In Manhattan Beach Council race, D’Errico not afraid to make hard choices
by Ryan McDonald
Tony D’Errico’s time in politics so far has been helped by his rare gift of being able to see Manhattan Beach through two sets of eyes: his, and those of his wife. D’Errico moved to the city from New York 21 years ago. He fell in love with the area and, not much later, he fell in love with his wife, who was born and raised in the area. As a result, his social circle was dominated by long-time locals.
“I didn’t come here with 100 friends. My friends are her friends, and her mom and dad’s friends,” D’Errico said.
The result is an ability to see two sides of Manhattan Beach: the laid-back beach town of the past, and the highly sought-after real estate it has become. D’Errico said he is not committed to one or the other. Indeed, he does not view his job as a matter of choosing, instead equating governing with simply doing what’s right — especially when that means making hard choices.
D’Errico is one of eight candidates seeking three spots on the Manhattan Beach City Council in the upcoming March election. Much to his own surprise, he won a seat on the council in 2013, and hopes that his second and final term will allow him to achieve the goals he began with.
D’Errico has more than 30 years of business experience, rising to a senior executive position with a tech firm whose budget was more than four times larger than that of the city he now helps run. He moved to Southern California for work, but found that extensive work commitments meant he was travelling too much to really enjoy the area.
He stepped back from his corporate position about a decade ago, and dedicated himself to a pair of local retail outlets in downtown Manhattan, Bella Beach and Bella Beach Kids. In this capacity, he got involved with the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professional Association.
He was speaking at one of the association’s meetings, and then-Mayor Portia Cohen happened to be in attendance. She approached him after the meeting, and urged him to run for City Council, saying that his executive experience could be a significant asset to the body.
He points to the experience with the redevelopment of the Manhattan Village Mall. He was a dissenting vote on the initial proposal, which was approved by a 3-2 vote. His decision, he said, came from both his sense of what would work for brick-and-mortar retail, and his sense of what worked for the community. Nonetheless, he said, his move was unpopular with his friends.
“I felt very strongly on what needed to be done there. I can’t make a decision based on friends. If my friends want to disown me for that, then they should probably disown me,” D’Errico said.
In the end, D’Errico was vindicated. The developer returned to the council in December with a second, much-changed proposal that secured unanimous approval.
In his soon-to-expire term as mayor, D’Errico made meeting management a priority, another decision that has prompted criticism, including in letters to the editor in this newspaper. Among other modifications, he changed the format of public comment at council meetings. While some have said that it limited public input, D’Errico disagrees, arguing that it has done just the opposite: Prior to the change, a small number of residents would sometimes speak for more than an hour, drawing meetings out to the wee small hours. By ensuring that meetings end earlier, D’Errico argues, it is easier for residents to hear and participate in discussion on issues they care about. (And, he is quick to point out, council members are less tired and more alert.)
“The process is more transparent and fair to the vast majority of residents,” D’Errico said. “If I am fortunate enough to be reelected, then I will continue to push for these goals.
D’Errico’s willingness to make hard choices has made fans even of people who are dedicated to a cause. Julie Profet, chair of of Friends of Polliwog Park, said that D’Errico has consistently listened to and understood the needs of the organization, appreciating the need to preserve green space and take into account the needs of the park’s neighbors. But she is equally impressed by the way that he is able to listen and find pragmatic solutions.
“He always seems willing to take a stand for what’s right, and not just what’s right for me or our organization,” Profet said. “He’s plainspoken and forthright to the council.”