The candidate nomination filing period ended on March 11 for individuals looking to pursue elected office in Beverly Hills, and although voters can still write in candidates on June 7, the ballot for open city seats is complete.
Three seats of the Beverly Hills City Council – currently held by Mayor Robert Wunderlich and Councilmen Lester Friedman and John Mirisch – and the city treasurer position, held by Howard Fisher, will be up for grabs.
Robert “Bob” Wunderlich was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2017, and he has served as mayor for the last year. Before being elected, Wunderlich represented Beverly Hills for 10 years as its director on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Professionally, Wunderlich has been an economic and business consultant for more than 25 years, assisting many businesses across several industries, including entertainment, technology, health care and fashion.
He earned a master of business administration degree with emphasis in finance from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, a doctorate in chemical physics and a master of arts degree in physics from Harvard University, as well as a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from Columbia University.
Wunderlich grew up in Queens, New York, moved to Southern California in 1981 and married his wife, Andrea Spatz, in 1986. Their children, Matthew and Michele, graduated from Beverly Hills High School.
“I want to preserve what we love about Beverly Hills, while positioning it for the future,” he said. “I am proud of my accomplishments during my first term. My priorities will continue to be public safety; residential quality of life; economic, community and environmental sustainability; and transparency in government.”
Lester Friedman was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2017 and served as mayor in 2020.
Previously, he served on the Beverly Hills Traffic and Parking Commission from 2011-17 and served as its chair in 2015. Friedman was also chair of the Beverly Hills Taxi Review Committee and served on the Blue Ribbon Commission for Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction. He is a 2009 graduate of Team Beverly Hills.
Friedman is an attorney and serves as a mediator and judge pro-tempore. He is a past chairman of the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization and served on that commission from 2009-14. He serves as a director and management chair of the California Applicant’s Attorneys Association.
Since 2009, he has been honored by the attorney rating service “Super Lawyers,” was named in the “Top 100 Super Lawyers of Southern California” for 2022 and was selected as a “best lawyer” from 2005-22. He is a graduate of UCLA and attended Southwestern School of Law.
Friedman has lived in Beverly Hills since 1984, having grown up in the Beverly/La Cienega area of Los Angeles. He is married to Simone Friedman, who previously served as chair and as a commissioner of the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission, and served as chairwoman and president of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation. They have four children, Joshua, Allana, Adam and Jeremy, as well as five grandchildren.
“Over the last two years, we have encountered and survived an unexpected and frightening experience,” Friedman said. “While there was no script for this as a community, we persevered, and we are now stronger. I want to continue our upward trajectory and use the lessons learned for our future.”
John Mirisch was elected to Beverly Hills City Council in 2009 and has served as mayor three times. Throughout, he said he has emphasized fiscal responsibility and value for our taxpayer dollars.
After graduating from Yale University (magna cum laude) in 1985, Mirisch followed in his family footsteps by going to work in international film distribution with 20th Century Fox International.
His grandfather and great-uncle were movie producers Harold and Walter Mirisch, who won or were nominated for Oscars for movies such as “West Side Story,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Cast a Giant Shadow,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
Mirisch is a fourth-generation resident of Beverly Hills. He attended Beverly Hills schools through graduation and was active in journalism and forensics.
Mirisch served on the school district’s Facility Advisory Committee and was voted into the Beverly Hills High School Hall of Fame alongside his mother, Wendy Goldberg. His brother, Richard Mirisch, and sister, Amanda Goldberg, are also graduates of Beverly Hills High School. Mirisch’s son, Vin, is a fifth generation Beverly Hills resident and attended Beverly Hills schools.
“I’ve been involved in Beverly Hills politics for half a century,” former Mayor Charles Aronberg said of Mirisch. “Nobody has served us better or with more distinction than John Mirisch. He is relentless in working for our community and he brings up important issues that nobody else talks about. We need John to be our voice at City Hall.”
Robin Rowe works as a senior manager at a multi-billion dollar company that makes software for banks and investment companies that protects the country’s financial system. Previously, for the U.S. Department of Defense, Rowe produced an AI crisis detection system installed at the country’s command centers for national defense. As a navy research scientist, Rowe built systems to train NATO Special Forces.
Rowe first ran for City Council in 2020 and finished better than he expected for a first-time candidate.
A central Illinois native, he moved to Beverly Hills with his wife, Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe, to work in the film and TV industry after being recruited by DreamWorks Animation. She began working at MGM, but she eventually accepted positions at Fox and then Disney.
