Mayor Elizabeth Pearson announced Wednesday that she intends to run for reelection.
Pearson is one of the three council incumbents whose term ends this year, when the city is facing some of its toughest economic challenges. Pearson is completing her second term on the council and her third year as mayor.
“Our greatest challenge going forward will be to keep our city fiscally solvent while ensuring that critical city services continue at a high level so that our residents can continue to enjoy the quality of life they deserve,” Pearson said. “This will be my primary mission during the next four years.”
Pearson is the second of the three incumbents to announce their candidacy.
Councilman Kelly Boyd confirmed speculation that he is a candidate for reelection at the annual Outgoing Mayor’s luncheon Feb. 5 at the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club.
Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman has yet to make an official announcement, but supporters are encouraging her to run for a fourth term, and she likes the current composition of the council.
“We are doing a good job,” Iseman said Wednesday. “It’s a good mix. You never know who the three votes [majority] are going to be on any particular item. So there is deliberation and real consideration.”
During two previous two terms as mayor, Pearson attracted national attention to the city’s plight in the wake of the Bluebird Canyon landslide in June 2005.
As mayor, Pearson personally contacted Sen. Dianne Feinstein to seek assistance in reversing the Federal Emergency Management Agency decision that the landslide recovery was not eligible for federal funding, which also left state aid in limbo.
After visiting the slide area and speaking with displaced families, Feinstein pledged her assistance, which led to the city receiving more than $30 million in disaster relief funding to repair the damaged infrastructure.
However, it was Pearson’s personal commitment to the families who lost their homes that endeared her to them.
She is credited with the fact that no lawsuits were filed, unlike what has happened in other cities under similar circumstances.
Her leadership in the face of the disaster was so highly regarded that she was elected by the council to serve a second consecutive term as mayor in 2006.
Pearson’s achievements on the council also include her lengthy campaign to build the new senior center, which opened in January 2009; her efforts to ensure that a hospital remained in Laguna Beach; and her work as co-chairwoman with Iseman on the Business Assistance Task Force to help local businesses succeed in these difficult times and to encourage new ones to open in town.
“With the current state of the economy — real estate, sales and bed tax revenues to the city are all down,” Pearson said. “It is going to be critical to continue to help our existing businesses thrive, as well as to attract new businesses to fill our empty storefronts. We will need to join with the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor’s Bureau to do everything we can to lead economic development activities.”
Prior to serving on the City Council, Pearson served 6 1/2 years on the City’s Planning Commission.
She now serves on the board of trustees of Laguna Beach Live! and the Laguna Plein Air Painters’ Assn. — ex-officio.
Pearson is also the City Council liaison to the Festival of Arts, Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Beach Seniors.
A longtime resident of north Laguna, Pearson was active in the North Laguna Civic Assn. before moving to Top of the World.
Outside the city, Pearson was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to the state Regional Water Quality Control Board San Diego region in 2008, from which she subsequently resigned to be free to vote on water quality issues before the council.
Pearson previously served on the Orange County Forum board of directors and co-chaired the membership committee of the Orange County Business Council.
Professionally, Pearson is a marketing professional who has worked in financial services, government and nonprofit sectors.
She has been a Laguna resident for 27 years and has adopted a rescue dog.
Boyd has deep roots in this city
Boyd earned his chops in the last three years on the council as the leader of the opposition to a state designation of the city as a marine reserve and as the architect of a realistic solution to the plight of the homeless in Laguna and its impact on the city.
“Many people expected Boyd to represent the downtown businesses and be against the homeless when he was elected,” said Ed Sauls, who served as the chairman of the Homeless Task Force and the Advisory Committee on Homelessness, instigated by Boyd. “But he has one of the most compassionate hearts in town.”
Boyd is a notoriously soft touch at fundraisers, his name always appearing on several silent auction bid sheets.
Boyd considers his role in hiring Ken Frank as city manager during his first term in office in the 1980s as one of his most important contributions to the city’s well being.
When Boyd took the oath of office Dec. 5, 2006, it had been 24 years since he last sat on the City Council dais.
Although out of politics for years, Boyd had name recognition as the owner of a popular Marine Room tavern, which caters to locals and deep roots in the community — he is a fourth generation Lagunan.
Boyd and his four siblings are the grandchildren of Maria and Joe Thurston, whose parents homesteaded Aliso Canyon in the late 1800s.
Thurston Middle School is named for his grandmother, a teacher.
The Thurstons donated the property to the school district on which Laguna Beach High School was built and established a scholarship in the 1950s, administered today by the high school Scholarship Foundation.
A graduate of the high school, Boyd attended Orange Coast College and USC. He served in U.S. Army in Vietnam where he helped establish an orphanage.
Boyd worked in various restaurants in Laguna and on a commercial fishing boat before acquiring the Marine Room more than 20 years ago.
Boyd was third in the voting in the 2006 election, behind Iseman and Pearson, squeaking past Verna Rollinger in what many political pundits considered an upset.
Former political consultant Norm Grossman said Mayor Steven Dicterow’s decision not to run for a fourth term may have been a factor in Rollinger’s loss.
“If he had run, the Republicans would have had three candidates, which might have benefited Verna by splitting off some votes from Kelly,” Grossman said.
Boyd thinks he appealed to a broad cross section of the community.
He was the only man in the council race and the first name on the ballot.
Political observers said Boyd overcame a late entry into the race — virtually on the deadline to declare candidacy — with the support of local Republicans and the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn.
Rollinger said the Laguna Beach Firefighters Assn.’s independent campaign on his behalf should not be underestimated.
“Obviously, the support of the firefighters was helpful to my campaign,” Boyd said. “The president of the Firefighters Assn., Andrew Hill, talked me into running. The Hills are old family friends, they have been in town since the 1940s and the kids grew up here.”
The announcement of Pearson’s and Boyd’s candidacies indicates the interest being generated by the local election, and the national one. Competition for funds will be intense.
Laguna has a campaign contribution limit on individual contributions to a candidate, adjusted in each even year to reflect changes in the consumer price index for the Los Angeles-Orange County area metropolitan area, rounded to the nearest $10.
The council figured the proposed increase from $360 per election cycle to $370 wasn’t worth the trouble.
A motion Tuesday to hold a public hearing on the allowable increase failed for lack of a second, leaving the limit at the current level until 2012.
The election will be Nov. 2.