Editor’s note: This is the first part of a multi-part series about Santa Monica’s two Kevin McKeowns.
Kevin McKeown still remembers the campaign posters bearing his name, a somewhat odd sight considering he wasn’t running for office.
He soon learned it wasn’t some sort of practical joke, but rather a quirk of fate: another Kevin McKeown.
An email exchange followed. A crossing of paths eventually ensued. And the tale of two Kevin McKeowns was born, an amusing coincidence that has played out in Santa Monica in humorous and often confusing fashion.
One of the men is probably more familiar to area residents — he’s currently the mayor of this fascinating city by the sea. The other acceptingly lurks in the politician’s shadow, although he’s well-known in certain circles — he’s the band director at Santa Monica High School.
“This town is big enough for both of us,” the mayor says.
The intersection of their lives took place on the Westside, but even their ancestry is closely aligned, as their family heritages can be traced to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The mayor was born just outside New York, moved to Connecticut when he was 13 and earned a full scholarship to Yale University. He drove cross-country to California in 1973 and became radio station KROQ’s general manager, later working at a Los Angeles advertising agency and owning a recording studio on Main Street in Santa Monica.
His Irish connections? All eight of his great-grandparents were born in Ireland. And after visiting the plot of land that his paternal grandfather farmed there, he was inspired to become a dual citizen of the United States and the Republic of Ireland.
“I travel in Europe with an Irish passport and love arriving in Dublin to be told by customs, ‘Welcome home,’ says the mayor, whose middle name, Frederick, is his father’s first name.
He also serves as vice chair of the Irish-American Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
And the politician’s roots have local implications: He is currently in the process of trying to set up a sister city relationship between Santa Monica and Galway, an Irish coastal city.
The other Kevin McKeown hails from from Belfast, Northern Ireland, which shares an island with Ireland but which is part of the United Kingdom.
He came of age during “The Troubles,” a decades-long conflict involving Union loyalists and Irish nationalists, and moved to Santa Monica in 1982.
The band director’s heritage lives on in his middle name, Og, which is Irish for “young one.” It also continues through his golfing hobby — his father taught him how to play, and he’s in constant pursuit of a one-digit handicap.
“It’s a nice tie from the old country,” he says.
This McKeown is a product of local education. He attended Grant Elementary School and John Adams Middle School and graduated from Samohi in 1992. He then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at UCLA.
He now teaches music full-time at Santa Monica High School, although he’s worked at numerous other sites in the local district. He also is a faculty member at Santa Monica College and UC Irvine.
The band director, who lives in West Los Angeles, is married with one son, Connor, who is a third-grade student at Grant. And although he’s lived in Southern California for more than 30 years, he doesn’t take it for granted.
“Coming from Ireland,” he says, “the most obvious (reason) is the weather and the location.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.