“No matter how much money Beverly Hills City Council spends on police, if it isn’t spent wisely, we gain nothing,” Rowe said. “I know how to implement public safety properly from working for the Department of Defense. I was the architect of a real-time crisis detection system installed at our country’s command centers for national security, to keep America safe. If elected to City Council, I will make Beverly Hills secure too.”
He said he took a “hard look” at Beverly Hills security in 2020 after the Nessah synagogue break-in. As a member of the city’s Technology Committee, Rowe said he questioned how Beverly Hills had installed the world’s most sophisticated CCTV city security system, yet it failed.
Andy Licht is a lifelong resident of Beverly Hills, a graduate of Beverly Hills schools, chair of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission and a previous member of the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission.
A principal of Beverly Hills-based Licht Entertainment since 1981, Licht works as a film and television producer.
As his three children were attending Beverly Hills schools, he began his career in public service, having served as a member of the Beverly Hills Unified School District Citizens Oversight Committee.
Licht was unanimously selected by the City Council to serve on the planning commission in 2016 and was re-appointed to a second term in 2018. He served as chair of the planning commission in 2018 and was reappointed chair in 2021.
The commissioner has helped create charity fundraisers for numerous organizations, including the United Jewish Fund, Big Brothers, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Santa Monica Boulevard Blue-Ribbon Committee, the Metro Subway Station Area Advisory Committee and the Beverly Hills Centennial Committee.
In 2019, Licht and his wife of 31 years, Lisa, were honored at Temple Emanuel’s annual Beverly Hills Ball for serving the community.
Licht earned a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with honors. He earned a master of fine arts degree at USC’s Peter Stark Program, graduating cum laude. Licht is a lifetime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Akshat “A.B.” Bhatia
Akshat “A.B.” Bhatia is a real estate professional/small business owner, a father of two and a husband, whose wife has “fallen in love with our community in Beverly Hills.”
He said that, although viewed as an Indian American, he sees himself “as a true American living the American Dream.”
“And I want to serve the city I love most,” Bhatia said.
He said his priorities include enhancing neighborhood safety, ending the homelessness crisis, strengthening education and supporting small businesses.
Bhatia said criminals should not be allowed to get away with crime in Beverly Hills. He said the current situation is “troubling,” which is why he strongly supports the recall of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
To end homelessness, Bhatia said he will work with city, county and state agencies to garner additional support.
As far as education, he wanted to strengthen ties between the City Council and the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education to make sure children have the best facilities and resources they need to succeed.
Bhatia said he will fight for small businesses, advocating for fewer taxes and less “red tape.”
Kevin Kugley is the owner of a Beverly Hills financial firm, Kevins7, a virtual family office with accountants that engage in financial planning.
He earned his executive master of business administration from USC Marshall School of Business and completed the executive training program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee.
Prior to launching his business, Kugley could be seen in episodes of “Desperate Housewives,” “Suburgatory” and “CSI.”
His platform is three-fold: revitalizing public safety, supporting small businesses and listening to community needs.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it will take City Council members that are capable of uniting Beverly Hills – long-time residents with new neighbors … shops and landmarks with tourists from all over the world,” Kugley said. “I will help restore our city’s past glory and safety, while leading its next generation into its future.”
Dr. Sharona Nazarian
Dr. Sharona Nazarian currently serves as a Beverly Hills Public Works commissioner and a Los Angeles County commissioner. Previously, she has served as the past chair and commissioner of the Beverly Hills Human Relations Commission.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from USC and a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis in multicultural psychology.
Nazarian has lived in Beverly Hills for over three decades and has generational roots in the city. She has been active in the community for more than two decades, she said.
Nazarian hopes to bring a new perspective to the City Council and wants to increase public safety and security, upgrade technology and work more closely with Beverly Hills schools. She also wants to improve residents’ quality of life.
“I am running to serve as the voice of our community and will bring a new perspective to the City Council,” Nazarian said. “I will be proactive in addressing safety and security and will work tirelessly to make the community feel safe. I am accessible and will bring a residents-first approach to all decisions to improve quality of life, increase sustainability and plan for the future. Working with our schools and families to boost their educational experiences is a priority. I look forward to bringing safety and unity to our community.”
Sharona and her husband, Daniel, reside in Beverly Hills with their three sons.
