Newport Beach mayor encourages residents to be ‘helpers’

Newport Beach Mayor Will O'Neill gives the annual state of the city address.
Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill gives the annual state of the city address during Speak Up Newport Mayor’s Dinner four years ago. O’Neill delivered similar remarks Thursday at this year’s Mayor’s Dinner and at a Wake Up! Newport panel hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

As part of a Wake Up! Newport panel hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Will O’Neill spoke to members of the chamber and the public Thursday in a state of the city address that hearkened back to his idea for “The Year of the Volunteer” in 2020 when he was last mayor.

O’Neill noted with a smile that his last state of the city address was one of the few speeches he’d been able to give in-person that year prior to the shutdowns.

“There’s a lot of ability to look back on that [year] and have a dark sense of humor ..., but I don’t think that’s really the Newport way of looking back on times of troubles. I think we look back on it and think about all the ways that we showed our resilience and we showed our character,” said O’Neill.


“There were a lot of moments during that year where a lot of people stepped up and did amazing things,” he said.

O’Neill called attention to the efforts of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and people like restaurateur Mario Marovic, who received the key to the city in December, in the earliest days of the pandemic. He pointed to the junior lifeguard program that year, which had been in danger of being shuttered because of exposure risks and how it managed successfully that summer. He also noted the street infrastructure upgrades that were able to happen that year because people were driving less.

“It’s one of those things where you look back and you just say, ‘OK. We stood up and we understood it was a really difficult time, but how do we handle it?’ and we handled it with character and resilience, which says a lot about our community.”

He said this year, as was intended for 2020, will focus on celebrating “helpers.” As examples, he pointed to local organizations like Newport Beach Foundation, the Ben Carlson Foundation, the Patrick’s Purpose Foundation, Friends of OASIS and former councilwoman and community activist Jean Watt, who died last year.

O’Neill also touched on statistics from the Newport Beach police and fire departments, city departments and upcoming or ongoing public works projects including the trash interceptor, the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards headquarters, the Superior Avenue bridge and the replacement of the Balboa Branch Library and Fire Station No. 1 on Balboa Boulevard. He expressed his appreciation to city staff, touching on the general plan updates and the Balboa Island Ferry.