Jon Madison wants to take the next step.
After 14 years on the Laguna Beach Heritage Commission, he recently entered the race for one of three open seats on the City Council.
The owner of Madison Square & Garden Cafe on North Coast Highway said he originally thought about seeking a spot on the Planning Commission after Chairman Robert Zur Schmiede announced he would run for a council position.
But the 25-year resident decided the five-member council needs the perspective of another business person.
"I feel that we have to be more welcoming to businesses," said Madison, 57.
Madison said he would like to see the city become more tourist-friendly and foster a vibrant business climate, from South Laguna to the northern city limits.
"We could offer incentives, such as waiving building permit fees or reducing parking requirements," he said. "We are a resort town and need to embrace tourism."
Of particular concern are the numerous storefronts for rent, he said.
Madison believes the city needs a comprehensive business plan and suggests seeking ideas, even if it means calling surrounding areas and organizations for input.
"Why can't we say we need help," Madison said by phone.
The Irvine Co., which operates Fashion Island in Newport Beach, has a leasing agent find stores for its properties, Madison wrote in a follow-up email.
"I suggested we talk to the Irvine Co. or South Coast Plaza, not for development but [for] how they go about finding the businesses they need to fill their malls, etc.," he said.
Madison said he would also like to see residential units interspersed downtown to boost the area's vitality.
"We segregate businesses from residents," he said.
A New York native, Madison has owned law and landscape design firms and has served on the board of directors of South Coast Repertory, Pacific Symphony, Orange County Museum of Art, the Hortense Miller Garden and Laguna Shanti.
Heritage Committee member Rick Gold, who has known Madison for 20 years, considers him committed to Laguna.
"[Madison] always looks to both sides of things and works well with people," said Gold, a 37-year Laguna resident. "To me, he wants to be progressive and wants to move forward. He really thinks about how [issues] will affect the city."
Madison said he intends to serve with an open mind, give everyone a chance to speak, and make decisions based on facts and what he believes is best for the entire community.
Councilman Kelly Boyd said he plans to run for reelection if his health is good, Mayor Elizabeth Pearson recently announced she will not run for another term on the council and Councilwoman Toni Iseman is undecided.