Ferzan Ahmed has been appointed to fill the vacated seat on Powell City Council following the resignation of former council member Frank Bertone, the city announced last week.
He will serve in the role until the next regularly scheduled municipal election in November 2023, at which time voters will select a successor who will serve the remainder of the unexpired term ending on Dec. 31, 2025.
Ahmed, who has served on the Powell Planning and Zoning Commission since January, brings extensive knowledge and experience in infrastructure development to the seat as a licensed professional engineer with the National Society of Professional Engineers. He also currently serves as the executive director of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission.
Previously, Ahmed served as the vice president and Ohio practice leader of AECOM, a county administrator for Delaware County, and in several positions within the Ohio Department of Transportation District Six that included deputy director, acting administrator, project manager, project engineer and area engineer.
“Ferzan’s expertise in project management and Ohio infrastructure will serve the city well in his duties as a council member,” Powell Mayor Dan Swartwout said in a press release. “We look forward to working with Ferzan and welcome his talents and commitment to serving Powell.”
Ahmed said when he transitioned from roles with the state government to the local government in 2016, he learned that one of the key differences is the proximity between his work and the people he serves. Given the relationships he’s built in the community through the years, Ahmed was prodded to apply for consideration for the council seat when it became available.
“The things I’ve enjoyed most about my career are the interactions with people,” Ahmed told The Gazette. “I’ve been in this community for 30 years, talked to a lot of people through the years, and having been in government for so long, one of the things I’ve talked to people about is the what-if scenario if I ever did something like running in the city. So when this position opened up, several people encouraged me (to apply), including Mr. Bertone, whom I know.”
Ahmed was one of 18 people to apply for the seat, and following the round of interviews, he was unanimously selected to serve in the role until the election.
In making the decision to apply for the seat, Ahmed was swayed by the prospects of being able to use his career experience to directly impact his community.
“I’ve been in government and governance for 30 years, and I’ve been very blessed to have served in roles where I was either running a department or serving in an executive capacity. I learned a lot about governance, learned a lot about how government works, and my specialty is in infrastructure.
“You sit back and you look at your career and say, ‘Well, ok, where do I want to go?’ I want to work for a few more years and the one thing that I have always wanted to do is figure out how I can serve my community in a way in which I am using my experience. And one of the things about local government, whether it’s on the city council or as a township trustee, is you can really make a difference because you’re really in there You’re involved with the decision-making, and if you have something to contribute, that is your opportunity to contribute.”
Ahmed said he really began to understand the impact that can be made at the local level during his time on the Planning and Zoning Commission alongside people who have served on the commission for quite a while. “Just working with those people and seeing how vested they are in their community, it kind of inspired me,” he said.
As for what, specifically, he would like to have a hand in bringing to the community during his time on council, Ahmed mentioned being “a big fan” of the connectivity of the community’s bike paths.
“Everybody is out there (on the paths),” he said. “People in Powell love to be outdoors enjoying themselves, and I want to continue to work on that.”
He added there are parking issues in Powell that need to be addressed to ensure members of the community continue to stay home for their entertainment.
Ahmed went on to say, “Beyond that, I’ve been appointed by council but I have to earn their trust now. I guess they liked my resume, and perhaps they liked my interview, but I need to live up to their expectations. I want to learn from them, work with them, and I’m also looking forward to working with staff. We have an outstanding city manager and a very good staff. But working with the people in my community is what most excites me.”
Asked if he intends to run for the remainder of the term next year, Ahmed said the decision is a “three-step process” that begins with earning the trust of his fellow council members.
“If they feel I’m doing a good job, and if I feel I’m doing a good job for the city of Powell … I’m a very sincere person. I don’t covet things,” he said. “It’s not like I gotta have this (seat). I am really wanting to help. But if it turns out that I’m doing a good job, if that is revealed to me, then yes, I will want to continue this. But I think it’s too early to say what I’m going to do given that I’ve just been selected and haven’t even been sworn in yet.”