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Mayor Webb navigates 100 years in talk

February 17, 2006|By By Alicia Robinson

Dapper Don Webb leads audience at dinner on a unique journey through Newport history.Newport Beach Mayor Don Webb took part in a 25-year tradition and brought more than 100 years of history with him when he presided over the annual Speak Up Newport Mayor's Dinner on Wednesday.

Resplendent in a top hat and Newport Beach-themed vest and bow tie, Webb also broke with tradition at the event, held at the Newport Beach Marriott, attended by about 40 and emceed by Daily Pilot columnist and former Costa Mesa Mayor Peter Buffa. Most mayors select a keynote speaker and use their own time at the podium for a "state of the city" address.

Instead, Webb was the main attraction, and he talked about one of his favorite subjects, Newport Beach history. He's excited about the city's 100th birthday, which is officially Sept. 1 but will be celebrated all year.

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Webb started with the 1860s, when the harbor was shallow and hard to navigate, and he stressed a number of pivotal moments: when the McFadden brothers failed to make a commercial success of Newport as a shipping hub; when the Red Car reached Newport in 1905, cementing the city as a tourist destination; a 1920 bond issue that paid to rechannel the Santa Ana River and construct the harbor much as it remains today; the first Newport to Ensenada race in 1948; and the original John Wayne Airport settlement agreement in 1985.

On Thursday, Webb answered a few questions for the Daily Pilot about his first mayor's dinner as the city's mayor:

Question: You took the mayor's dinner in a little different direction than in the past. Why did you decide to go that route?

Answer: The main reason I went that route is because of the centennial, and I really wanted to give people an opportunity to hear about the history of Newport, and I felt that it would be a little more interesting than relating what has happened last year and what we're going to do next year, because you guys write that up on a regular basis, and I just felt that I could tell a better story this way.

Q: How did the crowd receive it?

A: I got a number of compliments -- actually one of the things I noticed is that during the presentation, a lot of the time, you'll hear people talking and rustling around, and I didn't hear that happening.

Q: How do you think it compared to previous years?

A: I thought it went very well, and because of the reaction of the crowd afterward that everybody had a good time and they left with a smile on their face.

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