During November of 2014, I spent 2 weeks with Frank Ferrara, previous President/CEO of the Fountain Hills Chamber.
As the Board was considering me a candidate for this position, I requested an overlap period. It was helpful to understand some history of the Chamber and Frank’s management style. He was gracious enough to introduce me to many local leaders and help me get acquainted with our team.
The first thing I noticed is most days he wore a suit and tie. I looked through some of the photographs adorned on the Chamber walls and nearly every one, Frank’s appearance was a point of pride for him.
Although he was soon retiring, I could sense the tone of his voice as one that would make people stand up and listen. During a few of his stories his passion for the Chamber, Fountain Hills and a variety of business topics came through very strong. Occasionally I also sensed there were a few more fights left in him.
He shared some of the community initiatives and challenges. The Target shopping center, tourism marketing, building the Chamber office to name a few. The downtown vision plan was something he was most proud of.
Pride for Fountain Hills resinated in everything for Frank. He shared stories about the balloons at the art festivals, luminaries lining Palisades Boulevard during the holidays, moving the Chamber from a small trailer to a larger permanent home and how much he loved living here.
We ate a few lunches together, traveled to visit various people and even had a few laughs. With about 37 years between us, there were some obvious gaps. I’m sure he thought I was overzealous by showing up with my Mac laptop. Frank was a more traditional type of leader. He used a computer for word processing and email.
A few board members have fondly remarked about him sending emails in ALL CAPITAL letters. I asked him about it and he said, “it’s just easier to type.” At first many saw this as yelling because all caps means something bold in email and text. But to Frank, it was efficiency. No need to hit the shift key.
The first time we were leaving the Chamber he offered to drive. While his Chrysler Sebring was a nice shade of royal blue, I got the idea he was planning to leave the convertible top down. I’m definitely a fan of convertibles but not when I’m in a suit and going to a meeting where my hair would be tossed around up on arrival. Frank, on the other hand, was not concerned about that as he was bald. Subsequently, I offered to drive.
He was often battling with his iPhone and very excited when he received a text from his grandkids. I remember him saying he was going to take a class to learn how to use it.
I asked him about the old maroon chair at his desk. He said it had been with him for many years at the Chamber and matched the furniture. From a distance the chair looked stained from where his head would sit. Upon further inspection, I discovered the seat material was very worn and was leaning toward one side. It really did match the furniture. About a week after his departure, the staff and I ceremoniously relieved the chair of it’s duty.
Whenever the subject of Frank’s retirement is discussed, I share how much I learned from him during my “two weeks of Frank”. Over the last few years I have certainly received some interesting looks from people by that comment. I was an outsider and his perspective helped me to get acclimated to Fountain Hills.
Two weeks is not much time to absorb 18 years of history about the Chamber, but it was very helpful in learning about his experience here. Frank was immensely proud of the Chamber’s ability to build a large office and pay off the mortgage in about 7 years. I believe he rightfully sees it as part of his legacy.
One thing he was adamant about avoiding was hiring his successor. He never wanted anyone to think he was influencing the hiring process. I believe the 2014 board agreed and he was only provided with their final selection.
As we were talking one day, he said, “I read your resume, you’ll be just fine here and do a good job.”
On Tuesday, September 19, Frank Ferrara passed away at the age of 81 years old. His beloved wife Jan has asked us to notify Chamber members and invite them to his funeral service on Thursday, September 28, 11am at the Church of the Ascension in Fountain Hills.