It was a night of olive branches, healing, and moving forward, during the Newport Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday.
In Newport Beach City Council’s “changing of the guard” meeting, a slightly new lineup of Council members voted for a new mayor, as scheduled, but it was not the same process as previous years.
Typically, the mayor pro tem is selected as the next mayor, but in an unusual move, Will O’Neill stepped aside and nominated Diane Dixon. Understanding the symbolism of the action, he called it an opportunity for reconciliation.
“We do have an opportunity tonight for reconciliation and we do have the opportunity to move forward in a unified way with a renewed sense of optimism,” O’Neill said. “Whether that’s through olive branches or the extending hands.”
The move elicited applause from the crowd in the packed Council chambers at city hall.
Dixon, in turn, then nominated O’Neill for another year as mayor pro tem.
She thanked the voters for the opportunity to serve another term and her colleagues for their confidence in her to serve as mayor again.
“I appreciate the humility and wisdom of your actions,” Dixon said to O’Neill
They can all agree on at least one thing, she said, they all love Newport Beach.
“We are Newporters, we all love our city and our way of life,” Dixon said. “There is much, much more that binds us than divides us.”
O’Neill noted in an email Wednesday that his reasoning on why he nominated Dixon was what he thought was best for Newport Beach at this time.
“I thought it was best for the city moving forward and I’d rather have a productive city than a title,” O’Neill explained. “And one day I hope to be Mayor, but what’s most important now is the city.”
At the Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Reception at the Back Bay Bistro, Dixon welcomed the new Councilwoman, Joy Brenner, to the dais.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to serve with such a lovely and hard-working community,” and invaluable community leader, Dixon said at the reception.
Outgoing Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield also welcomed Brenner to the team.
“Welcome aboard Joy,” Duffield said at the reception event. “I’m looking forward to working with you.”
Brenner expressed gratitude to everyone who helped her on the campaign during her remarks at the Council meeting.
“That was the thing I was most proud of in this election, was that there was so much individual participation by grassroots people in our community,” Brenner said.
Now that the election is over, it’s time to do as she said and listen to the residents and work for what is best for the community, Brenner commented. People are tired of dysfunction and disharmony, she said.
“I will work with any and all members of this Council and members of this community to do what’s right for the citizens of Newport Beach,” Brenner said. “I think that’s critical because I actually think that’s what this election was about in so many different ways.’
The reconciliatory sentiment was reflected in public comments, as summed up by former Mayor Nancy Gardner.
“This has been a tough year, lot of anger, lot of accusations,” she said. “I think there’d be nothing more unfortunate if, after all this, we all retire to our own little corners and nursed our grudges.”
It’s a new year with a new council member, she pointed out.
“Let’s use this as a time to reset,” Gardner said.
The General Plan update is a great first step to help the community come together, she noted. She suggested the next step be the Council fully utilizing the city commissions and committees, which she feels have been bypassed on occasion.
“Both of those things will do a lot towards restoring bonds that have become somewhat frayed,” Gardner said, “so we can all work together instead of against each other in this coming year.”
Brenner replaces Scott Peotter in District 6.
Peotter thanked the voters for the privilege of serving on Council. The past four years have been fun, challenging, and interesting, Peotter said.
“Some parts were a little bit more fun than others,” he joked.
“When we got elected, we were clearly given a new direction by the voters, and sometimes change can be hard, as we hit the ground running,” Peotter said.
He went over a few of his accomplishments, including restoring the wood-burning fire pits on the beach and the civic center audit.
His faith and following biblical principles have always driven his decisions and conduct, Peotter noted.
“Although I’m not perfect, I believe that I’ve acted honorably and as I promised when I got elected,” Peotter noted. “People knew what they were getting with me. I did not change my stripes after I got elected.”
Peotter concluded his remarks by wishing Brenner luck in her new position. He gladly passes the baton on to her, Peotter said.
“I think she’ll do a great job,” Peotter said. “I believe the city is going to be in great hands with the new Council.”
After his comments and vote on certification of the election results, Peotter left the dais and watched the rest of the meeting from the audience.
While he was still in mayoral role, Duffield said Peotter will be missed. Citing his background in architecture, Duffield called Peotter an expert in development projects.
“The new Council will be lacking in this department, which is going to make it challenging,” Duffield said.
Going over some of Peotter’s background and work on Council and other city commissions and committees, Duffield said his contributions have been notable. He wanted lower costs, less government, and reduce taxes, Duffield noted.
“Not all his ideas and projects came to fruition, but you always knew what he was trying to accomplish,” Duffield said. Peotter “was not afraid to speak his mind about what was important to him and not what might make him more popular. We need more people like that in government.”
As Duffield finished his last actions as mayor for 2018, he said it was an honor to serve as mayor, something he never thought he’d do, but it’s something he’ll keep with him forever.
“I’m starting to really like the sound of ‘Duffy Duffield, former mayor,’” he said, eliciting some laughter from the audience.
Duffield joked that he didn’t attend “mayor school” and had to “learn on the fly.”
“By the end of my term as mayor, I figured it out, just in time for last meeting,” Duffield kidded. “I think that happens to all first-time mayors, just when you’re dialed in, you’re out.”
He thanked O’Neill for his attention to detail and sage advice. Duffield also thanked the city staff “behind the scenes,”
“I just love this city,” Duffield said.
Over the past 66 years, he’s watched his little beach town turn into a thriving city.
“We all work hard to protect our precious beach city to keep its original roots,” Duffield said. “We must do everything we can to keep it that way. I believe this is paramount.”
O’Neill commented on Duffield and his father’s contributions to the community over the years.
“To know Duffy is to know a slice of Newport Beach history,” O’Neill said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a person with Duffy’s heart for others as mayor of our great city. Indeed, we’re fortunate anytime we have a leader whose compassion for others far exceeds political aspirations.”
During the meeting Councilman Kevin Muldoon was also sworn in for another term.
Muldoon kept his comments short and sweet. He thanked the voters for entrusting him with another four years. He also thanked his wife and newborn son (for the “occasional full night’s rest”) and the Lord.
“Merry Christmas,” Muldoon concluded.