Madison kicks off campaign surrounded by fans

One in an occasional series of stories profiling candidates for Laguna Beach City Council and their endorsers.

The outdoor patio at Madison Square Garden & Cafe in Laguna Beach couldn't hold another person during Jon Madison's official campaign kickoff late Sunday afternoon.

A crowd that included three City Council members gathered to hear Madison, the restaurant's owner, discuss his ideas for Laguna and why he should earn one of three contested council seats in November.

In addition to Madison, current Planning Commission Chairman Robert Zur Schmiede and former Laguna Beach Republicans President Michele Hall are vying for a spot on the five-member council. Councilman Kelly Boyd has said he will run for reelection; Councilwoman Toni Iseman is undecided.

Madison's longtime friend Jon Stordahl, Mayor Elizabeth Pearson and a man dressed as the fictional Captain America introduced the restaurateur, who for 14 years has served on the city's Heritage Committee. Madison, 57, is the group's chairman.

"Jon's got a gift for talking to people and making them laugh," Stordahl said. "He recognizes the inherent beauty and history of the town. Jon's not just a great friend. He is a great businessman."

Madison is also the person who came to Pearson's mind when she thought of candidates to enter city government. Pearson, who will not seek reelection, extolled Madison's energy, knowledge of the city and desire for businesses to thrive.

"I wanted someone who got the arts, someone who understood the makeup of all the nonprofits," Pearson said. "He has helped nearly all of them over the years. We need that kind of energy coming in. He's a moderate. We don't need crazy people on the left or the right."

Madison has served on the board of directors for several organizations, including South Coast Repertory, Pacific Symphony, Orange County Museum of Art, the Hortense Miller Garden and Laguna Shanti.

Pearson and Madison shared a congratulatory hug to applause from the crowd.

"This campaign is going to be fun," said Madison, a 25-year Laguna resident who is originally from New York. "It's not about me being on the council. All of you count. The whole town counts."

Madison said one of his key tenets is listening to as many people as possible. To foster public participation, Madison said that if elected he would ask residents to email him about issues that they feel are important, and he would alert the public when the council is scheduled to discuss specific topics.

"Not everyone can go to City Council meetings, but they can watch them on TV," Madison said.

Two virtues Madison said he tries to live by are compassion and passion.

"We can find solutions to everyday problems," he said. "Take egos out and work with the facts."

In previous interviews, Madison has said he would like to see the city become more tourist-friendly and foster a vibrant business climate, from South Laguna to the northern city limits.

"I think Jon would make an excellent councilman," said Councilman Steve Dicterow, whose term isn't up. "He is articulate and has a unique point of view on things, which is always good to bring to the council."

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