By Kate Cagle

Daily Press Staff Writer

With two standing ovations, praise from state and national leaders and a hand-blown glass vase, the City Council said goodbye to long-standing city attorney Marsha Moutrie Tuesday.

Moutrie is retiring at the end of the year after weathering two decades of city politics and as many as 16 different city councilmembers. Before taking the job 22 years ago, she tuned into Santa Monica’s notoriously long city council meetings on television to get a taste of the job.

“And I applied anyway, which might show that I’m somewhat lacking in good sense,” Moutrie joked as she said goodbye to her colleagues.

During her tenure, the city took on a wide range of issues including a lawsuit against seven major oil companies over tainted well water in 2000. Three years later, Shell, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil settled the suit, agreeing to pay to build and maintain a treatment plant as well as give the city nearly $100 million.

“And then, as if taking on corporate America wasn’t enough, we’re now taking on the United States of America with lawsuits (involving) the Federal Aviation Administration,” Councilmember Kevin McKeown said. Earlier this year, City Hall declared its intent to shut down the Santa Monica Airport, despite the insistence of the FAA that the airport remain open.

“We take on big issues here and your record shows it,” Councilmember Terry O’Day said in front of dozens of employees from the City Attorney’s Office who came to Tuesday night’s meeting to say farewell to their boss. After swearing in new board members and appointing Mayor Ted Winterer and Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis, the meeting turned into a warm farewell ceremony for Moutrie.

“I almost feel like I have the incredible privilege of being alive at my own funeral,” Moutrie said. “This is fantastic.”

After each councilmember congratulated Moutrie on her retirement and reminisced about her tenure, they presented her with a portrait and a hand-blown glass vase, a nod to the little known fact Moutrie is an amateur florist who is responsible for many of the arrangements at city gatherings

“This council doesn’t think there are any problems too big for a city to tackle. That’s wonderful,” Moutrie said.

Or too small.

“When I first got here, the biggest, longest case we talked about week after week in closed session involved a drive-through at Jack In The Box on Wilshire Boulevard,” Mckeown said.

While the lawsuits defined her tenure, her colleagues also applauded Moutrie for the cultural impact she’s had on city government through her resistance to cutting corners and thorough knowledge of the law.

“If you know anything good about Santa Monica, you know something good about Marsha Moutrie, ” O’Day said.

 

Moutrie heads into retirement in good health with full intentions to spend the rest of her life traveling with her husband.

kate@smdp.com

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