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Bob Holbrook Will Not Seek Seventh City Council Term

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

August 8, 2014 -- After a record 24 years on the Santa Monica City Council, Bob Holbrook has decided this term is his final one and he will not run in the November election, the council member told the Lookout News Thursday.

Holbrook cited several reasons for his decision to retire. The main one is so he could spend more time with his family, including three children and four grandchildren.

"I'm at a different point in life," Holbrook said. "I want to spend more time with family and friends. I want to do something fresh."

He added, “I’m reaching an age where I have grandchildren who are 2 and 3 years old. Most people my age have grandchildren in college or graduating college. And I’m just really enjoying this time of life for me, which came later in life."

Holbrook was elected to his first term in 1990. This came after serving eight years on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education. He is the only person to has served on both governing panels.

Many of Holbrook's five council re-election bids have been tough battles, as he has never had the benefit of being supported by the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. His ability to win these difficult elections, sometimes by only a handful of votes, has won Holbrook the admiration of many political observers.

Holbrook said that the resignation of City Manager Rod Gould "added to my impetus." Gould announced his resignation last Friday, effective in January, following several weeks of controversy due to his rescinding of a job offer to slow-growth advocate Elizabeth Riel.

"It means recruiting a city manager," he said. "I've done it three or four times, and he's going to be hard to replace."

The thought of dying in office also played a part in Holbrook's decision.

"I've had the misfortune of having two council colleagues die," said Holbrook, referring to the deaths of Herb Katz in 2009 and Ken Genser in 2010. "I'm 72 years old. I don't want to do that."

Holbrook added, "I told the person who ran all eight of my campaigns that I was really torn about whether to run again or not, and I was thinking of Ken Genser and Herb Katz. I said, 'I would hate to die in office.' And she said, 'Why not? If you die in office, they might name a park after you.’ I said, 'I'm not sure it's worth it.'”

Holbrook laughed after recalling the conversation.

The political veteran noted a distinct difference in running a campaign today versus one in previous decades.

"The first time I ran, there were more community people in my campaign," Holbrook said. "A lot of those people are gone, either moved away or died."

In his 2010 bid, the only people Holbrook counted on were his wife Jean Ann, two close friends and a campaign manager.

"Everything staggered along," he said. "It was a rough row to hoe."

The election process is draining, Holbrook said.

"It's a tough road to get elected in Santa Monica," he said. "You have to raise a lot of funds, travel all over the city, write a lot. People don't have any idea how much writing you have to do when you're running for office.

Holbrook also recognizes the rise in social media in campaigns, which he dislikes.

"I'm not into social media," Holbrook said. "I find that stuff eats up a lot of your time, time that I could use to spend on my hobbies and with family. I don't want to have to dig into that."

Holbrook is a rare native on the council, being born at the defunct St. Catherine's Hospital and graduating from Santa Monica High School. He attended Santa Monica College, where a knack for chemistry led to a career in pharmacy.

After receiving a doctorate of pharmacy degree from USC, Holbrook worked for 20 years in the Thrifty and Sav-On drugstore chains before landing a job as the director of pharmacy and assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at USC. He has since retired from the post.

"I love Santa Monica and I know I'll miss it," Holbrook said. "I'll really miss being a member of the City Council. I think the city is in great shape, and I'm very, very happy about it. But I think it’s time.

One thing Holbrook won't miss is the negativity, especially in this election that promises to be a hotly contested race for three seats.

"There's a lot of animosity out there," Holbrook said. "They want to get rid of the old and bring in the new."

As for the candidate he supports, Holbrook said he is backing longtime colleague Pam O’Connor. She is seeking a sixth term.

"We [Holbrook and O'Connor] have been together for 20 years," Holbrook said. "But I'm focusing more on the [county] supervisor election, supporting my good friend Bobby Shriver. That's where I'll be spending most of my time."

Shriver is a former Santa Monica mayor and served two terms on the council with Holbrook. If Shriver defeats rival Sheila Kuehl to win the supervisor seat in November, Holbrook would volunteer for the County.

Jorge Casuso contributed to this report.

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