City Council chooses Kristin McCowan to fill Greg Morena’s vacant seat
By Sam Catanzaro
Santa Monica appointed this week the first Black woman to serve as a Councilmember–a former member of the Obama administration who currently works under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
On Tuesday, July 14 Santa Monica City Council appointed Kristin McCowan to the Council. McCowan fills the position vacated by Greg Morena in June and is Santa Monica’s first Black woman to serve as a Councilmember. She was selected from 109 eligible candidates, according to the city.
McCowan’s term lasts until the November election when she will have to run to continue to serve in the partial term seat through November 2022 when Morena’s term would have expired.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve my hometown during this critical time,” McCowan said. “I look forward to bringing together our many voices as we work to recover and heal as one community.”
Prior to her appointment, Morena voiced his support for McCowan, a highschool friend of his. Morena, whose family owns the Albright restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier, resigned last month saying he had to renegotiate the lease. The Santa Monica Pier is owned by the City of Santa Monica, and therefore Morena cited a conflict of interest as the reason behind his resignation.
McCowan– a second-generation Santa Monican born and raised in the Pico neighborhood and attended Santa Monica schools and Santa Monica College–includes “more affordable housing, a more sustainable future, forward-thinking policies,” as among her priorities.
In addition, McCowan listed economic recovery, economic justice, reimagined public safety “that protects everyone” and increasing opportunities for historically disenfranchised and vulnerable communities as areas of focus.
At the Council meeting Tuesday, Councilmember Gleam Davis nominated McCowan and Mayor Kevin McKeown nominated former SMC psychology professor Dr. Karen S. Gunn. McCowan initially garnered the support of Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich, Terry O’Day and Ted Winterer. Councilmember Ana Jara joined McKeown in voting for Gunn before McKeown changed his vote to McCowan.
McCowan recently returned to Santa Monica after her career took her to Washington, D.C. where she worked for the Obama Administration as a Presidential Appointee in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Executive Office of the President. Upon returning to California, she worked as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Chief of Protocol and Director of International Relations and is now the Executive Director for Getty House Foundation, the official residence of the Mayor of Los Angeles.
In addition, McCowan is on the Santa Monica Pier Board, a post she will have to vacate.
McCowan’s appointment makes for the second time in history Santa Monica City Council is a majority woman and for the first time composed of a majority of Councilmembers who were initially appointed as opposed to elected.
Prior to the meeting, several members of the public gave comments via telephone urging the council to keep Morena’s seat vacant until November, including Dalton Smith, a member of Santa Monicans for Democracy, who said “let the residents of Santa Monica fill the vacant seat and not the City Council.”