Kristin McCowan’s roots run deep in our community – as does her commitment to making it more just, equitable and inclusive.
She grew up in the Pico neighborhood two blocks away from where her father was raised. Kristin’s grandmother attended Night School at Samohi 60 years before she herself graduated from there. But the Santa Monica Kristin grew up in is very different than the one we have come to appreciate today – one that was less tolerant, more conservative.
Kristin had her first lesson in racism in fifth grade at the hands of her teacher. She attended Franklin Elementary on an intra-district permit, and while offering her after school programs so her parents could work, it also forced her to work hard every day to fit in.
By the time Kristin got to Samohi, Santa Monica had become more inclusive and diverse communities were working together for change. She was elected to the Student Body and represented our City as the 50th Youth Governor of California in the YMCA Youth and Government program. She was voted “most outspoken” by her senior class. But while Kristin reveled in the City’s progressive transformation, life still was not easy for everyone. Black and brown kids were being killed by gang violence. Drugs were rampant in our schools. Businesses were struggling and renters and homeowners alike were struggling to stay in their homes. These aren’t just memories for Kristin, but lived experiences that have prepared her to bring a unique sensibility to the job of Councilmember.
After high school, Kristin received an AA from Santa Monica College and a BA in Political Science from California State University, which led her to work in Washington D.C. She spent five years serving for the Committee on House Administration in the House of Representatives, where she focused on improving the functionality of departments and initiatives including the Chief Accountability Office, US Capitol Police, Help America Vote Act, and the Smithsonian. During those years she developed expertise in the regional challenges facing small business ranging from cost of living and operation, public and personnel safety, disaster/crisis planning, and access and affordability of real estate.
In 2009, Kristin left Capitol Hill to attend graduate school at USC. After receiving her MPA and a certificate in Political Management, she spent three years working on issue advocacy in California and Nevada – working directly with community-based organizations, candidates and voters advocating for progressive policies at the local, state and federal level. In 2014, she became an appointee to the Obama Administration. Working at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Kristin honed skills as a first responder, consensus builder, problem solver and forward-thinker. After FEMA Kristin landed at the White House managing, preparing for and overseeing the process to transition the Executive Office of the President to the next Administration. In every job the learning curve was high, and Kristin proved up to the task.
Kristin returned to Los Angeles in 2016 to serve Mayor Garcetti as his Chief of Protocol and Director of International Relations. Currently she serves as the Executive Director of the Getty House Foundation.
All through the years, Kristin and her husband, Albert, planned on moving back to Santa Monica to raise a family of their own. While they tried several times to make the move, they faced many of the challenges that other young families face in establishing themselves in Santa Monica today – finding housing affordable enough and large enough; finding affordable day care and programs for young children; and finding good paying local jobs. When they were finally able to move in 2019, Kristin made the commitment to use her experiences to make the City a better place for ALL, but particularly for young families – regardless of socio-economic status.
Since returning to Santa Monica, Kristin resumed her life-long commitment to the St Monica community, has volunteered with St Joseph Center and served as a Pier Commissioner. This July, she was appointed to the City Council to fill the vacancy of Councilmember Greg Morena—a former high school classmate. In her short time on the Council, Kristin has demonstrated how her independent voice, her breadth of experience and her homegrown perspective contribute greatly to the community. She will be on the ballot this November, running for the two-year seat to serve out the remainder of Morena’s term.
As Santa Monica comes together to confront the COVID-19 crisis and the national outcry for racial justice, Kristin will play a critical role in guiding the community as it works to do better – because it can and must.