Politics is sometimes seen as dry and boring by those outside of the sphere, but good luck telling that to Mayor Mike Munzing. Munzing is the mayor of Aliso Viejo, a city of about fifty thousand in South Orange County, CA. Aliso Viejo is also the newest city in Orange County, having been incorporated in 2001. Munzing has served on the Aliso Viejo city council since 2013.
In addition to his role as a political leader, Mayor Munzing is on the OCGOP Central Committee since 2010 as a representative from the 73rd district representing South Orange County. He rose quickly up the local and statewide ladder, becoming an advisor to the OCGOP chairman Fred Whitaker, and joining the CAGOP Platform committee.
Despite his laundry list of positions and responsibilities, Mayor Munzing is also well-known in the community for having a fun and engaging personality. This makes him popular not only with his constituents in Aliso Viejo, but also with young conservatives like myself with whom Mike is open enough to frequently engage. Mayor Munzing is quite a character, and we feel it’s time more people get to meet “America’s Coolest Mayor.”
RR: Mike, please tell us a little about yourself, and your background before politics.
MM: Thanks so much for having me. I’m 52 years old, and I have lived in Orange County my whole life. I grew up in the city of Orange as the son of a pastor, and went to El Medina High School. I lived a normal life growing up in the 1960s and 70s. It was a great time to be a kid, without the type of helicopter parenting you see nowadays. We’d regularly stay out past 10 p.m. as kids, and there were few regulations on what we could do. Jimmy Carter was president when I was a teen, and was a very weak leader, similar to Obama now, but at least back then the culture and social fabric of the country was strong, unlike today.
When I was 15, Reagan took office, and from seeing him, I saw what a true leader looked like. It was powerful to see the hostages released from Iran upon Reagan’s inauguration. It was a classic example of what peace through strength looked like. It means to do what is necessary, and not be jerks, but be respectful and still strong. Sadly, as Steven Crowder says, victimhood is big business and we rarely see strength in action, which is why I love what you guys are doing.
I got a job at 13 as a racket stringer and worked at a skatepark. Unfortunately, I got fired from that job, but through the experience, I learned and I got more jobs later on, whether it was as a cook, busboy or other odd jobs. I finally graduated from high school in 1982 and enrolled in Cal State Fullerton as a business major with a focus on industrial marketing and real estate finance. I also got my real estate license at 19 and became a commercial industrial real estate broker upon graduation. Sadly, in the late 1980s there was a recession and the real estate industry sank significantly. I later entered the mortgage industry and stayed there for the next thirty years.
I married for the first time at age 26, and had two daughters, but I had a tough divorce after 15 years. Initially I was not a believer in divorce, but sadly, that’s what happened, and that was the point in my life where I hit rock bottom. I lost everything, and had to move back to my dad’s house for three years to get back on my feet. Being at rock bottom taught me to appreciate what truly matters in the world, and one of the most important things I learned was to be a loving person, and that you need to love not out of need, but out of abundance. Now, I try to help my friends whenever they are in tough times, and I want to do what I can to make sure they acquire wisdom and maturity without having to go through the pain such knowledge usually requires you to go through.
RR: It seems like your life experiences had a role in making you both the man and leader you are today. What made you decide to finally enter politics?
MM: I was always a child of the Reagan revolution, and was a conservative, but I never delved heavily into conservative thought until after the divorce. I began to listen to audiobooks while I biked, and I learned an immense amount about topics ranging from the country’s founding to human psychology. I am someone who formulates his views on gathering data and whether it is compatible with the constitution and with my psychology. Conservatism is not about an end, conservatism is really about means, and how life really works.
Additionally, as someone who was in the mortgage industry for thirty years, I saw the need to research and keep up with the laws and regulations within that sector. I stayed away from subprime mortgages, and for five to seven years, I said that relying on subprime mortgages would lead to imminent collapse of the industry and the economy. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, it was the mortgage brokers like myself that were blamed, but that was wrong, as it was the banks that gave the loans, and the government that changed the rules to encourage these subprime mortgages in the first place.
Through those experiences, I decided to get involved in politics. In 2008, I married my second wife and moved to Aliso Viejo. Shortly thereafter, I ran for city council in Aliso Viejo and ran to be a representative of the 73rd district in the Orange County Central Committee. This year, I am proud to represent the city of Aliso Viejo as mayor and I want to promote the city as a city where you can raise a family in an environment that promotes freedom. Many special interests have asked for favors, but as mayor, I have to represent everybody, and I have to answer to everyone’s demand for free stuff. It’s impractical, and it’s also not what the city should be doing. Government is not the answer. As mayor, my job is to provide a safe and beautiful blank canvas for the residents where anybody can paint their masterpiece.
RR: You bring a lot of fun and enthusiasm to the table, whether it’s as mayor, OCGOP Central Committee member or even as a mortgage broker. How do you balance out the fun with the responsibility of your work?
MM: I have always been somebody who was friendly and easygoing. There’s obviously nothing wrong with having fun, and after emerging from rock bottom, I made it a priority to live happy. However, running a city is serious business, and being the mayor means you are responsible for the well-being of tens of thousands of people.
When I first entered the council, there was a Green City Initiative bill that came to the council’s desk straight from the city planner. It looked like it was going to pass, and while it seemed well-meaning to most of the council, the bill was also centered on social engineering and restrictions of freedom that were inconsistent with the values of our city and the citizens that elected us. I was a lot more serious when I led the charge to defeat the initiative, and I used arguments that were measured and thought out, and many were surprised that I was capable of being so poignant and businesslike. However, when you need to be serious, you have to be serious.
