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New mayor known for strong stands

Matthew Harper has been vocal opponent of plastic bag ban. Going forward, he says senior center is the top priority.

December 11, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Matthew Harper is sworn in as the new mayor of Huntington Beach.
Matthew Harper is sworn in as the new mayor of Huntington… (HB Independent )

In Matthew Harper's nearly three years on the Huntington Beach City Council, he has built a reputation as conservative, pro-business and unfraid to put in his 2 cents.

He always comes to the meetings prepared, whether he intends to speak for or against an item. On occasion, he'll get into a little back-and-fourth with colleagues.

"He'll irritate a lot of people, and being truthful isn't something that is easy to swallow," said his father, William Harper. "He tries to be tactful, but he's got his priorities set pretty firmly."

The new mayor has strong views on a number of issues. He has spoken quite vehemently against the plastic bag ban, which the city imposed this year, and the proposed ban on polystyrene. He's advocated for construction of a new senior center as well as the legalization of fireworks in the city. He's also been vocal about keeping at bay what he often refers to as "the heavy hand of government."

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On Dec. 2, dozens of people filed into Huntington Beach council chambers to celebrate Harper being named the city's 59th mayor.

"He was interested in politics in high school, his degree was in public administration, and he always knew he was going to serve," said William Harper, who attended the special occasion with his wife, Karen, and his son's soon to be wife, Elizabeth Byrne.

Matthew Harper, 39, was born in Long Beach and lived briefly in Colorado but spent the majority of his life in Westminster and Huntington.

Even at a young age, politics piqued his interest. He recalled, at 8 years old, supporting calls for a bike path on Rancho Road near the Westminster-Huntington Beach city limits — an area deemed unsafe for cyclists.

"My parents and others went to the city of Westminster and they said, 'Oh, no, that's Huntington Beach's responsibility,'" Harper recalled. "Then we, residents of Westminster, went to Huntington Beach, and they told us it's Westminster's responsibility."

During the cities' dispute, Harper paid attention to how his parents handled the situation, getting his first taste of politics.

After starting classes at Huntington Beach High School in 1988, Harper joined the Junior State of America youth organization, the speech and debate team and the student congress.

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