LAGUNA BEACH : New Mayor Stresses Sense of Community

With a flurry of thank yous, congratulations and pats on the back, Councilman Wayne L. Peterson was elected mayor Tuesday night and colleague Paul Freeman was chosen mayor pro tem.

Former Mayor Kathleen Blackburn passed the gavel to Peterson after saying she has been proud to serve as mayor for the past year and thanking the council, the city staff and residents.

"It's strictly been my pleasure," she said. Then, Blackburn, the only woman on the council, moved to the far end of the dais.

"This chair isn't as comfortable as that one," Peterson said, as he took the high-backed mayor's seat at center stage.

Peterson said his goal is to help Laguna Beach "recover our sense of community," a spirit he said has been most evident following calamities, such as the October 1993 fire or the floods that occurred early this year.

"It shouldn't take a disaster to draw us together," he said.

Peterson also said city leaders must help prevent "the 'yuppification' and the commercialization of the town" by carefully considering the long-range effects of each planning decision.

Since the council here almost always elevates the mayor pro tem to the mayor's seat, the council's unanimous selection of Peterson likely surprised no one.

There was a moment of tension, however, when Blackburn nominated Freeman as mayor pro tem and Councilman Wayne J. Baglin quickly nominated Councilman Steve Dicterow.

Freeman and Dicterow (having each voted for himself) had a pair of votes each when it was Peterson's turn to cast his ballot.

Peterson paused briefly, saying, "I've done everything I can to avoid this," before selecting Freeman as mayor pro tem.

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