Veteran South S.F. official will not run

Joe Fernekes’ announcement that he would not seek another term on the City Council split the upcoming race for two seats on the elected board wide open.

Mayor Rich Garbarino and Councilman Fernekes’ respective seats are up for election in November, but Fernekes’ sudden announcement leaves an opening that is tantalizing prospective candidates.

The race already had one challenger, former 2005 City Council candidate Kamala Silva-Wolfe, who was in the race before Fernekes bowed out. Garbarino said Wednesday that he was going to seek re-election.

Others said Wednesday that they were considering a City Council bid because Fernekes, who has served on the City Council since 1991, was not seeking another four-year term.

Former Planning Commissioner Rick Ochsenhirt and KM2 Communications’ Kevin Mullin, son of former City Councilman and current Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, said they were now considering a campaign since Fernekes dropped out.

Candidates can take out and file declaration of candidacy papers from July 16 through Aug. 10 for the Nov. 6 election, but the Aug. 10 deadline will likely be extended to Aug. 15 because an incumbent — Fernekes — did not file.

Silva-Wolfe, a medical and legal research consultant, said she would focus on residential and small business needs in the city, adding that she was excited for the campaign — for the dialogue and discussion about the city. Fernekes’ announcement would not change her campaign, she noted.

“I think that we lose a valuable piece of our institutional memory,” Silva-Wolfe said of Fernekes’ decision not to run.

Fernekes has been an elected official in South San Francisco — he was first elected to the South San Francisco Unified School District’s board — since 1981.

Ochsenhirt, who ran in 2001 and 2003, said he was “shocked” about Fernekes’ announcement because he had signed on to serve his campaign but added that he was considering a run.

“I want to ask around and talk to people to get a feel for things,” he said.

Mullin said he was exploring a possible candidacy and would make a decision in July. “I’m a supporter of Joe’s and I’m a supporter of Rich’s, but with a vacancy, that changes the equation,” Mullin said.

In a letter to supporters, Fernekes, a husband, father of two daughters, and a supervisor with Bay Area Rapid Transit, said he would not seek re-election because of new professional and personal obligations.

He did, however, leave the door open for future campaigns, writing, “Those of you who know me well realize that there will likely be other public service ventures I may try in the future.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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