Catching Up with Jan Perry, Innovator, Thinker and Builder

Councilwoman Jan Perry.

She could be the first female mayor of Los Angeles. That’s just how this councilwoman rolls.

There’s already one mayor in the family. Perry’s late dad, Samuel Perry, was mayor of Cleveland. Her mom was in politics, too.

At a Skirball Museum event for Israel Independence Day, she was thrilled that the press came out. “But then I realized they were not there for the cause; they wanted to see Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

It’s all about family for this divorced parent. Her dad was a veteran of World War II and mom a late bloomer who pursued a college education after she had children.

“I grew up in a household that was very patriotic, gauged with civil rights. There was always a diverse array of friends; I was raised to be a good thinker. My parents always encouraged us to be thoughtful and pursue our beliefs.”

So when Perry decided to convert to Judaism, they were encouraging. Other parents might have had another reaction.

Her USC Journalism major was the result of loving to write and seeking the truth.

This past Martin Luther King Birthday, Perry was asked to speak. Instead of a traditional talk, she read a letter from her mom about what it felt like to hear Dr. King give his “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was moving to be able to read her words.”

Currently in her third term as councilwoman, she says, “I wish I had known sooner that it’s good to be fearless in politics. Just stay true to the needs of the people; in most cases, it will work out.” As part of the political boy’s club, she thrives. “It’s a challenge, but I master my craft.”

She’s been acting mayor a bunch of times, including during Michael Jackson’s funeral. “It was intense as the circus came to town. The animals came off the train and I followed them into the stable. There were animals, fans, crowds and cameras. Any time you have high numbers of people in a highly volatile situation, it’s safety first.’

“I’m a very pragmatic person. I lost a sibling when I was younger and try to take my life one step at a time. I like to listen to people. That’s what makes serving at the local level so special. I am grateful to be a part of the intimate moments of peoples’ lives, even if they’re bad. If I can bring someone comfort, I will.” (She’s been visiting the parents of a young girl who was killed in a hit and run.)

As part of the Ninth District, she is involved with the revitalization of downtown L.A. with its historic/jazz/roots (including the Dunbar Hotel renovation where Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald performed) and represents Skid Row. “We have a Farmers Market at 43rd and Central and give cooking classes. We also do Zumba.”

When she was 18, she attended a Rose Bowl game from the Midwest. “I was so taken with the sun, the sky and the area that I put in for a transfer to USC and have been here ever since. The great marketing tool the city has is January 1 in Los Angeles.”

Sue Facter’s news agency covers luxury lifestyle brand development and A-list personalities. Her work appears in international publications, broadcast and the web.

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