Educator and past Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry will run for a seat on the 15-member Los Angeles City Council in June, representing the northern San Fernando Valley communities where he grew up.
A West Hills resident for the past five years, Ferry, 53, announced his candidacy for LA’s 12th District on Saturday in the city’s June 4 special election to fill the seat of Councilmember Mitchell Englander, who announced in October he would not seek another term.
“It’s actually where I was born and raised,” Ferry said Monday of the district, which encompasses the communities of Granada Hills, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, West Hills and Northridge.
“This is where I went to elementary, junior high, high school and CSUN, so I’ve been here almost 30 years in total now,” he said.
“We’re really excited — my wife and sons are very supportive,” he said. “And my parents especially. This is the first time my parents are going to be able to vote for me.”
While LA City Council seats are not party-affiliated, Englander was the only Republican among the 15 councilmembers. Ferry would continue that tradition in the 12th District.
“Traditionally this seat has been held by a Republican,” he said. “It’s a more conservative area in the city of LA. I’m definitely a moderate Republican, a registered Republican since I was 18 years old. But just like Santa Clarita, this is a nonpartisan race.”
Ferry also expects he’ll have stiff competition in the campaign leading up to the June special election.
“The councilmember will represent approximately 250,000 people, so anywhere between 11 and 15, even more candidates may run,” he said. “A City Council seat in the second-largest city in the United States is a rare opportunity.”
If the June 4 election is not decisive, Los Angeles has a runoff election date slated for Aug. 13.
Ferry moved to Santa Clarita in 1990 and taught at Valencia and Saugus high schools before taking a position as principal at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills in 2006. He stepped down from the post on Feb. 14, 2014.
Ferry was first elected to the Santa Clarita City Council in 1998 and also served as mayor in 2002, 2009 and 2012. In 2013, he decided not to run for a fifth term in the 2014 election, saying he was to be married soon and wanted to spend more time with his family.
With his two sons Nick and Jake away at college and no more school or City Council duties, Ferry also opted to have surgery, which successfully corrected complications he suffered during pancreatic surgery on Nov. 30, 2010.
Doctors at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center had told Ferry’s family back then his chances of survival were not good. But after a slow recovery, he was released from the hospital on New Year’s Day 2011.
“I heard about all these people were praying for me, Jews, Catholics, Muslims – all different cultures and nationalities,” Ferry said. “It was amazing, really impactful. You realize there’s something to it when that many people pray for you.”
After he retired from the City Council and Alemany in early 2014, and recovered from the second surgery, Ferry became a partner in Global Education Management, a company helping to bring students from Japan, Korea and China to attend high schools and colleges in the United States.
In late June 2014, Ferry and Mori Rouhani, a Santa Clarita dentist he’d met in 2011 during his last stint as mayor, were married (Ferry and his first wife had divorced in 2004). Ferry then relocated from Santa Clarita to Rouhani’s home in West Hills. She also has two adult sons, Keon Parsa and Kayvon Parsa.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Rouhani had moved to Japan in the late 1970s during the Islamic Revolution, and then to the U.S. in 1984, Ferry said.
She attended USC, finished first in her class and was the West Coast Dental Director for Smile Care. After owning Golden Triangle Dental Care, she and a partner merged that practice with Santa Clarita Valley Dental Care. She her partner also own Premier Care Dental Group, a large dental practice in Pasadena.
Ferry had been out of the public eye nearly five years when the LA City Council seat came up for election.
“When I was in Santa Clarita, I always wanted to be a public servant, to serve our community, and for 16 years, I was able to do that in Santa Clarita as the mayor and as a councilman,” he said.
“But when I met my wife, got remarried and moved, I thought that was the end of that opportunity,” he said. “Then right before Christmas, there was a newspaper article about Councilman Englander resigning from his seat. He was taking a job and most likely the position was going to be appointed.
“About a week later, an article stated that former Councilman Greg Smith was going to be appointed to the seat for six months, but there would also be a special election on June 4 of this year,” Ferry said. “And I just got excited because I thought, ‘Man, here’s an opportunity to serve again, specifically to serve the community where I was raised.’ My parents and just everyone I know growing up are still here. So I jumped at it.”
Ferry’s folks, wife and sons are unanimous in backing his play for the post in LA.
“I’m still trying to get Mori to realize how hard it is to win a campaign,” Ferry said, tongue in cheek. “She met me as a mayor and thinks I’m just going to become a council member. I don’t think she understands all the steps in between. But we’ll teach her as we go along.”
When he spoke to sons Jake and Nick about running, “They said, ‘Dad, you’ve always been your happiest and most passionate when you are serving the public, when you’re running for office, and you’re doing public service,'” Ferry said.
“My brother, Vince Ferry, is the principal of Saugus High School,” he said. “He told our dad a few weeks ago, ‘Dad, ever since (Frank) has been in junior high, he’s been doing something regarding politics. He ran for office in high school, ran for office in college. It’s what he does. It’s just absolutely what he enjoys, and he’s excellent at solving problems.’
“I do feel like I’m excellent at solving problems,” Ferry said. “Whatever the problems are in the community for a specific individual or family, I just think outside the box. I think of ways that may not have been thought of before.”
“Frank was tremendously supportive of building roads here in Santa Clarita, supported me on Open Space and trails, and was very cognizant of the need for arts,” said Laurene Weste, a longtime colleague of Ferry on the Santa Clarita City Council.
“He helped a lot with getting the Performing Arts Center,” Weste said. “He was wonderful with children and gave a lot of time and attention to Parks & Recreation and all the things we value so in our beautiful valley. I’m proud to hear he wants to use his talent and time to improve the peoples’ lives down in the San Fernando Valley. That would be a blessing for them.”
As to why Ferry thinks he is a viable candidate for LA City Council, “I really feel like I have an advantage because I’m not tethered or tainted with anything having to do LA City Hall and some of the issues they’re having right now,” he said.
“But at the same time, I have this wealth of experience from Santa Clarita regarding Open Space, Cemex, Elsmere Canyon, building roads, transportation issues, Parks & Rec, senior citizens,” he said.
“It’s like I’ve had this invaluable training, so when I look at (District 12), it also has big issues, like the Aliso Canyon gas leak, the landfill, the Woolsey Fire, the aging population in the community,” Ferry said. “You’re always going to have issues of our youth and giving them things to do so they don’t get into alcohol or drugs. So the issues are very similar to the things I worked with in Santa Clarita, just in a different location.”