CITY HALL — Environmentalist Terry O’Day, a former chairman of the Planning Commission, was selected by the City Council Tuesday night to fill the seat vacated by the death of Mayor Ken Genser last month.
The head of the non-profit group Environment Now, O’Day will serve until Nov. 2, when voters will decide who should finish the final two years of the term that Genser won in 2008.
“I take it very seriously that it’s Ken’s seat and I hope to reach out to all the folks in the community who supported me, who did not, and who don’t know me,” O’Day said on Wednesday.
It took eight rounds of voting for O’Day to win a majority vote from the six sitting council members. Councilman Bobby Shriver, who in earlier rounds supported Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, appeared to cast the decisive vote, joining council members Richard Bloom, Bob Holbrook and Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor to appoint O’Day.
Winterer, who ran for City Council in 2008 and received the fifth most votes in an election to fill four council seats, was nominated for the open position by Councilman Kevin McKeown but never garnered more than two votes.
Shriver said he switched his support to O’Day once it became clear Winterer wasn’t a viable candidate.
“I realized that my first choice didn’t have a second, third or fourth vote,” he said.
Winterer has said he’ll run for a council seat in November, when five seats will be open.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis supported Jennifer Kennedy, a Rent Control board member elected with the backing of the political party Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, in every round of voting.
In the fifth voting round Kennedy appeared to be close to winning the appointment.
Bloom, McKeown and Davis, all of whom were elected as SMRR-backed candidates, voted for Kennedy. O’Connor, also a SMRR-backed council member, could have handed the seat to Kennedy but declined to do so.
During the later voting rounds, O’Day, Winterer and Planning Commission Vice Chairman Jim Ries, also a candidate for the seat, sat together in the back of the council chamber.
“You could feel the mounting pressure but it was fun,” O’Day said of the experience. “It was a real expression of participatory democracy. Despite not being an election, it was an exceptional outpouring from the community.”
Many of the speakers during a public comment period before the vote urged the council to select Winterer, pointing out he had been the next highest vote-getter in the most recent election. Speakers also voiced support for O’Day, who served for six years on the Planning Commission before stepping down last year.
O’Day was widely perceived to be the candidate favored by development interests, with most activists tied to neighborhood groups urging the council to appoint Winterer.
On Wednesday, O’Day said the notion that he would be a “pro-development” council member is baseless.
“I’m sorry that people were spreading those misconceptions about me. I encourage people to reach me, if I don’t reach them first, to talk with me about these issues,” he said.
Though he co-chaired the successful effort to defeat the anti-development measure known as RIFT in 2008, he has said his position on that measure shouldn’t be viewed as a litmus test of his development views. Many leaders, including Genser, not considered developer-friendly opposed the measure, he said.
“I understand too that the concerns people have about the way development is done and the amount of development in our community [are] real,” he said.
O’Day is a 12-year resident of Santa Monica. O’Day ran for the council in 2006, receiving 11,756 votes, or 16.13 percent of the total, coming in fourth in a contest for three seats behind incumbents Holbrook, O’Connor and McKeown.
O’Day is the executive director of Environment Now, founded in 1989 with the goal of protecting and restoring California’s ecosystems. He has a master’s in business from The UCLA Anderson School of Management and completed the Coro Public Affairs Fellows Program in Los Angeles. He received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University. He and his wife Tiffany have two daughters.