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Daily Pilot

Righeimer becomes Costa Mesa mayor

Wendy Leece takes a run at top jobs, and residents on hand seemed to favor her, but the votes weren't there.

By Bradley Zint

11:08 AM PST, December 5, 2012

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Jim Righeimer was elected Tuesday night by his peers to be the next mayor of Costa Mesa.

The 3-2 vote during the City Council meeting — with Councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandy Genis dissenting — puts him in the largely ceremonial role for the next two years alongside Councilman Steve Mensinger, who after a 4-1 vote took the mayor pro tem seat.

Since first being elected to the dais in 2010, Righeimer has been a vocal proponent of addressing the city's pension liabilities through enacting a city charter and laying off employees, among other measures. The former failed at the Nov. 6 general election by a wide margin; the latter he eventually called off after the proposed number dropped from more than 200 pink slips to about 70.

Such hard-line measures, while currying him favor in fiscally conservative circles, have brought about the ire of organized labor and some community activist groups, which both campaigned against and raised more than $500,000 to defeat the proposed charter, dubbed Measure V on the ballot.

Leece had sought both the mayor and mayor pro tem seats but ultimately failed to garner enough votes for either.

The majority of residents spoke in favor of Leece for mayor, citing her community involvement, six years of council experience — including two as mayor pro tem — and supportive attendance at many city events.

Those favoring Righeimer credited him for his business know-how and willingness to tackle difficult issues, such as pensions.

Righeimer said the upcoming council of the next four years will face another recession and will need to find different ways for the city to operate.

"Because in the end, the public still expects us to deliver the services that we have to deliver," he said. "It is not popular … I do absolutely want to apologize for the way that I've had to be to force some of these issues through. And if I could have done them differently, I would have."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint