Picture of Fred Keeley

Mayor Fred Keeley


Santa Cruz’s first directly elected mayor rode to victory on a wave of popularity, garnering 70.3 percent of the vote against opponent Joy Schendledecker. It’s a feat explained in part by his résumé. Keeley’s political career began when he was an aide to former Santa Cruz Supervisor Joe Cucchiara in the early 1980s; later, he served as chief of staff for then Assemblymember Sam Farr. He went on to follow in both of their footsteps to serve on the Board of Supervisors and in the Assembly.

His experience as an educator is just as impressive, with ties to the Panetta Institute, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. Also on his C.V.: co-founder of Housing Santa Cruz County and board member for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Not surprisingly, his roster of endorsements runs deep and wide across the county’s political landscape.

When Measure E passed in the June 2022 primary, it moved Santa Cruz from its traditional process of appointing a mayor annually from within the City Council to a direct election every four years. The measure also changed the council representation from an at-large model to six council districts—with term limits for both councilmembers and the mayor.

When he announced his candidacy for mayor in August, Keeley told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he decided when a group approached him about running for the newly created office. “I was working on the ‘no on Measure D’ campaign at the time and I was deeply focused on that,” Keeley told the daily newspaper. “To put it mildly, I had not been thinking about becoming mayor.”

Day job: Professor at the Panetta Institute

Past offices held: Santa Cruz County supervisor (1988-1996), California Assembly representative (1996-2002), Santa Cruz County treasurer (2005-2016)

Notable quote: “I think the single most important role as mayor is to be able to conduct the council meetings in a way that is fair and efficient, and recognizes that the public has as much interest in the activities of the city council as does the city council. As someone with a lot of experience presiding, the city has asked me on numerous occasions to be the presiding officer of various task forces on public safety, on transportation (and) on homelessness. That experience is very, very helpful, especially to a city council, many of whom will be brand new to governing, they are going to be people who know an enormous amount about their district, but they’re likely not to have a lot of experience in governance. I think that’s the balance point that I can provide, and the benefit I can provide, to help the council do their business in a way that includes the public and is done in an efficient way.” Santa Cruz Local, 2022 Election Guide

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