By Jill Cowan and Bradley Zint
6:28 PM PST, November 7, 2012
Former Mayor Sandy Genis was greeted like an old friend Wednesday afternoon as she toured Costa Mesa City Hall.
Genis, who served from 1988 to 1996 and won election again Tuesday, hugged city staffers and ducked into offices. Though provisional ballots had not been counted, Genis so far has received the most votes in the eight-way race for three council seats.
Passing the coffee maker — a silver, fully automated Keurig affair — she remarked with a chuckle, "We've come up in the world!"
Of course, getting a K-cup machine isn't the only way City Hall has changed since Genis last sat on the dais. The top vote-earner in Tuesday's election — with 12,496 votes as of 5 p.m. Wednesday — Genis firmly reclaimed a spot on the council after some 16 years, but she and Councilwoman Wendy Leece face a host of new challenges as the likely dissenting voices against a tightly-bound council majority.
"At least I'm not the eye of the storm," she said, leaning against a wall in the council chambers.
The council split currently is 4-1, with Councilmen Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger and Jim Righeimer and Mayor Eric Bever on one side and Leece on the other. Leece and Genis are expected to vote together on controversial issues, resulting in a 3-2 split.
Before heading to Fair Drive, Genis said in a phone interview that her immediate plans include meeting with city CEO Tom Hatch and her fellow council members — and catching up on sleep and buying more thank-you cards for her supporters.
Her other goals include keeping the city's disaster plan current and checking out the privately run Orange County Humane Society facility in Huntington Beach, which Costa Mesa uses as its animal shelter.
Steve Mensinger's plans
Mensinger, who had earned 11,381 votes as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, making him the second-highest vote-getter, said the centerpiece of his upcoming term will focus on his "Contract with Costa Mesa."
The document includes stated goals of reforming an unsustainable employee pension system, investing in city infrastructure, restructuring the Costa Mesa Fire Department, advocating for transparency in city government and listening to his constituency.
He said he's been less focused on typical adjectives from campaigns and more focused on actually accomplishing goals.
"People who know me know that if I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it," he said.
Though Councilman Gary Monahan still was in the lead with the third-most votes Wednesday afternoon, attorney John Stephens — who campaigned alongside Genis — was a close fourth in the race for three open seats.
Monahan had 11,196 votes to Stephens' 10,877 — a difference of 319.
The top three vote-getters will take the three empty seats on the five-member council.