The End of An Impressive Era: Frank Fenton Retires From Public Service After 30 Years
Since 1983, Vice-Mayor Frank Fenton has served Beverly Hills as an elected official.
After three decades of being in office, he will retire from public service.
Whether it was being president of Beverly Hills Little League in 1978 or being vice-mayor in 2008, Fenton has served with immense dignity, laboring to craft the City’s schools, forming organized athletics, bringing the City to fiscal soundness and always looking out for the health and welfare of children.
Fenton is the only person to hold the three elected offices in Beverly Hills: City Council, City treasurer and Board of Education. He was the first resident who lived east of Doheny to be elected into office. Since setting this precedent, only a handful of residents have come after him.
With the partner he has in his wife Judie, he dedicates his life to improving Beverly Hills, and the City will always benefit from the Fenton’s contributions.
Fenton is a survivor. He escaped from Germany in the midst of World War II on the ship Simonbolivar, arriving in Cuba before heading to the United States.
After attending elementary school in the U.S., the family moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil where Fenton’s uncle was a dentist.
He attended the first half of high school in Sao Paulo, before returning to Los Angeles to finish his senior year at Hamilton High School. After graduation, he joined the Coast Guard.
The story of meeting his wife is nothing but a fairytale. Fenton was working as a page at Mount Sinai Hospital. Judie was volunteering and finishing her last year in high school.
After Judie’s graduation, they married. Working full-time, both he and Judie enrolled in college to earn their degrees. Fenton graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a degree in business administration.
In 1968, almost immediately after graduating, he became a stockbroker at Sutro. He was promoted to manager, becoming the youngest manager in the company’s history.
Fenton left to take a position at Smith Barney where he was named senior vice-president.
He has been recognized by national publications as one of the top 50 brokers in the country.
On the day of the Sylmar earthquake, Feb. 9, 1971, Fenton and Judie moved their family to Beverly Hills. They enrolled their three young children, Mindy, Gary and Steven in Horace Mann.
The Fentons became involved in the community instantly. They attribute it to their neighbors, Mike and Linda Roberts, who introduced them to the PTA at Horace Mann. Judie would later became president of the school’s PTA. She was the first person to lobby on behalf of Horace Mann known at the time as the “forgotten school.”
Before the Fentons, the school had textbooks three years older than El Rodeo, Beverly Vista or Hawthorne and was grossly overlooked by the district when it came to funding.
At the same time the Fentons became active in their children’s school, Gary and Steven started Little League.
“Everything good that has happened to us happened on those benches,” said Judie. It was here Fenton and his wife would make long lasting friendships, as would their children. In 1978, Fenton became president of Little League. A few years later his fourth child, Jennifer, was born.
During their time in Little League, the Fentons championed to take the empty lot on Les Deux and Olympic and turn it into field space to play soccer and baseball.
They also created slow-pitch baseball, known as the “mini league,” to offer children a transition from t-ball to Little League.
Everything they did was for the health and welfare of the City’s children.
In 1983, Fenton was encouraged by the friends he had made in little league and Horace Mann to run for the Board of Education. Running a grass roots campaign, he came in first place against candidates who included former mayors Mark Egerman and Charlotte Spadaro.
He was re-elected to the school board in 1987. Almost instantaneously, the board was hit with the bitter teachers’ strike.
For three weeks, teachers picketed school board members’ homes. It was Fenton who is said to have held the board together.
Not only did he come to the aid of the district in time of the strike, he shaped the school district’s athletics — particularly the high school’s athletic department. Fenton feels if students have sports they wouldn’t abuse their body with drugs.
The father of four never missed one of his children’s ball games. Whether he was on the school board, or during his time as president of The Maple Counseling Center, Fenton made every game.
It was important for Frank to be there so his kids could look up in the crowd and see a familiar face, said Judie.
After ending his eight-year term on the school board, Fenton was asked to come in as chairman of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation. It was the first time a non board member was asked to come in and chair the organization.
Fenton also served as a commissioner on the City’s Parks & Recreation Commission.
In 2001, the seat for City treasurer came available. Fenton jumped at the opportunity, it was something he had wanted to do since being inspired by former treasurer Ray Gerson. The two had worked together at Sutro, and Gerson always told Fenton he would make a wonderful treasurer.
Serving four years as the City’s treasurer, Fenton made significant contributions.
“Through his leadership and financial acumen, Fenton developed and helped implement a financial strategy for Beverly Hills which has kept us on solid ground, even in today’s challenging economic times,” said City Treasurer Eliot Finkel.
Fenton made invaluable bond investments, and insisted all portfolios be posted online. He also convinced the City Council to dedicate an office at City Hall for the treasurer. This way Fenton could hold weekly office hours to invite the community to discuss City finances.
When he contemplated running for his third term as treasurer in 2005, Fenton was urged by residents to run for City Council. After earning a seat, Fenton became the only person in the City’s history to be elected to the City’s three elected offices.
On the council, Fenton serves on vital ad-hoc committees including the finance committee. He led the campaign to bring back two-hour free parking. Any decision Fenton makes is after he does thorough research. “He never shoots from the hip.”
In 2007, Fenton turned down being mayor after being approached by Jimmy Delshad. Although flattered, he was concerned it would disrupt the process. He thought it wouldn’t look right to be mayor for one month and transition to vice- mayor. This was unorthodox to the way things were down in City Hall and he wanted to respect the process.
Approaching the March 2009 election, Fenton says important issues facing the community is first the “financial responsibility in order to keep our city services at the highest level.” This is followed by keeping the City’s triple A rating in tact, and being pro-active in these difficult financial times.
Regarding traffic, Fenton says, “Everyone wants a small community with little traffic but the reality is that projections show that the population in Los Angles is going to grow by five to 10 million in the next 10 years. What does that mean to Beverly Hills? Major increased pass thru traffic.”
He advises the City to plan for the next 10 years.
“Beverly Hills population will grow, we need to have additional housing to meet that growth.”
Advice this expert leaves to future council members is, “do your homework, listen to your own voice and make decisions based on the knowledge you acquire from doing that homework. And never let your judgment be compromised by outside influenced.”
Fenton says although he will not seek re-election to Council, he will plan on staying involved as it has been his home for almost 40 years.
When asked how we got so involved, he likes to say, “I just said ‘yes.’”