Huntington Beach appoints Rhonda Bolton to City Council seat vacated by Tito Ortiz

Rhonda Bolton is sworn in by Huntington Beach City Clerk Robin Estanislau during Monday night's special meeting.
(Spencer Grant)

Huntington Beach has found its seventh City Council member.

On Monday night, the Council voted 4-2 to appoint lawyer Rhonda Bolton to the seat vacated when Tito Ortiz resigned on June 1.

Bolton was one of 105 candidates who were interviewed by the council over two lengthy sessions earlier this month. During a special meeting held July 19, the council was unable to reach a consensus on naming Ortiz’s replacement and the matter was continued to this week.

Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize, who had voted last week for another candidate, changed her vote Monday to Bolton. She joined Mayor Kim Carr, Councilman Dan Kalmick and Councilwoman Natalie Moser in backing the attorney.


“A local business leader shared with me recently that [Bolton] is someone that doesn’t rush to judgement,” Delgleize said during a speech announcing her vote. “She makes well-researched, measured decisions, and I believe she will be a complement to our city council by bringing expertise to the leadership and business knowledge for these reasons.”

Councilmen Erik Peterson and Mike Posey cast the two dissenting votes. Posey made a substitute motion calling for a special election, but it failed, 4-2.

Huntington Beach City Council member Natalie Moser congratulates Rhonda Bolton after she was sworn in Monday night.
(Spencer Grant)

Bolton, a mother of two who has served on the city’s Human Relations Task Force, was sworn in following the recess.

“It means a lot,” Bolton said in an interview following her appointment. “I really appreciate the confidence that the folks in the city have expressed in me. I want to do them proud, and… I think that this is a unique time for us and for the Council. I wanted to offer up the passion and care that I have for the community, and the experience and skill, to help us navigate the matters that are really important right now that we need to be working on.”

Bolton specified homelessness, affordable housing and public safety as key issues the city faces.

Bolton is believed to be the first Black city council member in Huntington Beach history. The city is just 1% Black demographically and has a history checkered with white supremacy.

“It demonstrates the community being accepting of people, regardless of what they look like, regardless of skin color,” Bolton said. “So, it means a lot to me.”
The scene inside the chambers after the vote appointing Bolton was chaotic, with supporters who largely supported Gracey Van Der Mark yelling “Recall” at the City Council members as the session went into recess.

Kimo Gandall, Pano Froysiakis and Gracey Van Der Mark, left to right, listen to a speaker.
Kimo Gandall, Pano Froysiakis and Gracey Van Der Mark, left to right, listen to a speaker during Monday night’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting.
(Spencer Grant)

Van Der Mark, who finished fourth in last November’s election that got Ortiz, Kalmick and Moser onto the dais, had dozens of supporters at Monday’s meeting. They asked the City Council to “honor the vote” and appoint Van Der Mark, or go the special election route at a cost estimated at $1 million.

Instead, the council went with Bolton, who attended the meeting with her husband John.

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12:10 p.m. July 27, 2021: This article was updated to include a quote from Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize and one additional quote from the newly-appointed member of the Huntington Beach City Council, Rhonda Bolton.