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Tim Myers: The two Franks of Santa Clarita

Posted: February 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

The Myers family moved to California and Santa Clarita during the second week of June 1996 — a mere two months after Frank Ferry, current principal of Alemany High School and Santa Clarita City Council member, failed (narrowly) to dislodge an incumbent to capture a seat on the City Council in the then-relatively young city.

According to local lore, Mr. Ferry came storming into town from the San Fernando Valley shortly before the election, and from his perch leading the ASB at Valencia High School, holding an undergraduate degree from California State University, Northridge and a law degree from the "California"-accredited Glendale College of Law, promised to raise sums unheard of to run a high-powered campaign to enter local politics.

In the next election, Frank Ferry, who began his 1998 campaign pretty much the day after the 1996 election, would sweep easily into office, harvesting nearly twice the votes he captured in 1996.

In those early days one often heard Frank’s name bandied about with that of Cameron Smyth (who lost in 1998 but would steam-roll into a council seat in 2000) using the term political up-and-comer.

Many felt that Frank’s and Cameron’s ambitions lay outside the council chambers, and Smyth would indeed go on to serve four terms in the state Assembly. But Frank Ferry’s higher political aspirations, if they ever existed, quietly dissipated.

From 1998 to the present, I would say that Santa Clarita found itself treated to the two Franks.

The first Frank, an incredible educator who built deep and nurturing relationships with his teenage charges, would advance in his career, first to assistant principal at Saugus High School and then to lead his alma mater, Alemany High School, to an important resurrection.

He captured my loyalty and imagination when he pulled off the prank of the century in 1996-97 when he got gullible Hart High School boosters to bite on the fake Hart district "Fan Spirit Award" where Valencia High School "defeated" the hapless and unknowing Hart fans.

But then the second Frank also existed: A loud and somewhat aggressive and even bullying presence from the council dais who seemed to brook no criticism of himself, city personnel, or political friends.

A coterie of political opponents appeared, seemingly focused more on this Frank’s imperious personality than his particular views on any issue.

And yet, though thoughts of higher office receded, Frank Ferry handily won re-election in 2002 and 2006, and in 2008 even managed to install his political protégé, Laurie Ender, into a council seat in a stunning victory.

But then 2010 happened. A seemingly disinterested Ferry very nearly lost his seat, which would have made him only the third incumbent unseated in city history.

He stayed in office with the whisker of a 32-vote margin over challenger David Gauny. Soon after this, Frank Ferry endured a health crisis so critical he received Last Rites in his ICU bed.

One wondered if the as-yet-undiagnosed illness had made him lose interest in holding office and accounted for his desultory campaign.

A bit after this, though, it seemed that the old political Frank Ferry revived. In a move cynically meant to undermine the candidacy of Bob Kellar for re-election in 2012 and help the then-unknown candidacy of friend and political ally Ed Colley, in late 2010 Ferry executed a council maneuver to name himself to the ceremonial title of mayor and deny Mr. Kellar’s turn in a regular "rotation," thus denying candidate Kellar the title of mayor in the first 12 months of the 15 running up to the election.

Alas, the strategy backfired in a big way. Not only did Bob Kellar retain his seat, he captured more votes than ANYONE else in a Santa Clarita City Council election save the extremely popular JoAnne Darcy and future Congressman Buck McKeon.

Ed Colley would come in a disappointing fourth, and in the shock of city history Laurie Ender would make her mark, and not in a good way, becoming only the THIRD incumbent to lose a seat and the FIRST sitting mayor turned out of office before serving out the ceremonial term.

To add insult to injury, TimBen Boydston, a rival with Ferry from his time during an appointment on the City Council to serve out the term of Cameron Smyth, would not just narrowly defeat Ender, but CRUSH her.

Did Frank Ferry see this in his future or, like myself and my Nebraska bride, with children finishing school, is it time to change focus?

Whichever, I wish Frank Ferry godspeed.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" runs Saturdays in The Signal.

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