You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in town who had a bigger news year than Costa Mesa City Councilman Jim Righeimer. The former Planning Commission chairman went toe-to-toe with the police union, which smeared his name on billboards and websites and spent heavily to defeat him, but Righeimer's message of lower spending and creating less-generous retirement packages for public employees resonated with voters, who chose him overwhelmingly in a crowded field.
Allen Rieckhof, president of the Costa Mesa Police Assn., found himself in the newspaper more than usual, as the union's political arm flexed its muscle in trying to prevent Jim Righeimer from winning a council seat. There was a much-talked about mobile billboard steering residents to the association's website criticizing all-things "Riggy." When Righeimer confronted police about a DUI checkpoint, the association called for an investigation.
He has been carrying the weight of the city's business on his back for 25 years, but that will soon end. City Manager Allan Roeder decided he will hand the job to his No. 2, Tom Hatch, in March, ending his 35-year career with the city. Roeder's last year was made tough by budget cuts and layoffs but his tenure is marked by countless successes, arguably making him one of the most accomplished city managers in Orange County history.
Amid an $8-million deficit, Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff cut back on spending, renegotiated public employee union contracts, outsourced some services and instituted an early retirement program. He took heat from Lido Isle residents for not being able to prevent the opening of a rehab home there and on changes to mooring policies in the harbor, but overall Kiff won praise for problem-solving and bringing professionalism to the job.
A former mayor who spearheaded the effort to raise funds for Newport Beach's newly opened OASIS Senior Center, Evelyn Hart unwittingly became stuck in the middle of a debate between those who wanted to name the entire center after her and others who wanted to follow city policy that restricts naming public buildings after individuals. The City Council voted on a compromise in which the event center within the facility was named after Hart.