[KHTS] – For nearly 16 years, Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry’s looming, oft-controversial but always impassioned 6-foot, 6-inch frame has sat at the dais to work on municipal affairs.
With his recent decision not to run for a fifth term, the Alemany High School principal discussed why he got involved, whom he’s endorsing, and what is next moves will be.
“When I ran initially, there was really no one on the council who represented me – I was the early 30s, two young kids (demographic),” he said, harkening back to his first campaign, a 60-vote loss to Jan Heidt in 1996.
“So when I looked at the council, I didn’t see someone who I thought represented the majority of Santa Clarita, and that was young families with young kids,” said the 48-year-old “elder statesman.”
He looked at it as a Parks and Recreations issue. There weren’t enough fields.
It was a traffic issue. There weren’t enough roads.
It took him an hour to get to Nobel Middle School where he worked at the time, from the top of Bouquet Canyon Road.
Now, with a son about to graduate from Springfield College and another at University of Arizona, the recent empty-nester is about to get remarried, and sounded as though he was ready to transition to a different phase in his life.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 16 years,” he said, describing the opportunity to play “SimCity” in a growing community of which he was unflaggingly proud to be a part of as, “a blast.”
As far as endorsements for April’s race, and who he would like to see take his seat, he said a vote for the two incumbents, Mayor Laurene Weste and Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean, would be a vote to continue the great quality of life Santa Clarita enjoys.
“After that, I’m probably going to stay out of it,” Ferry said. “Sometimes, me helping someone actually hurts them. I don’t want to influence people one way or the other.”
Continuity is important, he added, and before he endorsed anyone, he would want to know where they stand on some tough issues.
“I would ask hard questions,” Ferry said. “‘Would you have voted for the hospital expansion, yes or no? Would you have voted for the library, yes or no?’”
While Ferry doesn’t seem to relish the divisive nature of politics, it’s an aspect that never bothered him over the last decade and a half.
“I think for me, what’s changed is… it’s almost on a national scene where, when you have parties being splintered and you have extremes going left and right, it takes the joy out of public service,” he said, describing himself as a moderate Republican who suddenly found himself not far enough right for many in the GOP after the tea party movement.
He cited a political atmosphere that exists in which contrarians are averse toward compromise on principle, as part of why he’s not running again.
“It just got to the point where it wasn’t enjoyable to me anymore,” he said, “so it was time to move on.”
His frustration began in earnest, he said, with the expansion of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, an issue that prompted Ferry’s infamous “developmental terrorist” comments.
This labeling of hospital-expansion opponents was a fight against what he considered conspiracy theorists, and those using their political influence to purvey lies to the public.
“There’s a boogie monster in the closet that just doesn’t exist,” he said.
“The political clout on something that was used on what should have been a simple decision,” he said, referring to the hospital’s add-on. “And then you have something like the library, which, an incredible thing for our community.”
His verbal spats with City Councilman TimBen Boydston on the dais have been well documented, and fodder for opponents who have labelled his, at times, single-mindedness in approach, as a disrespectful way to deal with the public.
“I believe that Mr. Ferry and I have different philosophies about how elected officials should interact with their constituents,” Boydston said.
“Even if you disagree with people you work for,” Boydston said, “you must always treat them with respect, and listen to what they have to say.”
That last sentiment was something echoed in an apology issued by City Councilman Bob Kellar, after an exchange last year between Ferry and Boydston led the then-mayor to say I’m sorry for the disruption on the dais.
Boydston applauded Ferry’s lengthy record of advocating for the youth of Santa Clarita, something seconded by City Councilman Frank Ferry, but also noted frustration he’d heard from residents about how the City Council, not just Ferry, treated people.
To that end, Ferry said his experience on the council has been one that’s taught him to mellow to a certain extent, noting that while he may disagree with what’s being said, he doesn’t always express his contrarian views.
“I have to bite my tongue,” Ferry said. “I’ve learned a little bit,” he said, adding he didn’t always get along with former City Councilwoman Jan Heidt, either, but his work with her led him to develop a great respect.
Swearing in as mayor, April 2012
“I’ve divided more communities where, they hate me or love me based on a road that’s gone through their neighborhood,” Ferry said. But those as the decisions you have to make.”
Regardless of whether you’ve argued with him on the dais, or been a longtime supporter, it’s clear that his youth advocacy will leave a lasting impact.
His hands-on involvement with programs such as Community Court, the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Youth Grove and many others, will be something in which Ferry takes great pride.
“Frank Ferry has been an advocate for the youth in Santa Clarita, and I applaud him for the work he has done in that regard for many years,” Boydston said.
And Kellar, who has seen Ferry at his best and worst behavior on the dais as a longtime councilman himself, echoed those words.
“Frank Ferry, you can certainly say, is a man who loves the city of Santa Clartia,” Kellar said. “He’s done so many good things. I particularly appreciate the level of interest and work that he has put into the youth of Santa Clarita. He has really been on the forefront.”
Another potentially divisive move he’s happy with, is his ardent advocacy for the annexation of the Jakes Way community.
“Everyone thought I was an idiot – it wasn’t developed correctly…” he said, of the densely populated area traditionally plagued with a higher crime rate than the city it neighbored. “Well, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘If we want to maintain and have control, we can keep arguing with the county, or we can own it and do something about it, be proactive.’ These imaginary lines for crime data, they mean nothing.”
Ferry praised the work of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies, who helped reduce the crime rate in the Jakes Way area by about 30 percent through increased patrols.
Always the educational advocate, Ferry speculated that he might work with international students, mentioning a recent trip to China, when asked what his next move would be.
While he has no plans to leave Alemany, lobbying could be another option, he said, considering his government experience and law degree from Glendale College.
He always wanted to do more work with nonprofits, which he did less once on the council because of time constraints.
“There’s a point and there’s a time when, someone needs to come in with new ideas,” he said. “There’s time for me to try some new ideas where you’re either unable to do or can’t do based on FPPC requirements.”
Based on the next two months, voters have to find someone they like based on who can make the tough decisions, he said.
Roads and traffic will continue to be an issue as the Santa Clarita Valley expands, he said, as will crime, the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup and job creation, which he felt were the most important issues going forward.
“I knew on day one that when I became a councilmember that it wasn’t for forever,” Ferry said, describing the last 16 years as a blast. “I knew that any job I’ve been in, you’re replaceable. I was always going to do the best I could do, and then move on.”