Longtime City Councilwoman Pam O'Connor, a planning consultant who serves on the boards of a couple regional transit boards, moved into the mayor's seat Tuesday night, bypassing apparent favorite Gleam Davis.
"Surprising" was how some community leaders described O'Connor's two-year appointment.
She clinched the gavel in the council's fifth and final round of voting when Terry O'Day scrubbed his support for Davis and instead voted for O'Connor. In the four earlier rounds, O'Day voted for Davis.
The final vote was 4-3 in favor of O'Connor. She succeeds Richard Bloom, who is now serving in the California Assembly.
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O'Day and Davis were reelected in November along with then-Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez, who served on the council in the late 1990s.
Vazquez and veteran councilman Bob Holbrook nominated O'Connor for the seat in each of the five rounds of voting. (O'Connor voted for herself).
A "compromise" proposal from the the council's other new member, Ted Winterer, to split the traditional two-year term between O'Day and Kevin McKeown wasn't very popular. Davis herself only voted for it in the final round.
In his 14 years on the dias, McKeown has never had a turn at the top seat. This is O'Connor's fifth mayoral term.
With support from O'Connor, Davis was appointed to the City Council in 2009 to fill the seat left vacant by Herb Katz, who died in office. She previously served as co-chair of the powerful political group, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights.
Holbrook provided some comedic relief Tuesday night, joking about not receiving even one nod for mayor, which is mostly a ceremonial position.
In addition to chairing the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, O'Connor represents the city on the Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority Board, which oversees the extension of light rail into Santa Monica. She was recently president of the Southern California Association of Governments.
On the city's website, she describes herself as a "strong advocate for public transit," an "enthusiastic urban explorer" and regular user of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus.