grip onto you and not let go…so much so that every single event that she would hold, every single gathering, every single thought that she was holding/hosting/organizing, you would be expected to attend and participate. And no was never an answer she would accept from you.
Back then she would attend every single Newport Beach City Council meeting, finding a reason to speak out about every issue that would come up. Whether it be hydrofluosilicic acid in our drinking water or the lights that lit up a baseball field, or where the City Hall should go, she would furiously scribble away at her notes until it was her time to speak. She would then put her glasses on, with the glittery chain that held onto them from around her neck, and do her best to protect Newport Beach from that dastardly City Council. She would do her best to remind them that Newport Beach had a voice in her.
She would run again for City Council in 2008, again against Keith Curry. This time, she had the assistance of the Cannery Restaurant owner Jack Croul, who contributed almost $250,000 into an Independent Expenditure Committee to support Dolores.
Her 2008 campaign was more candidate-like, instead of her grassroots approach in 2006, earning the coveted Daily Pilot endorsement along the way, with the Pilot writing, “The wild card that we are supporting this year is Otting. We acknowledge that Otting can be disagreeable and, at times, cantankerous. But we don’t think anyone would deny that she spends an enormous amount of her free time, voluntarily, advocating for what she believes is best for Newport Beach, the city she has lived in and loved for 20 years,” and “She, like us, believes deeply in an open and transparent government; that the taxpayer’s money needs to be watched closely; and that budgets should not be allowed to balloon, especially now. Otting does her homework and does it well. She won’t be a cheerleader on this seven-member panel, but rather she’ll be a contrarian voice keeping her fellow council members on their toes. With that in mind, we believe it’s her time to shine and we support Otting in the District 7 race.
While the vote spread between Curry and Otting would be the same as in 2006, Dolores never let those losses deter her as she kept plugging along to keep the Newport Beach City Council true.
Over the past few years, I would continue to receive phone calls from Dolores, but this time it was always to critique, and occasionally commend, the stuff I wrote in my Newportbeachvoices blog, in Tom Johnson’s online Daily Voice and then in the Newport Beach Independent. She would always end our phone calls by asking about my triplets, and then with a “God Bless you Jack.”
What she never knew was that I always wrote my stuff with her voice in my mind, almost knowing what would set her off, and what she’d commend me for.
Her voice is still in my head as I write this today.
If she liked something I wrote, then I knew I did a good job, but if she didn’t, I also knew that I did a good job…
How I will miss those phone calls.
And how I will miss Dolores and her beautiful smile. No matter if she was happy or angry, that beautiful smile was always there.
Newport Beach has just lost one of its brightest shining stars…but she will never be forgotten.