Mayor Kevin McKeown

CITY HALL — After 16 years as a member of City Council, Kevin McKeown is the mayor of Santa Monica.

Tony Vazquez will serve as the mayor pro tempore for a year and will take mayoral seat from McKeown at the end of next year. Vazquez will serve for one year. He will become the first Latino mayor of Santa Monica.

Ted Winterer will serve as mayor pro tempore in the second year.

The unanimous vote was the first for newly elected Councilmember Sue Himmelrich.

A former planning commissioner, Himmelrich nominated McKeown, Vazquez, and Winterer for the positions.

“I have worked with Ted and Tony and Kevin and most of the people up here and I think that Kevin is way due for this,” she said. “I think Tony is way due for this. I think that all three of them will do a great job.”

The nominations mark the end of two-year terms for Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day as mayor and pro tempore respectively.

O’Day — following Himmelrich’s nomination but before the vote — suggested that Winterer be mayor for two years. Winterer hesitated, speaking off-microphone with O’Day and O’Connor to his left and right. He then suggested that the first nomination — of McKeown, Vazquez, and himself — be accepted through acclamation, or a voice vote. O’Connor suggested Gleam Davis for mayor but Davis quickly withdrew her name. Winterer quickly followed suit. In doing so, he may have turned down a two-year term as mayor.

“There are probably better ways to start off a new council than by electing the mayor the way we do,” Winterer told the Daily Press after the meeting. “The first thing you do most times around is just get everybody angry at each other.”

Had Winterer accepted the nomination and voted for himself he may have had the votes necessary — from Davis, O’Day, and O’Connor — to take the seat.

“My sense was that Sue’s compromise motion, which allowed us all to share the responsibility of being mayor and mayor pro temp, seemed to be met with a positive response. I just didn’t see any reason, at that point, to do anything but step back and have us move forward in the next two years harmoniously.”

After the unanimous affirmation by council, of McKeown, Vazquez, and Winterer, the standing room only audience erupted in applause.

“I want to thank Pam O’Connor for her service as mayor,” McKeown said of his political rival as he assumed the mayor’s seat. “I want to acknowledge that we’ve made history here tonight because Antonio Vazquez is going to be the first Latino mayor in the history of the city of Santa Monica and that is long overdue. And lastly, I want to note that we are a city with many challenges ahead of us in the coming year and I hope that we, the City Council representing our community, can work together as a team, addressing the issues. I’m very honored to the be the mayor but I hope we can lead in every seat.”

Santa Monica’s mayor is always a council member selected, every two years, by his or her council colleagues. The position is largely, though not entirely, ceremonial. Aside from the title, the mayor leads council meetings and, along with the mayor pro tempore, sets the agendas for the meetings.

McKeown, whose gruff approach sometimes ruffles the feathers of his colleagues, was the longest serving council member not to have taken a turn as mayor. He was the top vote-getter in his last three elections. He served as mayor pro tempore for three years.

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