A zoom screenshot shortly after Kevin McKeown exited the meeting.

In the midst of his sixth term, Councilmember Kevin McKeown unexpectedly announced his retirement during a City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

The meeting focused mostly on the City’s proposed budget but the night took a turn just before its conclusion when McKeown raised his hand to speak after hours of questions and public comments.

“Before we continue, I have a brief announcement and this is something I wanted to say at the same time, both to the council and to the community. I have decided to retire,” McKeown said. ”You’ve all been very kind about me not looking my age but I am well into my seventies. I am profoundly grateful for the many years that I had the privilege and honor of being able to be a service to this city, which I deeply love, but I have decided to retire, effective two weeks from Friday.”

McKeown then exited the zoom and left Council in shock.

When the longtime Councilmember and local resident steps down on Friday, June 11, he will have served 24 years on City Council. During his tenure, he has had a special focus on renter issues, affordable housing, and environmental sustainability, but some residents will say his biggest accomplishment is serving as Mayor in 2020, a uniquely difficult year in Santa Monica history.

Current Mayor Sue Himmelrich said Wednesday that she was completely taken by surprise by the news, which was a sentiment shared by nearly all of her peers.

“Kevin has dedicated his life to making Santa Monica stronger, greener, and more equitable. I personally was devastated to learn about his plans to retire, and our City Council will sorely miss his depth of experience and his punny humor,” Himmelrich said

“Kevin has had a unique ability to coalesce the Council around our shared values and goals and has tirelessly worked to meaningfully advance protections and support for vulnerable tenants and residents. His active correspondence with constituents has been a model of public service,” she added. “This is a man who loves Santa Monica in his bones and demonstrated unrelenting integrity and dedication to the community as a tenured Councilmember. It is hard to imagine a meeting without his perfect radio voice and comedic timing.”

Councilmember Gleam Davis described McKeown as an extremely dedicated Councilmember who always did the hard, unglamorous work of preparing for meetings and then brought well thought out comments and policy suggestions to Council discussions. 

“Perhaps, most importantly, Kevin knows right from wrong and he never compromised his values for political gain or popularity. Kevin’s contributions to this City are immeasurable and we all should be grateful for his extraordinary service to our community,” Davis said.

Santa Monica’s City Charter provides that the Council has 30 days after a vacancy is declared to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy.  In the event that the City Council fails to fill the vacancy by appointment within 30 days after the seat is declared vacant, a special election would be held to fill the vacancy. 

Council is expected to discuss the process in further detail during a meeting in early June.

McKeown could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he said Wednesday, “I thank you. Goodnight and goodbye.”