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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Ferndale Mayor Greg Hansen (’85)

During his time as a student in Ferndale School District, Greg Hansen was never elected to student leadership. He only ran for office once, in seventh grade, and didn’t win. But he was always fascinated by politics.

Fast-forward to 2019, and Hansen was voted into office as the Mayor of Ferndale, a position he still holds today. It’s a role he considers a great honor.

“It’s surreal at times that this teacher’s kid who was a bit of a troublemaker in school gets the opportunity to be this community’s leader,” Hansen said. “It’s an incredible privilege.”

Hansen was raised by two Ferndale teachers: high school band director Mel Hansen and Mountain View first grade teacher Bertella Hansen. While at Ferndale High School, Hansen ran track and cross country for the Golden Eagles. And naturally, as the son of the band director, he joined the marching band as a trombonist.

Hansen has fond memories of helping his dad with all sorts of band-related events.

“Whether it was painting football fields two-to-four times a year, doing fundraising events during Pioneer Days and cooking hot dogs, setting up for rehearsals, you name it – I was my dad’s right hand for all of that,” he said. “Those are the sorts of things you don’t realize how valuable they are until you have a few years of perspective on it.”

After graduating from FHS in 1985, Hansen initially planned to go into computer engineering at Washington State University, but fell in love with political science instead. After transferring to Western Washington University halfway through his time at college, he also became interested in economics, and wound up with a dual degree in those two subjects.

But Hansen’s first long-term career wasn’t as a politician or economist – it was in the service industry. A dishwashing job at Semiahmoo Resort’s restaurants eventually led to a career as the Director of Restaurants. Hansen stayed at Semiahmoo for 18 years, departing in 2001 so he could return to college for a career pivot into education.

“The part that I loved most about my job was the teaching and the training, so I decided to go back and add to my college experience and get a teaching certificate,” he said.

Although Hansen initially planned on teaching in high school (he worked many substitute teaching jobs at FHS), he wound up using his Semiahmoo experience to teach a hospitality and tourism management course at Whatcom Community College. Hansen has been leading that program at WCC since 2006, helping spark students’ careers.

“What I love the most about teaching is being able to help anybody find a career path that they can be passionate about, that they can make a good living at,” he said. “There's an incredible satisfaction in seeing what my students have been able to do.”

Hansen’s foray into Ferndale politics began in 2015. When Mel Hansen was about to step down from his 16-year term on the City Council, then-mayor Gary Jensen suggested to Greg Hansen that he should consider running for his position. He won the seat in an unopposed election – “It wasn’t a hard race,” he joked.

In 2019, some members of the community asked Hansen to consider running for mayor. Hansen decided to give it a shot – and won. He’s been the mayor since.

“I figured that would be the end of my political career, and it turned out differently than I expected,” he said with a chuckle.

One of Hansen’s favorite parts of being the mayor is interacting with the Ferndale community at citywide events.

“I’m a hospitality person, first and foremost – I get a lot of energy from talking with people,” he said.

But Hansen also loves the more technical, consensus-building aspect of his job. As the mayor, he is responsible for overseeing and launching many major projects in the city. Bringing those projects to life involves finding compromises between many different factions.

“I enjoy the challenge of taking projects and moving them forward and going through the political process of finding the middle ground between different ideas, building a project that has a coalition of people from across the political spectrum,” he said. “The mental exercise of moving things forward for the city, it’s incredibly challenging but I find it fascinating.”

During his tenure, Hansen has overseen a few major projects for Ferndale: the Thornton Street Overpass, a new wastewater treatment plant, and the start of a new skatepark and Pioneer Park stage. The city is also finally going to break ground soon on the reconstruction of Ferndale Terrace. Although Hansen describes himself as a hands-off manager, he still loves to be in the loop on the details of these civic projects.

“I’m a bit of a political nerd, so I want to know what the process is like to get a building built from idea through its completion,” he said. “I want to know how the roads are built, and how we find funding for a skatepark.”

Hansen was just elected to his second term in November, and one of his main goals for the next few years is to create a vibrant Downtown Ferndale.

“How do we create a place where the people who live in Ferndale feel they can look to Ferndale first, before they go into Bellingham?” he said. “We don’t want to be a bedroom community with a downtown that you just drive through to get home.”