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City Council candidate appointed to Costa Mesa parks commission

To fill a vacant seat on the Parks and Recreation Commission, Costa Mesa City Council members Tuesday chose a woman who is running for a spot on the council this year.

On a 3-2 vote, with members Katrina Foley and Sandy Genis dissenting, the council picked Eastside resident Julie Mercurio from among 12 candidates to join the five-seat advisory commission.

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Mercurio, a longtime Costa Mesa resident, also is administrator of Costa Mesa Public Square, a community Facebook group with more than 6,500 members.

Though she recently announced she is running for City Council, Mercurio said Wednesday that she doesn't view the parks and recreation appointment as a political steppingstone. Rather, she said, she hopes to bring the commission the much-needed perspective of a mother.

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"I'm a proud mom and I've raised two kids using our amazing city amenities," she said. "I look forward to finally getting this key group, moms, a seat at the table."

The commission's four current members are men.

Council members drew numbers Tuesday to see who would nominate his or her preferred applicant first.

Foley won the draw and nominated Leah Ersoylu, a member of the city's Bikeway and Walkability Committee.

Mayor Steve Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan voted against the nomination, with Foley and Genis supporting it.

Monahan went next and nominated Mercurio. The three councilmen voted in favor of her appointment, with Foley and Genis opposed.

Council members didn't comment during the meeting about their votes, but afterward, Mensinger said Mercurio, as a mother and a committed community member, "really understands the needs of our parks."

"I think it speaks volumes that she represents 7,000 people on a Facebook page and she has a pulse on what the community wants," he said.

Foley said she voted against Mercurio "because I felt like there were other highly qualified individuals who took the time to submit detailed bios and explanation as to why they want to serve in their community."

"She gave us one sentence and essentially it seemed that she already had it all locked up," Foley said.

Mercurio's application read, in its entirety: "I would like to get more involved in the city. I have two children and am dedicated to preserving our open space. Thank you."

When asked to respond to Foley's comment Wednesday, Mercurio said: "Ms. Foley is not a member of Costa Mesa Public Square, so she isn't aware of how much interaction I've had with our community, both through personal meetings and via the nearly 7,000 members of the group.

"The amount of volunteer hours that I've spent the last two years listening and reading the comments, connecting people, working behind the scenes, certainly might not have translated in the two sentences that I jotted down on the application."

Mercurio will serve the remainder of the term of former Commissioner Don Harper, who resigned in April. The term expires in February.

Parks and recreation commissioners receive a $100 monthly stipend.

Others who have declared their intention to run for City Council in November are Mesa Verde residents Jay Humphrey and John Stephens, Eastside resident Lee Ramos, and Al Melone, who lives in the State Streets.

Allan Mansoor, a former Costa Mesa mayor and state assemblyman, also has filed paperwork indicating he plans to run.

The seats occupied by Genis, Mensinger and Monahan are up for election this year. Monahan is termed out.

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