Eastside resident Julie Mercurio has long played a somewhat behind-the-scenes role in shaping the political conversation in Costa Mesa.
As the administrator of Costa Mesa Public Square — a community Facebook group with nearly 6,300 members — Mercurio says she's worked to encourage discussion about issues facing the city.
Now, she's taking things a step further. Mercurio said Wednesday she is "100%" committed to running for one of the three City Council seats available in November's election.
Mercurio, 47, said one of her major goals is to "return Costa Mesa to its family-oriented roots." Specifically, she wants to look at increasing open space and programs for younger children.
She has two children, a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.
"I'm going to focus on the families, focus on programs for kids, focus on how vibrant Costa Mesa is as a community," she said.
Mercurio is a 27-year Costa Mesa resident and works in accounts receivable at a Newport Beach law firm.
Though she has never run for elected office, she's no stranger to local politics. The Public Square Facebook page has served as both a forum to discuss goings-on in Costa Mesa and a debate stage for issues facing the city.
"I think it's been a useful tool to get the information to the community," Mercurio said. "Everyone is there to discuss issues, and I think that's why we've been successful. The members self-moderate."
Some, though, have dismissed the page as a mouthpiece for the current council majority — Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan — where opposing viewpoints are stifled.
Mercurio disputes those claims.
"All views are welcome there, all opinions are welcome there," she said. "What we won't put up with are 'F-bombs,' insults and things that don't belong in a public forum, inappropriate behavior."
Mercurio added she will likely make use of the Public Square during the campaign, and that all other council candidates will be able to as well.
"Everyone is welcome," she said.
Mercurio also said she wants to "continue with the revitalization" in the city. New development can help generate additional tax revenue and replace "decayed structures."
Though some have criticized the new development as contributing to the traffic building up on local roads, Mercurio said she sees traffic as more of a "regional problem, not just a Costa Mesa one. "
"I believe we can do our part, as a city, but as long as we are an employment center and an access point to the beach, we will have traffic," she said. "Our challenge is to keep that out of neighborhoods."
Two different growth-control initiatives are likely to share the ballot with Mercurio in November. One is being drafted by the city while the other, pushed by the activist group Costa Mesa First, would require direct voter approval of some larger local development projects.
The measure put forward by Costa Mesa First, Mercurio believes, violates private property rights.
"I believe it will eventually be overturned by the court, if it passes," she said. "I think a cornerstone of our nation is the right to own property and develop it, within reason."
Mercurio is the fifth candidate to announce a November council bid.
Mesa Verde residents Jay Humphrey and John Stephens, Eastside resident Lee Ramos, and Al Melone, who lives in the State Streets, have said they are running.
Allan Mansoor, a former state assemblyman and Costa Mesa mayor, has filed paperwork indicating he plans to run, but has not officially announced.