As Farrah Khan, Irvine’s new mayor-elect, prepares for a smooth transition into the role of mayor, she shared her election night experience, as well as some insight to her goals as Irvine’s new mayor, in an interview with Irvine Weekly.
On election night, Khan said she spent a good amount of time at Irvine City Hall, talking to voters.
“I think by the afternoon we realized that people were done answering the phone and text messages. I was like, ‘I need to talk to people, I can’t just sit here!’ So, I decided to talk to some voters that were waiting in line [at City Hall], and have some good conversations.”
As the polls closed, Khan said she was on a Zoom call with her campaign volunteers as the initial returns came in and had no idea what to expect.
“That was a surprise,” Khan said. “I thought we were going to be neck-to-neck, because it was hard to gauge where everything was. By 9:00 p.m., the second update came through, and it was quite amazing.”
After more than four months of campaigning, Khan said she felt a great burden lifted off her shoulders, and said the following day was a day of rest. However, once the first weekend post-election night came to a close, Khan said she was eager to get to work.
One of her main priorities will be finding strategies to help residents and local businesses recover financially from the pandemic. Khan also has plans to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, while keeping local businesses thriving.
“What I will be rolling out soon is an Economic Recovery Plan that’s really looking into what our resources are here locally, what we’re expecting from the state or federal government to help our residents,” Khan explained. “A lot of our residents have deferred their rental payments, and we know once the pandemic is over, they’re going to be in sort of a financial bind paying their current rent and their back rent. We want to see what kind of funds are available to help them out, and we want to make sure that none of our local businesses are closing their doors.”
With Orange County recently saw more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in one week, and with cases rising in Los Angeles County, Khan admitted that it would be difficult to circumvent the closure of local businesses, if recommended by state and county health officials.
“That’s the hard part, finding creative ways, and looking outside of Orange County and maybe even other countries to see what they have done in these dire times,” she said. “I keep in close contact with Dr. Chau from the Orange County Health Care Office because I think it’s important for us to know exactly where the trend is moving and be ahead of it, not behind it. So, if there’s things we can do preemptively, we need to do those now, before we’re seeing our numbers rise even more.”
Another aspect of her transition will include a city-based health care task force, which will aid in helping Irvine navigate the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
“Putting together a small task force of health care officials that will really guide us on best practices, as we move out and reopen. We’re hoping to move into the Orange Tier later this month, if all our numbers stay constant,” she said. “But, it’s very important for us to have the backing of health care professionals, to make sure the steps we’re taking are in line with their recommendations, just to keep our community safe and make sure we’re not taking any steps that push us backwards.”
After initially planning not to run for office, Khan described this experience as “a whirlwind.” However, she explained that she felt compelled after seeing the community engagement following the Black Lives Matter protests in Irvine.
“Especially following the BLM protests we had in our city, I felt like our leadership lacked the sense of understanding who our residents were and what our residents were saying,” Khan explained. “Really, all our residents were saying is that ‘we know our city is wonderful,’ ‘we understand the police department does an excellent job,’ but there are still gaps where we need to fix things.'”
While Khan does not think she turned Irvine blue, she said that this election proves that there is a shift happening.
“I think it was just the public wanting change,” Khan explained. “If anything, the residents here really wanted someone that was going to show the leadership that the city deserves, someone that was going to be honest with them, someone that understood the changing demographics in our city, and responds accordingly. I really hope that our communities here in Irvine feel like their voice will be heard. For me, it’s really important to hear from the community whether it’s good things or bad things.”