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New Laguna Beach City Council sworn in, Bob Whalen to serve fifth term as mayor

Newly sworn-in Laguna Beach Councilman Alex Rounaghi, left, takes his seat as he greets Bob Whalen, who was appointed mayor.
Newly sworn-in Councilman Alex Rounaghi, left, takes his seat as he greets Bob Whalen, who was appointed mayor, during the Laguna Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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The Laguna Beach City Council underwent its latest transformation on Tuesday night, as two new members took their seats on the five-person panel.

Mark Orgill, a developer, and Alex Rounaghi, a lifelong resident, were sworn in for their first four-year terms on the dais. They replaced outgoing council members Peter Blake and Toni Iseman.

“We have a lot of tough decisions to make as we move through this,” Orgill said. “We hope that we have your patience. … Can’t make everybody happy. There’s a lot of decisions that, I think, we have to make to keep the business of the city running as efficiently as we can, and sometimes those decisions overlap a bit with political decisions, so I hope you all bear with us.”

Mayor pro tem Sue Kempf congratulates newly sworn-in Councilman Mark Orgill on Tuesday.
Sue Kempf, the outgoing mayor who was named mayor pro tem for the coming year, congratulates newly sworn-in Councilman Mark Orgill.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Both new council members expressed a willingness to meet with community members and encouraged residents to get involved.

“As I sit on this dais up here, I can’t help but think of all the legends who preceded me,” Rounaghi said in his opening remarks. “We’re nearing our 100th anniversary as a city, and there have been so many great council members ... on this dais but also members of the community who have been responsible for creating this unique place that we’re so lucky to call home.

“I’m really grateful to them, and I think all of us here are standing on the shoulders of giants. I look forward to embracing that legacy and moving forward as we address some of the big challenges we face.”

After leaving his seat, outgoing Councilman Peter Blake, left, congratulates incoming Councilman Alex Rounaghi on Tuesday.
After leaving his seat, outgoing Councilman Peter Blake, left, congratulates incoming Councilman Alex Rounaghi during the Laguna Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Sue Kempf, who had served as mayor for the past year, retained her council seat after being reelected.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The council unanimously voted to have Bob Whalen serve as mayor for the fourth time in five years — and fifth term overall — while Kempf was selected as mayor pro tempore.

“Let’s move forward together as a council and a city, engage in thoughtful and respectful discussion as we look for common ground,” Whalen said. “We won’t agree on everything, but let’s strive to find consensus on what we can find consensus on and make good decisions to move the city forward. That’s my wish for the council in 2023.”

Outgoing Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf, left, acknowledges outgoing Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett for her work.
Outgoing Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf, left, at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council, acknowledges outgoing Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett for her work on behalf of the community.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Prior to the swearing in of the new council members, a proclamation was read honoring Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett for her time serving the Fifth District, which includes Laguna Beach.

Among her recognized efforts, Bartlett was lauded for her support of Laguna Beach in its COVID-19 response, as well as guiding the city through an offshore oil spill last year and the transfer of county-operated beaches in South Laguna.

“It’s truly been an honor and privilege to serve on the Orange County Board of Supervisors for the Fifth District, and eight years goes by very, very quickly,” Bartlett said. “But I think during the eight years, people know me as someone who is always putting policy over politics, and it’s not always easy to do. A lot of tough decisions have to be made, but that’s when you get good governance, and that’s something I’ve always really strived for.”

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