Mayor Fred Keeley during a Santa Cruz City Council meeting
Mayor Fred Keeley during a Santa Cruz City Council meeting.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley says he has cancer, but is ‘not hindered in any way’

Fred Keeley, 73, says he was diagnosed with bladder cancer after doctors found a malignant tumor on Friday. He says he’ll undergo surgery at Dominican Hospital in early August followed by some chemotherapy.

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Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley said he was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer but remains optimistic ahead of a planned surgery to remove it.

Keeley, 73, told Lookout that doctors found a malignant tumor on his bladder on Friday after he had experienced some symptoms. He said he will have surgery at Dominican Hospital to remove the tumor in early August and undergo chemotherapy. He said the doctors are confident he will make a full recovery.

“When the doctor looked me in the eye and said what was going on, there was an emotional jolt, but as the doctors kept talking, my anxiety levels went way down,” Keeley told Lookout from his Santa Cruz City Hall office Monday. “They told me we got this early and it’s not terribly aggressive.”

Keeley said, emotionally and physically, he feels fine. Amid the city council’s July recess, the mayor said he will still head to Portugal for a planned vacation and get the surgery upon returning.

“I’m not debilitated by this in any way, from diet to exercise, anything. Emotionally, I’m good,” Keeley said Monday. “I’ve got a full schedule of meetings today, full schedule of meetings tomorrow. This has not hindered me in any way.”

Given the timing of Keeley’s expected surgery, he said it is possible, though not guaranteed, that he will miss a city council meeting or two. However, he said “it’s not a situation where I need to curtail my official duties.”

Mayor Fred Keeley speaks about diagnosis

If Keeley does miss any time, Vice Mayor Renée Golder would take over in his stead.

“Obviously, I hope he’s in good hands at the doctors and he takes care of himself and has a quick recovery. Cancer is scary stuff,” Golder said. “If I need to step in, I am fully capable of facilitating city council meetings.”

Keeley previously said he was given a clean bill of health before he began campaigning for mayor in 2022. He said he suffered “a very minor” stroke in 2009, and in 2002, as a state legislator, he was hospitalized for two weeks for an undisclosed reason. In December, Keeley was rushed to the hospital after suffering an episode of transient global amnesia, which hospital records characterized as “sudden and temporary loss of memory.” He was discharged from the hospital the same day.