Contributed. Todd McFarren

Todd McFarren, who sat on the Watsonville City Council from 1989–98—including two stints as Mayor—who served as a U.S. Marine sergeant in the Vietnam War, and who as an attorney was known to fight fiercely for the “little guy” during his career spanning three decades, died May 14 after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 74.

As an attorney, McFarren served the Watsonville area, specializing in personal injury, social security-disability and workers compensation.

“He was always fighting for the little guy against the big corporations, the big insurance companies,” said Neil Berman, managing partner for Rucka, O’Boyle, Lombardo & McKenna, where McFarren worked. “He was willing to be the David against the Goliath,”

Berman described McFarren as someone that could relate to people from all walks of life. 

“He could communicate with judges and attorneys, but equally communicate well with his clients, blue-collar clients, farmworkers, hard working people of Santa Cruz County, and he always did so with a smile and compassion,” Berman said.

McFarren’s wife Yolanda described him as a committed and dedicated community member who cared about the county and its people.

“He really cared about what was going on in the Watsonville and Santa Cruz area,” she said. “He gave a lot to the community, as well as to our family. He was able to give of himself so lovingly.”

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo said that McFarren joined the Watsonville City Council just after the cannery strikes, during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, just after the racially-charged federal Voting Rights Act case Gomez vs. City of Watsonville and during the adverse impacts of  the North American Fair Trade Agreement on Watsonville’s Frozen Food industry.

“Todd stood with the Latino community his entire life, and worked to help Latinos get elected to office,” Alejo said.  “He was a very just, charismatic leader and true champion for the working people.”

McFarren taught philosophy at Cabrillo College and founded the Moreland Notre Dame Chess Club.

He was president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association and the Workplace Injury Litigation Group. 

He also served with the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission and the Santa Cruz Metro Board of Directors. He was president of the League of California Cities and served on the Community Action Board. 

He was former chair of the Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee and the first Chair of the Pajaro Valley Cesar Chavez Democratic Club.

Despite a career and a life that depended on speaking with people, his daughter Erica Ferrier said that McFarren was a “man of few words.”

“But when he spoke, people listened,” she said. “Because he always said what he meant, and he meant what he said.”

Ferrier said that her father’s clients would frequently call their home—or walk up to him on the street to say hello—and he would always make time for them.

“He was good, honest and caring and he consistently showed integrity and kindness and he used that toward the community,” she said. “He was just that person that just exudes positivity and kindness. I take pride in that.”

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


  1. I’m so sad to read this news. Todd was a great guy and very supportive of me early in my career. I was initially intimated by him but quickly found out how kind and down-to-earth he was in his days chairing the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. He was instrumental in the formation of Watsonville Wetlands Watch – encouraging some of us to start a grassroots effort to support his battle against a developer that wanted to turn the area west of Highway One into a golf course bordered by extremely expensive condos.

    Before the Notre Dame Chess Club was formed, Todd put together a similar City of Watsonville group that my girlfriend and I attended the first meeting/gathering of. Todd and I played a number of times, but he always kicked my butt. Nevertheless, it was another opportunity to share time with each other. We lost touch in recent years, but I remember those days fondly – and always will.

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