Vera Markowitz is the founder of Just in Case BH, a community-led, disaster preparedness organization that aims to keep neighborhoods safe in the event of an emergency.
A resident of Beverly Hills for more than 50 years, Markowitz has never held elected office but ran for City Council in 2017. She became involved in civic issues after problems developed at the Beverly Hills Police Department.
In a previous interview, Markowitz cited several problems in Beverly Hills that need to be addressed immediately: the city’s water reserves, its fiber optics project and its general plan update.
“There are so many different problems in the city, and at this point, if we don’t make these problems get better, I don’t know if [Beverly Hills] will ever recover,” she said.
Darian Bojeaux has more than 30 years of experience practicing law in numerous fields, including civil litigation, personal injury and wrongful death, real estate, contracts, conservatorships, probate, legal and medical malpractice, defamation, family law retirement funds, bankruptcy and criminal law.
She has litigated, settled and tried numerous cases, including high-profile cases against celebrities, resulting in settlements and verdicts ranging beyond $1 million.
Bojeaux received her bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from UCLA and a doctorate of law degree from Loyola Law School.
She has served as an arbitrator for the Los Angeles Superior Court and a judge pro tempore in West Los Angeles Small Claims Court.
Bojeaux has received the 2014 Consumer Attorneys of California President’s Award of Merit for service above and beyond the call of duty and in recognition of extraordinary dedication to Consumer Attorneys of California.
Her campaign theme is, “Keep building heights low with Darian Bojeaux.”
Shiva Bagheri did not respond to multiple requests for information. According to her Instagram page, she supports the Beverly Hills Freedom Rally, an organization that claims it is L.A.’s “nexus for citizens committed to liberty and civic participation,” according to its website.
“We support the freedoms of faith, family and country, and we believe in the divine right of self-defense and self-determination,” the website states. “In God we trust, and we pledge allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.”
Bagheri has reportedly been involved in anti-vaccine and anti-mask demonstrations in Beverly Hills.
Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe currently works for UCLA, building their assets management system. Previously, she guided development of a large asset management system at the Walt Disney Company.
“I want to increase transparency in our city government,” Pantera-Rowe said. “If elected treasurer, I will produce a budget anyone can understand and publish it where anyone can read it.”
Jake Manaster is a chief business executive and attorney and is currently the president and CEO of a 55-year-old California business, Contract Carpet Corp.
He has held various business, finance and legal leadership positions working for law firms, multi-national corporations and creative executives.
Manaster received his bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA and his law degree from Case Western University’s Gund School of Law.
He is a former BHUSD board president who was first elected to public office in 2009. He served as president of the school board during the 2012-13 school year.
Manaster also served on the Beverly Hills Traffic and Parking Commission from 2014-20, holding the position of chair in 2016.
He said his tenure on the school board led to the creation of the first district-wide endowment/reserve for BHUSD, which has now grown in excess of $11 million and brought the stabilization of budget shortfalls under that tenure and beyond.
Manaster has lived in Beverly Hills for over 20 years with his wife of 26 years, Lynda, and their two children, who are third generation Beverly High graduates and fourth generation residents.
“To me, there is nothing more important to civil society than stepping up, giving back and contributing to the community and the hometown one has enjoyed and thrived in with one’s family,” he said. “Beverly Hills is all that for me. Of all the times I could have decided to run for an office, the need now seemed clear. This last year and those soon to come have seen unprecedented challenges and extraordinary financial and social impacts. I want to be a part of helping the city get back on its feet for its residents, businesses and families.”
Howard Fisher is the current treasurer for Beverly Hills. He did not respond to a request for information, but according to the city, he is a Beverly Hills tax and business attorney, specializing in planning, transactions and litigation.
Fisher has presented more than 100 lectures on tax and business subjects throughout the world and authored dozens of articles.
He is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School’s Class of 1969 and past chair of the planning and public works commissions.
He is a graduate of Team Beverly Hills and Community Emergency Response Training and has served on the board of the Southwest Homeowners Association. He has also served as Cub Scout leader of B.H. Troop 100, a board member of Temple Emanuel and president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association in 2017.
He studied at the American College in Paris and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He received his law degree from Southwestern University, a bachelor of law degree with honors from the University of Cambridge in England, and he has engaged in post graduate studies at Harvard University Law School.
Fisher has been married to his wife, Francine, since 1976. She is a dental hygienist who has worked in Beverly Hills for near 44 years. His sons are graduates of Beverly Hills High School.