With a parade of dignitaries congratulating him, the first Korean American mayor of a major U.S. city left office Tuesday night
"I feel very nervous today. I don't know why," Sukhee Kang said during the ceremony honoring him, toward the end of his last Irvine City Council meeting. "What a journey it has been."
Kang is termed out of office after seeing Irvine through lean times. He joined the council in 2004 and has served as mayor since 2008.
"Mayors are often defined by the times in which they serve, so it is with Mayor Kang," said Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom, noting that the city did not cut services or suffer layoffs under Kang.
More than half a dozen guests, including Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins, presented Kang with commendations.
"I have just witnessed you serving with dignity, with dedication and with grace...." Hutchins said. "Thank you for being a role model for public service."
Kang's absence makes room for former Councilwoman Christina Shea, whose election earlier this month will switch the council from a Democratic to a Republican majority.
After a small sparring match over a $15,000 contribution to UC Irvine, Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway said he was looking forward to seating the new council "like nobody's business."
During the meeting, Lalloway pulled an item from the consent calendar intended to underwrite a commemorative book about the university and city's history produced for UCI's 50th anniversary.
"I love UCI," he said. "They're a very good neighbor, to be clear. I hope my kids go there some day. … I just don't think this is the proper place to give UC Irvine $15,000 for this purpose."
Rather than passing the contribution as a routine item, the councilman brought it up to vote against it, he added.
"I would suggest that the new council is going to be much more conservative in their financial and budgetary issues," he said after the vote.
Each member of the outgoing council majority spoke in favor of the donation.
"I find this a very reasonable and very modest investment in both a partnership with a great university and an opportunity to have some input in how the city of Irvine is included," Krom said.
City spokesman Craig Reem said the book may be distributed as a graduation gift to the class of 2015 or sold as a fundraising item.
Reem sits on the UCI committee planning the anniversary and producing the book.
"Put me down for five or 10 books if and when they get published," Councilman
The item ultimately passed 3 to 2, with mayor-elect and current Councilman Steven Choi silently dissenting with Lalloway.