Costa Mesa’s Don Harper, the lone conservative on the City Council, says he will resign

Don Harper
Costa Mesa City Councilman Don Harper announced Tuesday he will be resigning from office.
(File Photo)

Costa Mesa City Councilman Don Harper — a lone conservative voice on the dais representing residents living on the city’s Mesa Verde neighborhood — announced Tuesday he will be resigning from office and not seeking reelection in November.

The news came during a portion of a regular meeting in which council members share comments, news and updates from their districts. Harper began by explaining his absence from several council meetings in recent months.

For the record:

9:51 a.m. Feb. 22, 2024An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Costa Mesa’s Council District 1.

“My absence has been due to health issues with my family. It’s caused me to put a lot of things on the back burner and re-prioritize, and I’ve had to miss these meetings. I apologize for that,” Harper said.


“In good conscience, I’m not sure I can continue my responsibilities here. So, I’m announcing my intention to resign. I’m not doing it officially tonight — I’m here with you guys.”

Costa Mesa District 1 City Councilman Don Harper announced Tuesday he would soon resign from office for personal reasons.
(Courtesy of the city of Costa Mesa)

Harper indicated at the meeting, and confirmed Wednesday by phone, he still has some individual neighborhood matters he’d like to see resolved and so has not yet decided on an official last day. He anticipates more details could be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

The councilman’s seat is one of four coming up for election in November. Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Harlan, who represents the 6th Council District, and 2nd District Councilman Loren Gameros were elected in November 2020 to serve four-year terms.

Mayor John Stephens’ at-large seat — to which he was initially appointed in March 2021 to replace outgoing Mayor Katrina Foley and then won by voter approval in November 2022 — has a two-year term that also expires in November.

Once Harper’s final day of service has been determined, the City Council will have 60 days to appoint a replacement, either directly through an application process or to call a special election, a city spokesman confirmed Wednesday. If the council fails to appoint a replacement within 60 days, a special election will be called.

A registered Republican and corporate chief executive who often cast the single dissenting vote on a number of city initiatives, Harper expressed his preference that whoever might fill out the remainder of his term share a similar set of values, so the people in his district who elected him to office can remain fairly represented by a “neighborhood” candidate.

“I’ve attempted to speak for those people in our community who don’t want to be a cannabis city, for those people who don’t want so many bike lanes, for those who don’t want high-density housing,” he said Tuesday.

“I represent the voice of those who want a smaller and more efficient city government without the influence of Sacramento’s policies,” he continued. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to hear the voice of our entire community.”

Several council members expressed their surprise at hearing Harper’s announcement, conveying well wishes to him and his family members and thanking him for being a stalwart member of the team.

“I just want to thank you for your candor and honesty and service. We haven’t always agreed, but I respect you very much,” Councilwoman Andrea Marr told Harper, explaining why a breadth of perspectives is needed on the council. “I appreciate the perspective you have brought and the folks you’ve represented.”

Harper said Wednesday that while he feels his presence might have had some impact on the decisions of a majority Democrat council, he had to weigh his ability to make a difference on the dais against his duties to family.

“It comes down to your life right now — what you have to do in your life, what’s important, and what you have to leverage,” he said.