Montgomery named mayor, promises civility on, off dais 

Richard Montgomery speaks after becoming mayor for the fourth time, flanked by Councilmembers David Lesser and Steve Napolitano. Photos by Kevin Cody

by Mark McDermott 

Richard Montgomery became mayor of Manhattan Beach on Tuesday night after Steve Napolitano handed him the gavel in the City’s mayoral rotation tradition, or what the latter has jokingly referred to in the past as “the peaceful transition of power.” 

This will be Montomery’s fourth time serving as mayor. Napolitano completed his record sixth term as mayor. 

“I now join the shortlist of five people who have served four terms or more as mayor,” Montgomery said. “Of course, no one is ever going to catch Mayor Napolitano in serving six terms. When you get elected when you’re 22 years old, as he did, you get a big head start.” 

Napolitano was actually elected at 26 in 1992. He left City government for nearly a dozen years to serve as deputy for LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and returned in 2018. Montgomery said his colleague’s last rotation as mayor could not have been more perfectly aligned with the City’s need for seasoned leadership. 

“Last year, we were still under the Governor’s emergency order. We all remember that, right? Waiting for that day it was going to release itself,” Montgomery said. “I knew Steve was the right person for that job because once you have that order lifted, you want to go back to our path to normalcy. Steve, you were that guy to lead us back out…The mood of the city itself changed. You did it with strength when needed, and compassion, the whole time you were mayor.” 

Councilperson Amy Howorth also thanked Napolitano. 

“I am so grateful for your leadership and I think the whole community is,” she said. “You make it look easy to somehow be funny, somehow be rational, and somehow be inclusive. All of the things you do, you do with a smile on your face, mostly —  and when you are cranky, it’s for a reason that actually moves us forward.” 

Howorth presented Napolitano with a small trophy of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. He read its inscription aloud, laughing. “This ain’t my first rodeo,” he said, a comment he himself has often made at the dais. 

“This ain’t his first rodeo,” Councilperson David Lesser said. “You’ve been a public servant for our community for 31 years, including the roughly 12 years that you spent with our supervisor’s office. Moreover, it’s what you’ve done while serving all those years for our community, and it’s consequential things that he’s contributed to our community,  including in his last tour as mayor our public facilities, our police and fire facility, Metlox Plaza, our library. I was there. You have made a huge difference, including this last weekend [at Bruce’s Beach].” 

Lesser, at the meeting’s end, would make the motion to agendize a formal public apology to the families of Bruce’s Beach, which Napolitano has long advocated for, most emphatically at the conclusion of his speech at Saturday’s plaque unveiling. 

Mayor Richard Mongomery and outgoing mayor Steve Napolitano share a hug.

Napolitano began his own remarks circling back to what he said last year when his rotation started. “It’s good to be mayor,” he said. He concluded by thanking his family, colleagues, city staff, and circle of friends. 

“So as my sixth term as mayor comes to an end, I want to especially thank the people of Manhattan Beach,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud to serve my hometown. It’s an honor that never gets old. My appreciation for this opportunity has only grown since I was first elected. I love Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach is my home and I will always do my best for it, and for everyone in it. Always. Now let’s get back to getting things done.” 

The first order of business was a 5-0 vote naming Montgomery mayor and Joe Franklin as mayor pro tem. 

Montgomery began his remarks with an apology. He said his favorite quote, from former mayor Mitch Ward, is, “Be brief, be sincere, and be seated,” and asked the audience’s indulgence to break the briefness rule. He had a long list of thanks, including his colleagues, parents, his siblings, the people who’d originally helped him get elected, and his wife, Diane. 

“I was asked by many what my priorities will be in my fourth term as mayor,” Montgomery said. “Let’s see, in 2008, we had the Great Recession, not a great start. Second term, 2012, the City’s centennial. That was cool, right? Third term,  2020,  COVID. I took over as mayor 12 days before the Governor shut down the entire state and closed our beaches. That was March 19, 2020. Ironically, that was three years and two days ago from today…I never sat in that chair for any meetings, as mayor, for the entire term. We had three meetings a week [by Zoom].” 

Montgomery said the current council has a rare breadth of experience. He said some of his colleagues served alongside him during the Great Recession and others through the darkest days of the pandemic. 

“Because of all these past experiences, this current Council has 54 years of council experience together,” he said. “Fifty-four years. So I’m not worried about whatever comes our way. We have the best, most experienced team —  the Council and staff —  of any city in California. This staff and the entire council believes and practices ‘service above self.’” 

Finally, Montgomery said that as mayor he will reintroduce more civility to civic discourse. He strongly urged residents to be courteous with staff, noting that during the pandemic the tenor of communications became increasingly discourteous. He said that change would begin on the dais.

“We’re bringing mutual respect and civility back to the dais,” Montgomery said. “It’s been too long. No more interruptions when other council members are speaking, or talking over them. It will be respectful on the dais first, and set an example for our residents to see and hear. No excuses. I’m also asking my colleagues to abstain from any speeches about political parties or opinions about a president or district attorney or Sacramento politicians or declaring MB as a sanctuary city or anything outside of our direct control. As I said before, our only party commitment should be the City of Manhattan Beach. We need to care about our own backyard.” ER 

The Manhattan Beach City Council applaud Steve Napolitano, who completed his sixth term as mayor.


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