Talk about an early Christmas present for City Councilmembers.
This is the time of year where we find out who’s been good, and who’ll get the lump of coal. It’s the annual exchange of the Mayor’s hat.
This year won’t nearly be as dramatic as two years ago, when then-Mayor Pro Tem Leslie Daigle was not only skipped over for Mayor in favor for a second consecutive term for Ed Selich, but was also stripped of the Pro Tem designation in favor of Councilman Keith Curry.
No, this year should be pretty simple. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Henn will be appointed Mayor, and if my prognosticating skills are still sharp, Councilmember Nancy Gardner should get the No. 2 spot.
So in looking forward at a year of Mayor Mike, I am reminded of the Abraham Lincoln quote, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
While being just a “normal” Councilmember may be peachy keen, having the title of Mayor, that’s where the power is at. Some have taken it in stride, others got downright crazy, while one showed up at the Mayor’s reception wearing a crown and wielding a scepter. Talk about a sign of the year to come.
So before I opine about the upcoming Year of the Mike, let’s take a look at the past few Mayors (and for brevity, I’ll only go back a few years…)
There was a time where if you weren’t Steve Bromberg or Tod Ridgeway, you wouldn’t get to be Mayor. Now-Judge Bromberg ruled with dignity and honor, while Ridgeway…well…was no different than how he normally was as a Councilmember/Planning Commissioner/Human Being.
When Bromberg resigned to take the bench, John Heffernan got his chance, then Don Webb after that, both good Mayors, both unassuming, both fair. The only drama during that time was the impression that Heffernan was upset because he didn’t get to serve an entire year with the gavel, instead passing it to Webb, so he could be the Centennial Mayor.
Next up was Steve Rosansky. In the one year that Rosansky was Mayor, the Rehab controversy exploded (to put it very, very mildly) and Rosansky, in his capacity as a Property Manager, collected rent from a Rehab Operator. Add to that his naturally combative nature, and his year as the big cheese was difficult for the public, for him, and for Curry, who engaged with an interesting (and nasty) war of words with Rosansky in the press during the summer of 2007.
So when the mild mannered and even tempered Ed Selich took over, he calmed the City and its critics down so much that when it was time for Ed to pass the gavel to the “heir apparent” Leslie Daigle, she was passed up completely in favor for a second consecutive term for Ed. And with two years left in his current term, and four more years left in an upcoming term, I’d like to see Ed as Mayor again.
Why was Leslie passed over? I think I know, but I’m unwilling to spew my unsubstantiated rumor-mill fueled opinions (yes, I know, there’s a first time for everything). I even hear that although Leslie just got re-elected to another four years, the chances of her getting the big seat one day are still slim to none.
Keith Curry? Well, for the time that I’ve been obsessing on Newport Beach politics (I do indeed need a life), Keith is the first Mayor in a long time that actually acted/smelled/looked like a real Mayor. His polished and very fair style gave the seat almost a regal feel, while his Meet the Mayor coffees kept him humble, accessible and a Man-of-the-People. Just like Ed, with a potential six years left on his Council life, another run as Mayor Keith would be welcomed.
So with Michael Henn, I see something similar to what Selich brought to the seat – a mellow demeanor – but with Curry’s fancy twist. Plus, Mike’s background as a CFO for publicly traded companies gives me comfort as we continue to deal with this economic downturn. I only hope that he truly leads the City with the same frugality as a CFO would for a struggling company, remembering that it’s the taxpayers’ money he’s playing with, instead of shareholders’. His China Palace vote aside, I’m cautiously optimistic that his year as Mayor Mike will be a good one.
But I truly cannot wait for the Mayor Nancy Gardner era…