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The City Council’s ‘tiger’ sleeps tonight

Departing Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry reflects on 16 years of service and his legacy

Posted: April 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Frank Ferry talks about the accomplishments of his 16 years of service to the city of Santa Clarita at a stop sign on McBean Parkway during a ride-a-long with Signal staff. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

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“I know at times I alienate people,” says City Councilman Frank Ferry. “People aren’t neutral about me.”

For 16 years, the longtime city representative has given plenty of fodder to both his supporters and detractors.

To some, he’s an admittedly outspoken but devoted advocate of the city. To others, he’s a hot-headed bully who too often has rained down verbal abuse on citizens and fellow council members alike.

But with his tenure on Santa Clarita’s City Council officially ending Tuesday night, the operative question becomes: “Just how will Frank Ferry’s time on the council be remembered?”

If you ask the man himself, as The Signal did during a driving tour of the city, the answer is a little from column A, a little from column B.

Election

It could be said that the city was entering its adolescence when Ferry was first elected to the City Council in 1998.

The early founders guided the booming community from its infancy for about 11 years.

But then a new guard emerged. Ferry and now-Mayor Laurene Weste were both elected in 1998. City Councilman Bob Kellar was elected next, in 2000. City Councilwoman Marsha McLean followed in 2002.

That group of four has shaped city policy and direction for more than a decade.

With policy-setting for a community that’s now more than 200,000 residents strong resting largely in thehands of five council members, elected officials wield a tremendous amount of influence and power.

“City government is awesome because I can have any idea and all I need is two votes and it happens,” Ferry said. “So as long as there’s the money and there’s two (other) votes, I’ve been able to do a lot of amazing things.”

Those, he said, include completion of the cross-valley connector, which joined Interstate 5 and Highway 126 with Highway 14; the approval of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital expansion; construction of parks throughout the city; establishment of the Santa Clarita Youth Grove in Central Park; and being a consistent voice for the city’s teenagers and youth, among many others.

Behavior at the dais

But while Ferry recited a litany of successes around the city that he had a hand in during his time on the council, it is his behavior during council meetings that defines him in some eyes — namely when directing his ire at public speakers.

Back on Oct. 22 Ferry called local resident Cam Noltemeyer — a frequent critic of the city — “poison” and “toxic” during a spirited outburst from the dais.

Ironically, those comments came just days after Ferry apologized during the annual State of the City luncheon for his sometimes-abrasive behavior during his time on the council.

While Ferry’s exchanges with public speakers have been rocky at times, the same could be said for his relationship with his fellow council members.

He freely admits he clashed with then-Councilwoman Jill Klajic, with whom he served for a few years in the late ‘90s.

More recently, Ferry has locked horns with Councilman TimBen Boydston, elected in 2012.

Those clashes included an exchange in March 2013 when Ferry said Boydston had brought a “hateful” tone to the City Council and had “zero ability to collaborate or cooperate” with other council members. The outburst came after Boydston questioned the legality of a 2009 city advertising campaign dubbed “Mayor Dude” that featured Ferry.

Ferry said at that meeting that Boydston was “poking the tiger.”

But Ferry said he never minded being outspoken on the council, in part because he believes the results vindicate him somewhat.

“Over 16 years, I had far more political wins than I did losses,” Ferry said. “When you’re on the winning side, it makes it a lot easier.”

Criticism

While some have questioned or criticized his behavior, Ferry’s decisions as a council member have also not always been a hit with the general public, a fact he freely admits.

“When it comes to their neighborhood and it comes to something that’s specific to them, you absolutely can lose a friend or the support of a community member over a given vote,” Ferry said.

One such instance occurred in 2010 when the city was considering a new medical office building in Valencia near Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

It was during discussion of the project that Ferry coined a term that has followed him ever since by referring to some citizens as “developmental terrorists.”

Calling them a cadre of community whistleblowers and failed council candidates, Ferry defined “developmental terrorists” during a council meeting as “a small group of people that are killing businesses, killing job opportunities, killing services and products.”

Reflecting on his term in office, Ferry said he used the term because he didn’t think projects should be torpedoed before they went through the city’s planning process, and that people should be up front about their interests when speaking against a project.

Ferry said the matter cost him politically, contributing to the narrowness of his win over challenger David Gauny in 2010.

“Every time you take a vote you’re basically losing half the audience,” Ferry said.

Looking back

So, looking back on his tenure on the council, is Ferry a dedicated albeit outspoken representative of the people, or a brazen bully?

His answer is a little bit of both.

“I can honestly say I’ve always been extremely blunt; I’ve never had a good filter,” he said.

“And I always said to myself that I would do what’s right for the community and if it meant I lose, I lose.”

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter
@LukeMMoney

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