By Daniel Larios
November 27, 2014 –Bob Holbrook teared up as he sat on the dais for the last time in his record breaking 24-year career on the Santa Monica City Council Tuesday. He had just received a commendation, two standing ovations and an antique radio from his colleagues in City Hall.
Holding the distinction of being the longest serving elected official in Santa Monica history, Holbrook wiped tears from his eyes with a handkerchief as he thanked past and present city council members, city staff, friends and family during his last speech as a City Councilmember.
“I have been privileged to serve Santa Monica and pleased to be a part of the City Councils that have brought so many new and wonderful things to our residents,” said Holbrook, the only current Council member born and raised in the bayside city.
“Lastly I want to thank the voters of Santa Monica that extended their trust and elected me to the School Board and the City Council. After all, winning elections is earning the trust of the voters.
“It is my grand adventure and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Holbrook concluded, with tears in his eyes. “I will miss you. I wish all of you the very best. Thank you.”
Holbrook, who was twice elected mayor by his colleagues on the dais, was elected six times without the backing of the City’s powerful tenants group, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), which has held a steady majority on the council for three decades.
As a result, he has been widely considered an independent voice whose down-to-earth demeanor – he campaigned as “the voice of reason” – grounded a council sometimes prone to ideological pronouncements.
“Dr. Robert Holbrook, ‘Bob’ as we all know him, loves his hometown of Santa Monica and he leaves an unparalleled legacy of public service,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor. “His common sense and good humor will be missed..”
Six speakers came up to the podium to congratulate Holbrook and share their thoughts on the staunch USC Trojan who drove a Model-T and collected antique watches.
“You know what struck me the first time I met you? Your manners,” wrote former mayor Bobby Shriver, a close friend to Holbrook, in a letter read by Jean Sedillos during the meeting.
“You are a gentleman. It’s an old fashioned word and of course it means more than manners. It means kindness, elegance, humility, respect and an abiding toughness. A gentleman will always do the right thing, particularly when it hurts.”
“Another thing that I admire about you is that you and Jean-Ann work together,” he added, referring to Holbrook’s wife. “Listening to her over the years has taught me what a complete partner she has been in your work in the city, whether it’s in your work for the council, the school board and even in the band parents organizations.”
Peace activist Jerry Rubin, a council regular who likely rivals Holbrook in the number of council meetings he has attended, praised the council member’s independence.
“I don’t think we’ve had anyone in the council who has been more of an independent thinker than you, sir, and that is commendable,” Rubin said.
“Someone that’s all Santa Monica, has grown up here, that loves Santa Monica. I only hope that even when you’re gone, that your ideas come to fruition.”
Former Mayor Paul Rosenstein also made an appearance, congratulating Holbrook on his retirement and his “freedom” from Council duties.
“Bob is one of the few true blue Santa Monicans, born and raised here” Rosenstein said. “As much as he and I worked together many times, sometimes we had our differences, I always respected Bob for his views because he was a fundamental Santa Monican and he really cares about the City.”
Born at Santa Monica’s now-defunct St. Catherine's Hospital and educated in its local schools, Holbrook was one of the few native Santa Monicans in the past 30 years to serve on the dais.
He started his political career when he ran and won a seat on the School Board in 1983, serving two terms, including one as Board president.
After eight years on the school board, Holbrook won a seat on the City Council in 1990, making him the only person to have served on both elected bodies.
For nearly three decades, Holbrook was one of the few council members who did not seek SMRR’s endorsement, often winning in close races with the backing of Santa Monica’s business community.
One of Holbrook’s main priorities while in the Council was fighting homelessness. In the mid-1990s when the Santa Monica was referred to as “the home of the homeless,” Holbrook led an effort to crack down on aggressive panhandling and sleeping in public parks, and he pushed for better accounting of City-funded homeless services.
A career pharmacist, Holbrook has also been a vocal no vote on medical marijuana dispensaries, saying that allowing dispensaries in the City would be “problematic for Santa Monica.”
Holbrook was also instrumental in initiating plans for a new memorial wall at Woodlawn Cemetery honoring Santa Monica's war veterans who lost their lives while serving their country.