Mitch O’Farrell is sitting with me on the back patio of on Sunset.
I’m lucky to grab him. He’s a busy guy.
As Senior Advisor -- Special Projects for L.A. city council district 13 rep Eric Garcetti, it seems like he’s got his hand in everything.
Which mean everyone’s got a bit of claim on him—not necessarily a bad thing when you’re in public service.
MITCH IS THE MAN IN ECHO PARK
In Echo Park Mitch is much beloved, for his patience, for his courtesy and for the simple fact that he’s been showing up and listening on behalf of the council district 13 office these many years.
Some say Mitch may be the next council member representing the district when his boss terms out and becomes, just maybe, our next mayor.
But that’s not something Mitch wants to talk about in what I learn is possibly his first interview ever.
So we start from the beginning. At least we try.
Mitch O’Farrell was third of four children, born in Oklahoma City.
His father was a truck driver. His mother was an administrative assistant.
Mitch used to be a performer. Like artist Ed Ruscha—whom he’d love to meet—Mitch moved here from Oklahoma as a young man to seek fame and fortune.
He was 21 at the time, and, like many talented performers, never finished college, though he studied architecture and journalism at Oklahoma University for a time.
“I’d recommend that you get your degree,” he said, “but I didn’t. I wanted to get started right away.”
O'FARRELL WAS ONCE AN ACTOR AND DANCER
In Los Angeles, Mitch worked a number of jobs as an actor and dancer. He also entertained on cruise ships for a while, and got to hike in Alaska and visit Australia.
“I was the adventurer in my family,” he said. “ These things were my ticket to travel.”
Between jobs, he also worked in restaurants and, eventually, helped train managers for the Jamba Juice chain
That’s around the time he moved to Glassell Park and met his partner George Brauckman. He also started getting involved in his neightborhood improvement association, eventually becoming president and helping to organize the area’s first neighborhood council.
Along the way he was meeting some of the people who would become Eric Garcetti’s first deputies and assistants.
“A light bulb went off,” said O’Farrell. “Maybe I could enter this profession too.”
But Garcetti, then a newly-elected cily council member, had already hired his initial staffers.
MITCH JOINED CD 13 STAFF ALMOST A DECADE AGO
Mitch had to wait it out and he did , finally becoming Garcetti’s Glassell Park/Elysian Valley Deputy about nine years ago.
He was promoted to Deputy District Director seven years ago, and kept that title for a number of years, even as he watched his responsibilities and reach grow and grow.
Only recently has he gotten the title of Senior Advisor - Special Projects.
Ask Mitch what he considers his biggest accomplishments, and he isn’t shy.
“The Echo Park Filming guidelines,” he said. “They were the second adopted in the city.”
He’s also proud of the role he played in bringing the weekly Farmer’s Market to Echo Park.
And he likes that the controversial includes a senior center and meal program.
MITCH'S FAVORITE PROJECT IS THE ECHO PARK LAKE REHAB
But at the top of his list is Echo Park Lake’s revitalization—including the restoration of the boathouse.
“I cannot wait until the spring of 2013 with a new park and café and paddleboats for people to enjoy.”
He also gets a little nostalgic talking about Echo Park’s Morton Bungalows and the protections he helped negotiate for those historic structures.
“If there’s one thing this office has experience at it’s striking a balance,” he said. “The results are better when we don’t pit one against the other—especially in Echo Park with its strong history of activism.”
And what does he love about Echo Park, which, admittedly, is just a small part of the terrain he navigates in district 13?
“I love Elysian Park, the ," he said. "I love the Dream Center and all its volunteers who help keep Echo Park Clean."
“I also love the vibe on Sunset Boulevard and the shops there, the way everyone one comes together," he added.
“And I love that Maria turned out to be a Mario, “ he said, referring to the nearly-human Echo Park Lake goose that now lives at the L.A. Zoo.
He could be talking about his career or even Echo Park itself --two other things that turned out with a twist.