A former motorcycle mechanic with a Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness, Mike first ran for city council on a protest campaign as a "socialist-feminist" in 1979, taking first place among voters at a time when Santa Cruz was more Republican than Democrat. He taught Marxist theory at UC Santa Cruz for over 40 years, while serving six terms as a city councilman, including five terms as the mayor, longer than anyone in the city's history (the mayoral post of Santa Cruz passes yearly to a councilmember selected by a majority of other councilmembers). During his 20 years in city government, city spending on social services and programs increased from $80,000 ($200,000; 2000US) a year in 1979 to $2 million by 2000. However, in the 2006 election, he was criticized for supporting pragmatic pro-economic development positions.
He served as president of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) teachers' union.
- McCord, Shanna (2006-01-01). "Rotkin in the middle of key Santa Cruz issues in 2005". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- McCord, Shanna (2006-10-04). "Election 2006: Veteran politician Rotkin wants another term on council". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- McCord, Shanna (2006-11-08). "Robinson wins most contested seat on S.C. council; Mathews, Rotkin stay on". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Bookwalter, Genevieve (2009-05-05). "Community Studies takes first cuts: UCSC staffers get pink slips in wake of $13 million deficit". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-05-24.