CITY HALL — It took five rounds of voting, but the new City Council elected Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day to serve as mayor and mayor pro tem for the next two years.
This is O’Connor’s fourth term as mayor. She succeeds Richard Bloom, who was recently elected to the California Assembly. O’Day, who was reelected to the City Council in November, takes over for Gleam Davis as mayor pro tem.
“It’s an exciting time in Santa Monica, a challenging time,” O’Connor said. “We adopted the (Land Use and Circulation Element), now we have to figure out how to implement it, what pace to implement it. Those are things we will be grappling with over the next year or so.”
The mayor is mainly a ceremonial post. They are charged with helping the city manager set council agendas, run council meetings and attend community events. The mayor earns $16,139.16 a year, while council members receive $13,449.12, according to City Hall’s latest salary schedule.
The real cachet behind the mayoral position is not the money, the slight increase in scheduling power or even the opportunities to wield large, flashy scissors in ribbon cuttings.
Instead, it’s the intangibles — managing the meetings, calling on fellow council members to speak and, perhaps most importantly, winning the seven-person popularity contest needed to hold the center seat.
It’s something that Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who’s been on the City Council since 1998, has never been allowed to do.
McKeown is known for his commanding style and pointed questions on the dais. He is largely seen as the voice of the people, often bringing forward items to the council that came to him from local constituents.
Over the years, that has served to alienate him from colleagues, a source said.
“Kevin’s greatest strength is also his Achilles heel,” the source said.
McKeown almost secured the center seat Tuesday night, at one point garnering three of four votes for a split term that would have awarded Davis with the title of mayor for the first year with McKeown taking the reins in the second. That would have allowed him to run as the mayor if he sought another term. Titles can be critical in swaying the average voter who may not be tuned into local politics.
Newly-elected Councilmember Ted Winterer nominated McKeown for the top spot and, when that failed, offered up the split-term compromise.
That concept gained traction in the fifth round of voting with Davis ultimately deciding to support the split ticket alongside Winterer and McKeown.
Newly-elected Councilmember Tony Vazquez, Councilmember Robert Holbrook and O’Connor voted in O’Connor’s favor in each of the five rounds, leaving O’Day the final swing vote. He switched his support from Davis for a two-year term as mayor after voting in her favor in the previous four rounds and threw his support behind O’Connor.
“Pam was the better choice,” O’Day said Wednesday, going on to enumerate O’Connor’s accomplishments in the realm of the environmental, public transportation and regional governance.
McKeown was visibly disappointed Tuesday night, but went on that night to push through a motion to throw the Village Trailer Park development agreement back to planners.
“I may never chair a meeting, if that is the will of the other elected councilmembers, but I can assure residents that whether or not I’m in the middle seat on the dais I will be up there to represent them, prepared, knowledgeable on the issues at hand, and willing to stand up for what is right, even if that puts me in the minority,” McKeown said Wednesday.
The mayor pro tem position was less contentious.
Only Davis and O’Day were nominated for the pro tem position. Winterer and McKeown voted for Davis, and Davis nominated O’Day herself.
O’Connor was first elected to the council in 1994. O’Connor’s special interests are transportation and environmental sustainability, according to her bio on City Hall’s website. As a professional planning consultant, O’Connor specializes in historic preservation. O’Connor holds masters’ degrees in planning and in technology management from Eastern Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Southern Illinois University.