The 2016 Grammy-winning Woodbridge High School Chamber Singers sang the National Anthem and a Christmas carol. The evening was at times serious and ceremonial, with appropriate pomp and circumstance, such as during the convocation and the presenting of colors. But overall the gathering was celebratory, optimistic and even humorous. Who knew Mayor Don Wagner had a playful sense of humor?
“We will start with mayor, because, well, it’s good to be mayor,” he said before taking his oath first, during which he paused for comedic affect, getting a chuckle from the audience. It was one of many.
Wagner served almost as emcee of the evening, bringing a relaxed and collegial attitude to the ceremony that bodes well for how city council sessions may be conducted. He presented his wife with a bouquet of flowers, thanking her for her support and calling her the “new first lady of Irvine.”
Wagner introduced his family members present in the audience, as well as friends from the state legislature and other public servants and politicians in the audience. He also introduced former Mayor Steven Choi, who is taking over Wagner’s 68th Assembly seat.
After being sworn in, Christina Shea brought her family down for a group photo, including several grandchildren.
New councilmember Melissa Fox thanked her supporters after being sworn in, and had a photo taken with her family.
The dapper Assembly Member from District 74, Matthew Harper, which includes parts of Irvine, spoke to congratulate the new Irvine team, as did former Mayor Choi. Mayor Wagner then offered each councilmember a chance to speak.
Shea listed several policy goals she had focused on during her first four years, including the Orange County Great Park. “We hadn’t seen a lot out there,” she said about the park’s status four years ago. “Now, the park is really growing. I’m very pleased with my colleagues for approving that back in 2013,” she said, referring to the approval of the FivePoint plan to develop 688 acres at the Orange County Great Park, including the a 175-acre sports park.
Shea also cited paying down the city’s pension liability, stabilizing the city’s workforce and settling with the state to bring millions in redevelopment money back to the city’s general fund over several years. Shea said she’s most proud of the organic pesticide program put in place in the city’s parks and open space.
For the future, Shea said she hopes the new city council will “approve a veterans cemetery at the Great Park as soon as possible, and approve plans to build a temporary amphitheater this coming year, along with a water park in the Great Park,” as well as addressing traffic and growth in the community.
Councilmember Fox thanked Larry Agran and Beth Krom for appointing her to the Irvine Community Services Commission. “It started me on this journey,” she said. Fox thanked the mayor and city councilmembers for their “spirit of friendship and collegiality, which I’m sure will continue throughout this year. Fox also introduced the commissioners and committee members she is appointing, as well as her advisors, staff and even interns. Observers were impressed by the youth, educational accomplishments and diversity of the Fox team, as well as the experience and skill Fox said they possess.
Fox said her focus is going to be on “childcare, affordable housing, transportation, and I’m bringing this team with me to do that.”
Returning councilmembers Lynn Schott and Jeffrey Lalloway also spoke, welcoming and congratulating the mayor and new council members. “Mayor Wagner, it has a nice ring to it,” Lalloway said.
Schott was also selected by the council to resume her service as mayor pro tem of Irvine.
Former mayoral candidate Gang Chen and city council candidate Anthony Kuo were observed in the audience, which is taken as a positive sign that they’ll remain active in city affairs. No doubt other candidates among the many who ran in 2016 were present as well.
At the end of the evening, Mayor Wagner thanked everyone for attending. “This is a special time to be on this council, and a special time to be a resident of this fine city. I thank all of you for the support, the vote of confidence and the opportunity to serve.”
“This is fun,” Wagner said. “Now let’s get down to work.”
Before everyone adjourned to a reception, the new mayor ended with a quip: “This is as easy as it’s going to get, folks.”