Bob Holbrook

Former Santa Monica Mayor Bob Holbrook died this week. 

Holbrook was a Santa Monica native. He was known for bring born at the now defunct St. Catherine’s Hospital on 4th Street and educated in Santa Monica schools including Roosevelt, John Muir, John Adams Middle, and Samohi. He attended Santa Monica College. He went on to study pharmacology at USC and joined the Air National Guard. He worked at McCarthy Drug Store and Thrift in the city. 

He is survived by Jean Anne (who he married in 1967), Bob Jr., Cindy and Craig. 

Holbrook was a strong advocate for homeless services and working to improve public parks within the city. He is credited as a foundational force in creating Tongva Park and establishing veteran services at Woodlawn Cemetery

Holbrook, elected in 1990, was the longest serving member of City Council in Santa Monica’s history with about 500 meetings under his belt. Holbrook retired from City Council in 2014. 

Prior to joining the City Council in 1990, Holbrook spent eight years as a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.

When he retired at 72 years old, he said 32 consecutive years of political service was enough for him and that the decision to retire was entirely based on his preferences.

A favorite council moment for Holbrook was when he and others got a group of outdated city vehicles sent to Bayou La Batre, Ala. immediately following Hurricane Katrina. He said that closer to home, he was fond of a memorial that he pushed to have built in Woodlawn Cemetery, to honor Santa Monicans who’ve died in combat.

Holbrook said he was also proud of the city’s strong budget, the parks that have been built or improved under his watch, and times, particularly back in the 1990s, when he and others brokered compromises.

When he retired from City Council he cited the tone of local politics. 

The tone of the discourse, he said, was getting more vitriolic and was grating on him.

“There’s a lack of civility, not so much in the Council Chambers — there was at one point with all the hissing and calling people liars — but there’s obviously a lot of people unhappy with Santa Monica,” he said. “Maybe not a lot of people but there’s a couple hundred people definitely.”

Holbrook established at Public Service Scholarship to help students who demonstrate passion for public service, and promise in making positive change in society.  In February 2018, the City Council contributed seed funding for the scholarship. To learn more and to contribute to the Bob Holbrook Public Service Scholarship, visit santamonicacollegefoundation.org/bob-holbrook.

The City of Santa Monica issued a statement this week offering condolences and healing to Holbrook’s wife, Jean Ann, and their children Bobby Jr., Cynthia and Craig, and grandchildren.

“Bob loved Santa Monica and its history and passionately shaped more than two decades of local policy with great care and heart,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “He left the Council the same year I joined, yet his imprint is felt today.  We grieve the loss of a Santa Monica great alongside his loving family. “

“I’ll always treasure Bob’s wisdom, wit, and generosity. He cared deeply about the city of his birth and showed it every day. We shared a deep volunteer commitment to charitable endeavors in Santa Monica. Our friendship was so indelible that even though there was a huge gulf between his USC Trojans and my UCLA Bruins we still found common ground. He was my mentor. I will miss him always and wish the best for his wonderful family,” said Councilmember Phil Brock. 

“Bob was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, as well as a loyal member of the USC Trojan family, and a dedicated public servant. He was always kind and generous and no one loved Santa Monica more,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis.

“Bob was the last of the previous generation of Santa Monica leadership, affable, amiable, and always quick with an anecdote.  No Council meeting was ever complete without a spell of storytelling from Uncle Bob,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown who served on the Council with Holbrook for 16 years.

The Tuesday, December 15, City Council meeting will be adjourned in honor of former Mayor Bob Holbrook. You can tune in through the City’s YouTube.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...