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Two sides of the Mensinger story

Throughout his career, he has been hailed as pillar of the community but also criticized as a bully.

May 02, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com

Editor's note: This corrects what year Steve Mensinger left Bethany Management Group and his role in Pop Warner. This adds a situation former coworker Judy Enlow reported.

COSTA MESA — Shortly after his appointment in January to the City Council, Steve Mensinger became embroiled in the debate about how to solve Costa Mesa's budget problems.

Mensinger sided with a council majority in approving a plan to outsource 213 city jobs. The council's decision angered many community members and spawned the creation of Repair Costa Mesa, an activist group opposed to the outsourcing plan.

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Mensinger may be a council newcomer, but the former city planning commissioner has been actively involved in youth sports in the community and as a sports booster at Estancia High School. He was the president of Pop Warner Football.

Many of his admirers say that he single-handedly revived youth football at Estancia.

Mensinger, 49, who has worked as a successful Orange County businessman, has widely been described as a friendly man who cares about his community.

Others say, however, his reputation as a pillar of the community was shaken after April 23, when the councilman allegedly got into an altercation with English teacher Joel Ruben Flores during the fourth annual Costa Mesa Community Run. Detractors say it wasn't the first time that Mensinger has shown a feistier side.

Flores claims that Mensinger "chest-bumped" him, that Mensinger bumped his shoulder with his chest, and that the councilman altogether physically intimidated him.

Mensinger does not deny that he exchanged words with Flores, but he denies that he made physical contact with the teacher who allegedly was criticizing him for endorsing the outsourcing plan. Mensinger said many people find him intimidating because of his size.

"I can't change that I'm 6 foot, 4 inches," said Mensinger. "I am who I am."

Putting down roots in O.C.

Mensinger began working as a driver in 1985 for real estate investor George Argyros. Mensinger had moved to Southern California from Stockton to attend USC, and decided that the Southland was for him.

In 1990, Mensinger married his wife, Robin, who works as a TV producer at the Walt Disney Co. They have two sons.

It didn't take Mensinger long to climb the corporate ranks, and 11 years after working for Argyros, he had risen to director of real estate.

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