Newsmakers of the Year: Whalen and Dicterow shake up City Council

One newcomer to local politics and one veteran were featured in news stories from the day they announced their candidacies for City Council until the day they were installed.

There are similarities between newly seated councilmen Robert Whalen and Steven Dicterow.

Both are attorneys, both have raised their children in Laguna, and both have a histories of local public service. Both consider fiscal stability and public safety to be priorities.

The Laguna Beach Police Employees and the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assns. endorsed Whalen, to his delight and Dicterow's chagrin.

Whalen's community service included 10 years on the Laguna Beach Unified School District board and presidencies of Laguna Beach Little League, the Laguna Beach Boys & Girls Club, and SchoolPower. Most recently he served on the city Planning Commission, which he represented on the Homeless Task Force.

"Being on the commission has been great training for me," Whalen said. "There was a lot to learn about land-use policies, issues related to the Downtown Specific Plan and zoning in Laguna Canyon. It's all been helpful to me to understand how land use works in the city."

Whalen's day job is with the law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, where he has worked for more than 22 years, gaining experience in general obligation, pension and multi-family housing financing.

A 1975 cum laude graduate of Harvard, Whalen earned his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1978.

Whalen is married to Festival of Arts exhibitor Kirsten Whalen. The couple have three adult children, Erika, Andrew and Elliot.

Dicterow ran for his fourth term on the City Council after a six-year hiatus.

Actually, walked would be more accurate. Dicterow knocked on from 6,000 to 8,000 doors to promote his candidacy. He made himself known to many folks who have little grasp of local politics — those who leave town at 8 a.m., come home at 7 p.m. and don't have kids in Laguna schools.

"People want to know their council members, know they can call on them, talk to them," said Dicterow. "I showed them that I was accessible and that I was working really hard to get elected. We proved you don't have to spend the most money to win — that a grass-roots campaign can win."

The only candidate he outspent was Robert Ross, who did not hold a fundraiser.

As a conservative Republican, supported by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and endorsed by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), Dicterow could be considered an up-and-comer in countywide politics, but that doesn't interest him.

He said he is more interested in keeping Laguna College of Art & Design in town. Dicterow was on the council when attempts were made to move out the Laguna Art Museum and the Festival of Arts.

"I don't want that to ever happen with LCAD," Dicterow said.

Dicterow was endorsed by the Orange County Register editorial board and the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn.

His community activities include serving on the boards of the Festival of Arts until he resigned Dec. 3, and the Chamber of Commerce, and memberships in the North Laguna Community Assn. and in the Laguna Beach Neighborhood Watch.

He earned his bachelor's degree at State University of New York, Albany, and his law degree from USC. Dicterow and his wife, Catrina, have been married 27 years.

This election marks the first time since Dicterow shared the dais with Paul Freeman and Wayne Baglin in 1998 that men hold the majority of seats on the City Council.

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