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Interviews get underway to replace Tito Ortiz on Huntington Beach City Council

Catherine Kowertz, left, and Dom Jones speak to the Huntington Beach City Council
Catherine Kowertz, left, and Dom Jones speak to the Huntington Beach City Council during the first of two days of interviews Friday for the vacant City Council seat.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach residents of all walks of life showed up to the City Council chambers throughout the day Friday.

Some used their full five-minute time allotment, while a few did not have a statement prepared. But all were candidates to interview for the open City Council spot that was vacated when Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz resigned on June 1.

Just 51 of the scheduled 70 candidates showed up for their interviews, which left large time gaps throughout the day. Dozens more applicants are set to be heard Saturday, starting at 8:30 a.m. Those interested are able to view in person or watch online.

At least a couple of the candidates who spoke Friday were past City Council members seeking to return. Jill Hardy, who served 16 years on the Council before she termed out for the second time last November, including two years as mayor, put her name back into the ring to be Ortiz’s replacement.

Hardy, a math teacher at Marina High School, spoke to the council on Friday afternoon.

“I’m seeking appointment to the City Council because I want to continue to represent the people of Huntington Beach,” Hardy said. “Our city needs leaders who can make tough, fair and balanced decisions that both preserve our past and build our future. I plan to live in this city for the rest of my life, and I understand that the decisions of today affect our future. I know the Huntington Beach community, and I have the knowledge and experience to lead it.”

Devin Dwyer, who served on the City Council from 2008 to 2012, also Zoomed in for a statement.

Anton Drenth addresses the Huntington Beach City Council
Anton Drenth addresses the Huntington Beach City Council during the first of two days of interviews for its vacant City Council seat.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

City Council members heard from Rhonda Bolton, a local attorney who is a member of the city’s Human Relations Task Force. They also heard from Robert Bossenmeyer, a manager at local restaurant Basilico’s, which made news during the coronavirus pandemic for its anti-mask stance.

Nathaniel Barrett, an Orange County deputy district attorney, told the council that he’s not a politician but he represents “the people, all of the people.”

“I bring a depth of experience that other applicants can’t on crucial issues to the city, like homelessness, housing, crime and mental health,” Barrett said.

Dom Jones, a local gym owner, said she would be proud to be the first Black person to sit on the City Council in Huntington Beach, a city that was just 1% Black as of the 2010 census.

Jones, who has recently received support from several residents during Council public comments, spoke of being born in Compton, growing up in poverty and being placed in shelters and foster homes.

“I stand here talking to you from my heart,” Jones said. “I am driven with passion, and I desire to love this city in a way that it’s loved me … The arc of my life, the trappings that I have been through, have brought me here.”

Richard Kuo holds a sign in support of Dom Jones during an interview for the vacant City Council seat.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Others brought a comical approach to the proceedings. Mark Currie, a 30-plus year resident of Surf City who has twice been the president of the Huntington Beach Interfaith Council, has a local business producing pill vials. He brought a large vial filled with chocolate for each council member.

Ken Gordon, meanwhile, quoted comedian Larry David when making his statement: “A good compromise is when everyone is disappointed.”

“What I bring is low-level universal disappointment,” Gordon said. “If you elect a conservative, you’re going to anger half the city. If you elect a progressive, you’re going to disappoint half the city a lot. If you choose me, everyone will be dissatisfied, but not too much.”

Candidates scheduled to make statements Saturday include Gracey Van Der Mark, who finished fourth in last November’s election that sent Ortiz, Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser onto the dais. Many residents recently have asked the Council to “respect the vote” and appoint Van Der Mark.

Oscar Rodriguez, who finished fifth in the 2020 election, also is scheduled to speak Saturday.

The new member is scheduled to be appointed at the Council meeting on July 20.

Mayor Kim Carr listens to a candidate
Mayor Kim Carr listens to a candidate during the first of two days of interviews for the city of Huntington Beach’s vacant City Council seat.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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