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McKeown Named Mayor, Vazquez to Take Top Spot Next Year

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

December 10, 2014 -- In what was expected to be a clash between the newly elected slow growth City Council majority and others turned into a show of solidarity Tuesday night as Kevin McKeown was chosen unanimously by his colleagues to serve as mayor of Santa Monica after 16 years on the dais.

McKeown, who was the longest serving council member without serving as mayor, thanked outgoing Mayor Pam O'Connor for her service and also had a few words about his new role on the council.

"We in the city have many challenges ahead of us in this coming year, and I hope that the City Council representing our community can work together as a team," he said. "I'm very honored to be mayor. Thank you."

McKeown will serve one year as mayor as part of a split term, with Tony Vazquez taking the seat in the second year. Vazquez will serve as mayor pro tem for the first year and Ted Winterer will take his spot after that.

A motion for this configuration was made by freshman Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, who -- along with Winterer, Vazquez and McKeown -- is part of a new slow-growth majority on the council.

O'Connor, who is often considered McKeown’s nemesis on the dais, nominated Gleam Davis as mayor for a full two-year term, but Davis declined the nomination.

Also, Terry O'Day nominated Winterer for a full two-year term as mayor. However, Winterer declined the nomination.

Political observers were surprised when O'Connor voted for Himmelrich's motion because she has refused to back McKeown in every previous mayoral selection.

Several Santa Monica community leaders praised the outcome.

"I'm so happy and so excited for Kevin," said Tricia Crane, vice chair of Northeast Neighbors. "Kevin is way overdue to be mayor of our city, so we are very lucky. It's great the vote went this way."

Former Mayor Denny Zane said, "Fantastic outcome, extraordinary leader. I'm extraordinarily pleased with the outcome. Smart, talented, committed, hard-working people."

School board member Oscar de la Torre said, "I think both Kevin and Tony are probably the two most progressive City Council members that have the longest history and experience."

In addition to McKeown gaining the much sought-after mayorship, history was also made as Vazquez will become the first Latino mayor in Santa Monica history next year. He will also be the city's first Latino mayor pro tem (“Vazquez Could be First Latino Mayor in Santa Monica History,” December 9, 2014).

“I think it’s great to show that we’re acknowledging the diversity of our city,” de la Torre said. “Tony is the only Mexican-American to be elected to the City Council. So it’s great that after 139 years, we have a Mexican-American as mayor. I think that’s exciting.”

Pico Neighborhood activist Maria Loya said, “As a Mexican-American, I am proud to have Tony as mayor in 2016. Considering Tony has been the only Mexican-American elected to the Santa Monica City Council in its history. And I think it’s fitting.

She added, "It’s a shame we have to wait till 2016 for him to be mayor, but I think Tony and Kevin are good. It’s well overdue.

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