June 20, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Councilmember Kevin McKeown Abruptly Announces Retirement

Retirement will be effective as of June 11 

By Sam Catanzaro

Longtime Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown abruptly announced his retirement during a meeting this week. 

The 72-year-old McKeown–first elected to Council in 1998 and has served as Mayor twice including most recently in 2020–made the announcement at the end of the May 25 City Council meeting. 

“Before we continue I have a brief announcement. This is something I wanted to say at the same time both to the Council and to the community. I have decided to retire. You have all been very kind about me not looking my age but I am well into my 70s. I am profoundly grateful for the many years that I had the privilege and honor of being able to be a service to this city which I deeply love, but I have decided to retire, effective two weeks from Friday,” McKeown said during the virtual meeting. “I thank you, goodnight, and good-bye.” 

According to McKeown, his retirement will be effective as of June 11. 

The announcement caught other lawmakers off guard and was met with moments of stunned silence. Councilmember Phil Brock can be seen with his hands in the air in disbelief. Mayor Sue Himmelrich began to say “None of us…” but did not finish her sentence. 

Interim City Attorney George Cardona broke the impasse by informing Council that in order to continue someone would have to motion to re-adjourn the meeting. Council instead optioned to re-adjourned Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. via teleconference. 

McKeown was not immediately available for comment. 

As reported by the Santa Monica Lookout, McKeown participated in a virtual Ocean Park Association (OPA) Wednesday evening and said only that health was not a factor and that it was the right time for retirement. 

“You’ve watched me so you know that I’m a pretty thoughtful guy, not all that impetuous,” reads a transcript from his remarks published by the Lookout. “So I’ve been thinking about this for some time.

“At the moment there’s a lot of change happening in the city. Our city manager’s about to leave, we’re about to adopt a housing element, a budget.

“These are all actions that should be voted on by people who intend to continue on, so this seemed like the time, the moment, having completed as much as I wanted to, as I could.”

MKeown, a Santa Monica renter for 45 years, for 25 years served as Macintosh computer consultant for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. On City Council, where he is in the third year of his sixth term, he has been an advocate for renter rights, affordable housing, and environmental sustainability. In 2015, McKeown made a presentation on behalf of Santa Monica to an international audience at the United Nations climate conference where the Paris Accords were agreed to. He served as Mayor in 2020, which was a uniquely difficult year in Santa Monica history. 

McKeown is also Santa Monica’s Director on the Board of the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, and serves on the State of California’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and as the current chair of the regional Westside Cities Council of Governments. 

 “Kevin has dedicated his life to making Santa Monica stronger, greener, and more equitable. I personally was devastated to learn about his plans to retire, and our City Council will sorely miss his depth of experience and his punny humor. Kevin has had a unique ability to coalesce the Council around our shared values and goals and has tirelessly worked to meaningfully advance protections and support for vulnerable tenants and residents. His active correspondence with constituents has been a model of public service,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “This is a man who loves Santa Monica in his bones and demonstrated unrelenting integrity and dedication to the community as a tenured Councilmember. It is hard to imagine a meeting without his perfect radio voice and comedic timing.” 

Santa Monica’s City Charter requires that Council has 30 days after a vacancy is declared to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy.  Next steps in that process will be discussed at the Council’s next meeting in early June. In the event that the City Council fails to fill the vacancy by appointment within 30 days after the seat is declared vacant, a special election would be held to fill the vacancy.  

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