There doesn’t necessarily need to be a separation from work and fun, however, there just has to be respect for order when being a part of the city council. Meetings must be run according to procedure, and for the sake of our citizens, we have to be efficient, and discuss the agendized items while maintaining focus.
RR: You said earlier you went to Cal State Fullerton for college. Were you interested at all in politics while you were there? If not, what was your area of focus?
MM: When I was in college, those I supported were in charge, markets were good, the culture was good, and life was good. There didn’t seem to be as much of a need to get active to bring change, because frankly, I liked things the way they were. While I was a conservative, I was not very politically involved during my college days. It’s not like the way things are now on our college campuses with our fundamental freedoms being threatened there on a daily basis. Since there wasn’t as much a need for me to get politically involved, I focused more on real estate during my time in school, and I also worked full time. Instead of challenging authorities that were already favorable to my beliefs, I chose to instead take advantage of the good opportunities available economically, and got an early start on my business career.
RR: And yet, despite not being active yourself politically in college, you have been one of the best leaders we know in terms of reaching out to young Americans. Why do you feel that it’s important to help and engage college students today?
MM: I love working with you guys, because if we’re going to have hope for the future of this country, we need to support the youth. Mentoring young conservatives makes me happy, and it’s just a better way to live. Freedom is only one generation away from extinction, and it’s important to keep the next generation believing in truth, freedom, and American values, because the schools, culture, and the media certainly won’t. Conservatism is the real counterculture, and College Republicans are the real rebels and dissidents on campus. It’s my job to encourage you all to make the case for freedom in a responsible way that wins over the hearts and minds of the next generation.
My goal is to teach you guys to fight the fight and represent the our philosophy on campus while still having fun and keeping our spirits up. That’s why I take you guys shooting, because it’s both fun and is a classic display of American freedom. It is tragic that American freedom is seen as a negative by many on the campus left. However, it’s crucial that we reject the calls for America to become more like Europe. The colonists left Europe for a reason, and the U.S. now is the last bastion of freedom left in the world. If it falls, where will we go? This is why it is very important that we support the youth, so that the next generation can carry the torch of American freedom and exceptionalism.
RR: You are obviously someone who is ideologically passionate and expressive. Which issues do you feel most strongly about, and how do you intend on making a difference in those fields?
MM: There are several political issues that I care tremendously about. I care about responsible city governance centered around the principles of public safety and limited government. As someone on the mortgage industry, I care about the financial markets, and I am against heavy government regulation of those markets as on one extreme they encourage subprime lending, and on the other extreme, they stifle the growth of the housing market and make it difficult for families to buy homes.
I’m also very passionate in arguing against the recent environmentalism trends we have seen in the last couple decades. I follow the work of Alex Epstein, Bill Whittle, and Prager University in exposing the myths behind this movement. I am someone who believes in looking at data as opposed to following leftist dogma, and conditions today have failed to live up to the “sky is falling” narrative of the left. We cannot kill millions of jobs and dramatically reorganize our lives and society, yet living up to this ideal of a carbon-free world would require just that.
RR: Who do you consider to be your inspiration?
MM: Reagan has to be one. He was the president I grew up under, and was the leader that best exemplified the qualities I look towards in a president. He was loving and kind, but was also someone who possessed strength, fire and moral indignation as Andrew Breitbart said. Speaking of Breitbart, the late Andrew Breitbart is also someone I am particularly inspired by, because he was someone who was passionate and courageous, and made it a life goal to stand up to the bullies in the media and government. As a Christian, I also look up to Jesus and the biblical values that we learn through understanding Christianity. Rabbi Daniel Lapin once said that “the more things change, the more we look to what is stable and eternally true.” In the worst of times, I have looked to my faith and to the example of Jesus for inspiration, and I looked to the eternal truths of the Bible.
RR: Where do you see yourself in ten years and are you looking to ever run for higher office?
MM: Part of me doesn’t know, because I don’t know what the world will look like in ten years. Frankly I hope I’m not still doing mortgages in ten years. As for higher office, the offices above me right now are filled, and I support my current assemblyman, Bill Brough. If a vacancy comes up for the State Senate seat here and Bill vacates his assembly seat to run for that spot, I might consider running for the Assembly seat. Would I want to be in Sacramento when I’m older though? I don’t know, it depends on my wife. Either way, I want to do what I can to fight for freedom. Earlier this year I played a role on the Ted Cruz campaign as the city co-captain for Aliso Viejo, and in addition to running for re-election to the Aliso Viejo city council, I am focusing on fighting against gun restrictions passed by the CA state legislature that threaten the well-being of the 2nd Amendment, and I looking to gather signatures to challenge and reverse these unconstitutional laws.
RR: You’re a well-known gun enthusiast here, so I have to ask, what is your favorite gun, and why?
MM: I like glocks and I also recently built a shotgun, but for my favorite, I have to go with the AR-15. More specifically, the AR-15 Platform 308, which is effectively an AR-10. Contrary to popular opinion, the AR isn’t an assault rifle, it’s a semi-automatic rifle, and AR doesn’t stand for assault rifle, it stands for Armalite, which was the company that created the AR-15. The AR-15 has smaller rounds, and is faster, and is one of the most popular guns in America and for good reason. Heck, they’re called Barbies for guys. ◆