Costa Mesa mayor steps down from post

Gary Monahan announced Friday that he will step down as Costa Mesa's mayor but will retain his post on the City Council.

His resignation from the largely ceremonial position is effective Tuesday.

"I got to make a decision, and being mayor and all the additional duties takes a lot of time and has taken me away from my family and my business," Monahan told the Daily Pilot. "I'm not giving my family what they deserve, and the city what it deserves."

Monahan leaves halfway through his third nonconsecutive term as mayor, a two-year position that rotates among the five council members.

"It was more intense, more controversial," he said of the last year when compared with his earlier mayoral terms. "I'm glad I did it. But you know, it's taken its toll."

His reputation among council watchers and city employees took a major blow in 2011 onSt. Patrick's Day— the busiest day of the year for his Costa Mesa business, Skosh Monahan's — when Monahan elected to remain working at his bar even after a 29-year-old city worker who was expecting a layoff notice jumped to his death from atop City Hall.

While employees lashed out at city officials who were at City Hall, Monahan stayed away from the scene, apparently at the advice of his colleagues. Monahan later apologized for not being there to help city cope with the death of Huy Pham.

Many critics still bring up Monahan's response to Pham's suicide at public meetings.

Monahan has also missed several council meetings in the last year and left early from others. Much of his time at the dais has been playing referee between his fellow council members, who often clash with Councilwoman Wendy Leece.

Leece opposes the majority's outsourcing measures.

Monahan has seen some of his passions come to full bloom, though. He pushed more than a decade ago to revamp the fields at the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex, and now that's being studied by a private contractor and local committee.

"Gary's been a solid leader, and I understand the time commitment and the amount of pressure that's on your family and your business," said Councilman Steve Mensinger.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer — who observers predict will be the next mayor when Monahan's successor is appointed during a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday — complimented Monahan.

"I just think that Gary's given a lot of time and effort to the city, but clearly with the economy the way it is, he's got to spend more time with his business," Righeimer said. "He's getting pulled in different directions. And how is he going to support his family without a business?"

Some residents said Monahan's resignation was a long time coming.

"It wasn't a complete surprise. It was something that a number of people predicted," said Perry Valantine, assistant treasurer for Costa Mesans for Responsible Government. "The speculation was at some point Gary would step down, and Jim would become mayor, because that's kind of the role he's been playing, really."

Monahan said he will seek reelection to the council in November.

"I've been thinking about this since the holidays, since they were really stressful," he said. "I'm still here and I'm still going to get yelled at and praised from both sides of the spectrum, but, you know, I just feel it's time to let somebody else step up. That way I can hopefully adjust myself and continue on."

Twitter: @JosephSerna

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World