Tony Strickland speaks at mayor’s breakfast in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland arrived early to Thursday morning’s mayor’s breakfast at the Senior Center in Central Park.
To those who know him well, that’s not a surprise.
Strickland said his punctuality came from his late father Donald, a U.S. Navy and Army veteran who became a drill sergeant at Fort Ord Army Post in Monterey.
“You can imagine what it was like to be a kid with a drill sergeant for a dad,” Strickland told attendees of Thursday’s breakfast. “Every minute I was late, I was grounded for a week. There’s a reason why I was the first person here. I’m early everywhere I go. [Councilman] Pat [Burns] and [Mayor Pro Tem] Gracey [Van Der Mark] will say, if I’m not there 15 minutes early, ‘He’s not coming.’”
Strickland, a former member of both the state Senate and Assembly, spoke of his past at the breakfast, which was attended by city leaders and business members and hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
He said his dad, who passed away from cancer a couple of years ago, was his hero. He said his biggest lesson he learned was to leave the next generation better off than yours.
“I do believe this is the first time in American history where that’s in question,” Strickland said. “Are we going to leave our kids and grandkids in a better position than what we’ve found?”
Strickland, 53, was elected to the state Assembly in his late 20s and ended up suing Gov. Gray Davis during the energy crisis, when Davis claimed executive privilege rather than disclosing energy costs in the state of California. Davis eventually released the information.
His first few months in office in Huntington Beach have certainly been eventful, from discussions of the LGBTQ flag to suing the state over housing requirements.
“I don’t think anybody’s evil,” Strickland said. “I think we all have different life experiences and philosophies, and we try to come together when we can. We can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable. That’s the hope.”
He said Thursday that economic development was key to him, and that he wants Huntington Beach business leaders to have an opportunity to come together.
Strickland said he will organize a Mayor’s Economic Summit later this year, headed by Ed Mountford and Kelly Miller.
Strickland recognized former mayors who attended the breakfast, including John Erskine, Keith Bohr and Shirley Dettloff.
But adjacent to the Senior Center parking lot outside, another former mayor was part of a demonstration prior to the breakfast beginning.
A group of about 15 people had signs and displayed LGBTQ Pride flags. Connie Boardman, who served eight years on the City Council and was mayor of Huntington Beach in 2003 and 2013, said she organized the demonstration along with fellow longtime resident and activist Pat Goodman.
Some breakfast attendees waved in support as they passed in their cars. The first four signs they saw combined to read, “Mayor’s big event ahead, cars at a crawl, will he welcome some, or will he welcome all?”
“There’s a group of allies out here and members of the LGBTQ community to show support for reinstatement of flying the Pride flag,” Boardman said. “We believe strongly that flying the Pride flag is the minimal thing the city can do to show support for its LGBTQ+ members. As a former council member, I still don’t understand why the new majority replaced existing policy, that was a democratic process that required a vote, with an authoritarian ordinance. I just don’t get that.”
Back inside the breakfast, Strickland got emotional as he closed his 15-minute speech. He again referenced his late father.
“I want to make him proud, and I want to make you proud,” he said. “For those of you that supported me, thank you for giving me the privilege to be in this position. For those of you that didn’t support me, I’m working hard to earn your trust.”
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