Diane Dixon started her second term as a Newport Beach councilwoman by being selected mayor Tuesday night, and the outgoing mayor, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, took the oath of office to serve another four years as a councilman, a few hours before the county was to begin a recount of his razor-thin election victory in November over challenger Tim Stoaks.
Dixon, in District 1, and Duffield, in District 3, along with fellow incumbent Kevin Muldoon in District 4 and council newcomer Joy Brenner in District 6, were sworn in at a well-attended ceremony that struck hopeful and conciliatory tones.
Several people on the dais alluded to strain on and toward the council in the past year, but nobody spelled it out — chiefly, no one directly addressed the rancor over the circumstances surrounding the departure in August of former City Manager Dave Kiff.
Similarly, in nominating Dixon for mayor, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill — who was in line to ascend to the mayor’s seat — did not refer to a letter that about 70 residents signed urging the council not to promote him to the top spot. He called his move an olive branch.
The mayor pro tem and mayor are selected by the council for one-year terms.
“We do have an opportunity tonight for reconciliation and we do have the opportunity to move forward in a unified way with a renewed sense of optimism,” O’Neill said.
Dixon, who previously served as mayor in 2016, accepted the nomination and the council unanimously voted her in. In turn, Dixon nominated O’Neill for another year as mayor pro tem. The council again agreed unanimously.
Dixon said Newport residents see themselves as living in paradise and want to protect the community they love.
“There is much, much more that binds us than divides us,” she said.
Brenner, who topped District 6 incumbent Scott Peotter with roughly 57% of the vote in the Nov. 6 election, had a large and boisterous cheering section Tuesday that gave her a standing ovation after she took the oath of office.
She promised to work with her new council colleagues and her constituents to do what is right for the city.
“People are tired of dysfunction and disharmony, and they really want our representatives to represent each and every one in the community,” she said.
Duffield sent off his ally Peotter with admiring words about how he spoke his mind on what mattered to him — principles such as constrained spending and smaller government — not what would make him popular.
“We need more people like that in government,” Duffield said.
Peotter, who survived a recall attempt that Brenner backed in 2017, wished her well and said he was glad to see her take the District 6 seat.
Peotter said he stayed true to how he campaigned in 2014, and “although I'm not perfect, I believe I have acted honorably.”
Community activist Susan Skinner, one of the residents who signed the letter against O’Neill, calling him partisan and adversarial, was pleased with Tuesday’s turn of events.
“It is a time for community healing, and I think Diane will be someone who reaches out to the community [and] listen to them,” Skinner said. “I think she’s going to act in the best interests of the city.”