Henn chosen as Newport mayor

NEWPORT BEACH — A new mayor took control of the dais Tuesday night and outlined a vision of streamlined city government, revived commercial districts and a more technologically advanced City Council.

Mike Henn, a businessman who was reelected in November to his second term on the City Council, assumed responsibility from outgoing Mayor Keith Curry.

The council unanimously selected Nancy Gardner to replace Henn as mayor pro tem.

Henn said some of his tasks for the coming year include rehabilitating the "deteriorating and under-served areas" like Mariner's Mile, Balboa Village and Lido Marina Village, and privatizing some city services.

"The business of government has changed, and our government must change to reflect that," he said.

After relinquishing the seat, Curry summarized some of the city's milestones in the past year. He mentioned fiscal planning he initiated, which helped close an $8-million budget deficit and contributed to the city's AAA rating from the major credit agencies. He also praised the charter reforms passed in November under Measure V and the ground breaking at the new civic center.

"All in all, these are accomplishments I'm very proud of," he said.

The mayor's position in Newport is a one-year role and is mostly ceremonial — he or she sets the tone at council meetings, and gets an additional stipend.

Henn, who has served as chief financial officer for the Vons Cos. and KB Home, both Fortune 500 companies, has taken on similar roles on the council. He chaired the Finance Committee and the Economic Development Committee.

Henn wants to update the technology at City Hall. He wants to create an iPad application for council agendas and a mayoral Facebook page to communicate with residents.

"I'm a technological dinosaur, so this will be a great leap for me," he said.

First elected in 2006, Henn represents District 1, which includes the Balboa Peninsula, Lido Isle and Lido Marina Village. Before that, he was a planning commissioner.

Rush Hill, the newest council member, was sworn in as well. He promised to restructure city employee compensation and benefits to make them "affordable, competitive and sustainable." Hill also mentioned Lido Marina Village and Mariner's Mile as under-performing areas that needed a "renewal."

"I feel a sense of urgency in bringing together the multiple property owners," Hill said of Mariner's Mile, "to achieve a comprehensive plan for the economic revitalization of the mixed-use district."

Hill represents Mariner's Mile, Dover Shores and other areas on the west side of the Upper Bay that encompass District 3.

He also called for a committee to address the "spiraling upward cost" of running for City Council. Hill spent more than $70,000 to beat Ed Reno, and Reno spent more than $80,000 in the fall race.

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