The mayor of Newport Beach now has a challenger for his City Council seat.
Supported by more than 50 people who gave more than $60,000 at a "Draft Duffy" party Wednesday night, Marshall "Duffy" Duffield agreed to run for the District 3 seat — a decision that the businessman said did not come naturally to him.
"It's shocking to me," he said. "I don't aspire to this. It's just out of necessity and others pushing me, supporting me to do this."
Many residents are fed up with a local government that they believe spends too much and is out of touch with its constituents, said Duffield, who is well known in the city for the electric boats that his namesake company produces.
But Duffield noted that a significant opportunity to change the direction of the seven-person council has opened up with four council members reaching their term limits and Mayor Rush Hill facing reelection.
He just hadn't anticipated that he would be the one to take advantage of it.
A resident of Newport Beach since he was a child, Duffield recalled nights spent sitting around the dinner table, listening to his father discuss efforts to stop a freeway from being built through town.
It took seven years of fighting to stop that project, he said, but the lesson in civic engagement has stuck with him.
"The bottom line is that if you don't do anything about it, you don't have any right to complain about it," he said.
And so, Duffield entered the council race.
Duffield hopes the city can get a better handle on its long-term debt. He also believes that the council should reevaluate the city's revenue sources — for instance, whether residents are being taxed too much or charged too much for permits.
A harbor commissioner for 10 years until 2012, Duffield criticized the current council for a lack of respect for its commissions. He said he believes council members should be better listeners rather than ignore recommendations in favor of their own agendas.
"The council does what it wants," he said of the current group. "It doesn't do what the people want."
With respect to the harbor — the "crown jewel" of the city, he said — Duffield wants to pursue more frequent dredging in smaller amounts using city-owned equipment that could be leased to contractors.
He dismissed Hill's idea for a water taxi as one that simply sounded cool but could not be sustained. And it doesn't warrant a city subsidy, he added.
As for Hill's push for floating docks? He said the concept was nothing new and should be implemented slowly, as the need arises.
"Not everybody wants it," Duffield said. "Again, it's a question of listening to the people and giving them what they want, not telling them that they need these docks."
He said he does not believe that his business would preclude him from voting on harbor issues unless he stood to reap a direct financial gain.
Duffield said his business experience and past community involvement enable him to deal with other aspects of city government beyond management of the harbor.
He noted that he has had a payroll since he was 19 years old — "I have a very clear understanding of hiring and firing people" — and that his boat manufacturing business is extremely labor intensive. He calls himself "one of the few people that make anything anymore."
He attended Newport Beach schools, married his high school sweetheart and raised his three children in the city.
As Duffield put it: "This is my place. I know this place."