Jim Righeimer is the new mayor of Costa Mesa. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / December 13, 2012)

Those priorities can't be put off until the city has "a good year," he says.

"Those good years do or do not happen," he says. "That doesn't make any difference on what your parks are."

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'Never, never give in'

Righeimer has repeatedly said he's not interested in a higher office. Rather, he says he's more apt to look to his neighbors, especially the older ones walking their dogs

"I wanna be like them. I want to be in my same neighborhood where I live now walking my dog when I'm 80," he says. "I'm not gonna want to worry about the whole 'streets weren't taken care of and things weren't done' and all that."

Righeimer is married and has three children who are receiving a religious education in a private school.

Tragedy struck, though, for Righeimer and his wife, Lene, nine years ago when their first daughter, Rebecca, suffered a cardiac arrest and died at age 4 and a half.

Righeimer's friends credit his resilience through that difficult period, and Righeimer says he is a different person today because of it. But it's an event he considers very personal and does not talk about with many people.

Though he may be mayor, he doesn't see himself as different than many other fathers.

"I'm a guy with kids, a family," he says. "I run a business and make sure that the bills are paid. I don't think I'm any different. I have the same cares and concerns and desires and wants for my kids and their future, but that once you dig into things and you know how things are, you realize that there's some tough decisions and things have to be fixed."

Through all that, he's influenced by Winston Churchill's rallying cry to "never, never give in."

"On a problem that's not gonna go away, you can't quit," he says. "It's not gonna go away. You gotta fix it."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint