Rex Minter was elected to the Santa Monica City Council in 1955 and was Mayor from 1963 to 1967. This is part two in the Mirror’s series on former Santa Monica mayors.
Rex Minter has seen a lot of changes during the lifetime he’s lived in Santa Monica. He can recall the rows of beach cabins, rented for the summer by Angelenos who lived “downtown,” that formerly lined the streets in the area where Santa Monica Shores now stands. His first law office was located in the Bay Cities Building (the clock tower building in downtown Santa Monica). “For years it was the tallest building in town,” he says. “And at one time, the Superior Court was on the top floor. “
Minter – who grew up in the beach area, served in the Marines, and practiced law – became a member of the Santa Monica City Council at age 27. “The Council was mostly senior citizens then,” he notes. “I was the kid on the block.” He stayed on the Council until 1967, served as Mayor Pro Tem from April 1961 to 1963 and was appointed Mayor in 1963, serving two terms until 1967.
Minter recalls that he was swept into office by a wave of opposition to oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay, which was the “big issue” in the mid-1950’s. As that issue subsided, the Council became concerned with redeveloping Ocean Park, mainly clearing away the beach cottages which had become, in Minter’s words, “slums” and building the Shores. The Council also focused on the building of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and the creation of City-owned parking lots and parking structures.
In fact, Minter regards the revision of the City’s Parking Authority as one of his achievements as Mayor. “Before I became Mayor, the Parking Authority was a separate group of people. They were appointed but they were almost autonomous. I and some of the other Council members felt that we wanted more hands-on control…so we made the City Council also members of the Parking Authority.” Minter acted as the Parking Authority’s first chair and made the creation of downtown parking a priority. “Parking is the lifeblood of business.”
While Parking Authority meetings were held by the Council prior to their regular meetings, Minter resolved to do something about the closed sessions that led to overly long evenings in City Hall. “They went into closed session…ostensibly to get anonymity, to put on a good face to the public. I objected to that but they didn’t care…so I filed a lawsuit against the City Council.” As a result of a pre-trial settlement, the Council agreed to have open sessions except for those closed sessions permitted by the Brown Act (which allows for the closed sessions at current Council meetings).
After his stint as Mayor, Minter took a job as City Attorney of Arcadia, was later appointed a Superior Court judge and served as a Santa Monica Municipal Court judge. Although now retired, he still works as an assigned judge from time to time and for this reason he declined to give the Mirror any comments on the current political issues of Santa Monica.
It’s a sign of how much the political climate has shifted since Minter’s City Council days that his longtime associate, realtor Bob Gabriel (who also served on the City Council) cannot remember Minter having “adversaries” when it came to his policies. “The community didn’t have any gripes,” he says. “The Council was congenial and worked together.” Retired computer science professor Jim Reidy, who served on the Council during Minter’s mayorship, says: “He wasn’t afraid to make decisions. Sometimes you have to make decisions that don’t make everyone happy but are necessary for the [common] good. He could make that kind of decision.”