New Beverly Hills City Council Installed

The Beverly Hills City Council welcomed its newest member, Sharona Nazarian, who was sworn in on July 12 along with incumbents Lester Friedman and John Mirisch. The ceremony also included the installation of incumbent City Treasurer Howard Fisher and departing statements from former City Councilmember and Mayor Robert Wunderlich.

An excited audience of a few hundred gathered on the steps of City Hall for an outdoor ceremony bedecked with flowers. The event began with a color guard salute followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Beverly Hills Police Department Chief Mark Stainbrook and Beverly Hills Fire Department Chief Greg Barton. Former City Clerk Byron Pope returned to the city to perform a stirring rendition of “God Bless America,” as requested by Mirisch.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer offered his congratulations and well wishes for the new City Council. Mayor Lili Bosse presented Wunderlich with a key to the city in honor of his service on the City Council. The ceremony concluded with public comments and a reception.

This election saw the highest voter turnout for an election with three open City Council seats since 1972 with over 40% of the city’s 22,439 registered voters casting a ballot. Remarkably, turnout nearly matched participation rates for 2020 when the Beverly Hills General Municipal Election overlapped with the Presidential Primary.

A higher share of voters took advantage of universal vote by mail. About 60% of Beverly Hills voters submitted their ballots by mail in the March 2020 General Municipal Election. That share rose to over 80% this year.

Friedman, who was first elected to the City Council in 2017, was reelected with the highest share of the vote in this latest election.

Councilmember Lester Friedman, center, gets sworn in by his campaign co-chair Judie Fenton beside his wife, Simone. All photos by Samuel Braslow

“I believe that public service is the act of achieving goals that are best for the entire community,” he said. “The city of Beverly Hills is well positioned for the future, and I am pleased that I will be a part of moving our city forward in the next four years.”

Nazarian, who joins the Council having served on the Public Works and Human Relations Commissions, finished just six votes behind Friedman. She reiterated that “public safety will continue to be my number one priority.”

Nazarian, who was born in Iran before immigrating to the United States, will be the second Iranian American elected to office in Beverly Hills and the first female Iranian American.

“I am an Iranian-American, Jewish immigrant,” she said. “And while all those traits and experiences have molded me into who I am, one thing is clear: I am proud to be a resident of Beverly Hills.”

“In this divided world, I choose to bring unity and I look forward to working with Mayor Bosse and my fellow councilmembers as we serve this community together,” she said.

Former Councilmember Jimmy Delshad, who became the first Iranian American on the City Council in 2003, congratulated Nazarian and the rest of the Council in a public comment. Nooshin Meshkaty, speaking as a fellow Iranian American, told Nazarian in a public comment that she “makes us all proud.”

Mirisch, who was reelected to an unprecedented fourth term on the Council, highlighted the traits that set him apart from his colleagues.

“I’m the only councilmember who lives south of Santa Monica,” he said. “And I’m still the only registered Republican council member.”

He added: “Most of all, though, I consider myself to be a Communitarian, and I remain committed to trying to think for myself, as I was admonished by my 4th grade shop teacher, Mr. Wekerle, at Hawthorne.”

Wunderlich, who came within less than one percent of Mirisch in the final vote count, used his closing remarks to highlight issues he felt would get less attention without him on the Council.

Councilmember Sharona Nazarian gets sworn in by her husband, Dr. Danny Nazarian.
Councilmember John Mirisch sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term

On issues including climate change, mobility, generational diversity, and development, “the city is losing a champion,” he said. He urged the city to “be a leader” on combating climate change, in part by “making it possible and safe for people who choose not to use cars” to commute in the city. He also noted that his departure brings the number of councilmembers who live in the south of the city from two to one.

Wunderlich’s former colleagues each took turns honoring the outgoing councilmember, praising his humility, kindness, and intellectual rigor.

“In my mind, you are a model for what a councilmember ought to be,” Councilmember Dr. Julian Gold said.

Mirisch acknowledged Wunderlich’s 10-year stint as the city’s representative as its Director on the Board of The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“I’ve valued and admired your knowledge – you do your homework – your analytic skills, and also your recognition that we’re a community,” he said.

When Wunderlich took over for Friedman as mayor, the Council had its first in-person hearing since the start of the pandemic. Knowing that Friedman had never had the opportunity to lead a non-virtual meeting, Wunderlich abdicated the mayor’s seat for the day to give Friedman the chance to preside.

“That really is a measure of who you are, a very giving person,” Friedman said. “It has been an absolute honor to serve with you.”

“You are humble, you stand for what you believe in, you have a tremendous amount of integrity,” Bosse said to Wunderlich as she awarded him the key to the city. “You have made our city a better place [and] continue to do so.”

Nooshin Meshkaty congratulates the newly assembled Council.
Former Councilmember Robert Wunderlich receives a standing ovation for his service. All photos by Samuel Braslow