By Breeana Greenberg
Mike Frost will take the helm of the Dana Point City Council, as he’s set to serve as the town’s mayor for 2023, setting his sights on updating the city’s strategic plan.
City Council voted unanimously during its meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 6, to appoint Frost to the mayoral role and Councilmember Jamey Federico, who served as Dana Point’s mayor for 2021, as the mayor pro tem.
Offering a “quick glimpse into the vision of the next year,” Frost noted that the council will focus on the city’s strategic plan, aiming to be consistent in the council’s efforts.
Initially, Federico nominated Frost to be the next mayor of Dana Point and Councilmember Michael Villar as the mayor pro tem. However, Villar made an alternative motion to nominate Frost for the head role and Federico for the deputy position.
“I do really appreciate the nomination for being the mayor pro tem, unfortunately, my work schedule just won’t allow it,” Villar said. “I do want to publicly say that these guys make it look easy being the mayor pro tem and being the mayor. There is a lot of work that goes into that.”
During Tuesday night’s meeting, City Clerk Shayna Sharke swore in incoming Councilmember John Gabbard, representing Dana Point’s District 1, and Councilmember Matthew Pagano, who now represents District 2, as well as Federico, the incumbent.
“I think, the biggest thing for me is that we have some big shoes to fill,” Gabbard said. “Rick (Viczorek) and Joe (Muller), they did an awesome job on City Council, and I know all three of you and I think the world of you. I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
Pagano added that he was “blessed to be up here” on the dais, adding that he looked forward to working with his fellow councilmembers.
The council, community members and dignitaries recognized the two outgoing officials, Muller and Viczorek, for their efforts for the city over the last eight years.
Assemblymember Laurie Davies, outgoing Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9934, and the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vickie McMurchie presented the two outgoing councilmembers with commendations.
Viczorek and Muller also received commendations from the offices of Rep. Mike Levin and outgoing State Sen. Patricia Bates.
Davies noted that both she and Muller were originally from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, and had both served as neighboring mayors in Laguna Niguel and Dana Point, respectively.
“It’s really been a true blessing serving with you,” Davies said. “This is a man that does his homework, he’s very passionate about what he does, and you can tell again, how much you love this city.”
“You should be so proud of yourself,” Davies continued. “From one Fond Du Lac gal to another Fond Du Lac boy, they’d be proud too knowing that.”
Donna Kalez, chief operating officer of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching and chair of the Festival of Whales Foundation, thanked Muller and Viczorek for their support of the annual Festival of Whales.
“I’m here tonight to thank both Mayor Joe and Councilmember Viczorek for your steadfast contributions to the city for over eight years,” Kalez said. “You both served as mayor twice and that is truly an awesome accomplishment.”
Kalez thanked Viczorek as well for his help in securing Food Network’s Duff Takes the Cake to bake a cake in celebration of Dana Point earning the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World designation.
Jerry Lansky, better known as Jerry the Welder, voiced his gratitude for the councilmembers’ support in the industrial Doheny Village.
“I just wanted to come by and say thank you, Mayor Muller, Richard, for everything you guys have done for Capistrano Beach, Doheny Village, the industrial arts down there. You guys have really helped us bring it along,” Lansky said. “Mayor Muller was one of the first ones to help me out down there when we were going through some transitional periods.”
McMurchie thanked both outgoing councilmembers for their efforts to support the local business community.
“I just wanted to say on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, we have worked with a lot of mayors, I’ve personally worked with a lot of cities, and I have never known another mayor to be so readily available to our business community,” McMurchie said of Muller’s commitment to local businesses.
The two councilmembers also thanked the city staff for running Dana Point smoothly.
City Manager Mike Killebrew commented that the outgoing councilmembers often challenged staff on how and why things were done the way they were in order to improve the city’s efficiency.
“If we had a golden thorn award, (Muller) would certainly have earned it, and honestly, you made us all better,” Killebrew said. “I’ve heard that about Rick as well, you guys made us better. You made us do things better, you made us think differently.”
Federico echoed Killebrew’s comments, adding that Muller pushed him to be a more effective legislator.
“You are comfortable telling people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear,” Federico said. “It made you more effective, when we see you do that, it makes us more effective.”
“You stick to your guns on things,” Federico continued. “You have a vision for what this city should be and you worked hard for eight years to help achieve it.”
Muller recognized Viczorek’s tenure on City Council, noting that the two ran on the same platforms of finishing the Town Center, Doheny Village and the harbor revitalization.
“As most of you know, Rick and I, we campaigned together back in 2014, it’s where we met each other on the campaign trail,” Muller said. “We got to talking and we really became friends.”
“He’s a great family man, a great friend, he made me better as a mayor and as a legislator,” Muller continued. “He’s a great legislator, he’s very thoughtful and he’s strategic.”
Villar added that while the councilmembers may not have always agreed, they were still friends at the end of the day.
“We come in, we don’t fight with each other but we certainly take our stance and we have good, honest discord with each other, and then at the end, we shake hands and we clock out and we’re friends when we walk out,” Villar said.
Federico complimented Viczorek’s ability to be “principled without being political.”
“You are the sounding post up here, we always knew where you stood and your consistency really is valuable,” Federico said.
Reflecting on his two terms in office, Viczorek thanked his wife and children for their support through his two terms.
“If I’ve accomplished anything, it couldn’t have been done without my wife, Sarah, thank you, I love you, I couldn’t have done it without you,” Viczorek said.
Viczorek has three children, aged 8, 10 and 13. In recognizing his family, Viczorek noted that his youngest was just born when he first joined the City Council.
“For all of the times that I wasn’t there or couldn’t make it to one of your games, I really appreciate the fact that you guys didn’t complain about it and supported me in what I was doing,” Viczorek said, speaking to his kids.
Similarly, Muller thanked his family for their support during his time on council.
“Thank you for putting up with your dad for eight years, through all of the crazy stuff that went on in this city, the county agencies that I went through, there were some interesting times,” Muller said.
Offering advice to the new council, Muller said to “take advantage of it, enjoy it, I couldn’t believe how fast this was over.”
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org