Fran Ryan has a unique ability to mobilize support to realize a community vision, working for decades to make Columbus the best possible place to work, live and raise a family. After receiving her journalism degree from The Ohio State University in 1956, Fran began laying the foundation for her public service. Since the early 1960’s, she has been tirelessly committed to public service and philanthropic endeavors.
Fran has held multiple government positions. She was first elected to Columbus City Council in 1971 and re-elected in 1975. She was appointed Midwest Regional Representative to the U.S. Department of Labor by President Carter. She also served as a Franklin County Commissioner and City Clerk. Later, Fran was elected the first woman to chair the Franklin County Democratic Party, leading the party and the County Board of Elections for six years.
As a member of Council, Fran chaired the Community Services Committee and co-chaired the Revenue Sharing Task Force. Fran also served on several committees dedicated to improving the quality of life for Columbus residents, including safety, development and planning, and citizen participation.
Specifically, Fran was instrumental in founding the Franklin County Metropolitan Human Services Commission. She actively lobbied for local laws establishing landlord-tenant rights and sponsored legislation establishing a program to detect and treat paint poisoning and eliminate lead paint hazards in Columbus. Many of her legislative initiatives became the foundation for national programs and state-wide laws. Because of her work on Council and her reputation as being concerned for the people, Fran was one of four women recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1975 for her contributions in housing initiatives.
Fran’s other legislative initiatives included establishing a public utilities review commission, banning discrimination against the blind in rooming-house rentals, setting up swimming pool safety and rat-control programs, and coordinating a local program to bring together social service agencies to provide food for the needy. Out of this last effort, Operation Feed was born – an organization that still provides food for families in need.
As the Regional Representative of the Department of Labor in Chicago, Fran provided a wide range of assistance and maintained liaison status with local, state and other federal agencies. She also directed federal activities in Columbus for the Negotiated Investment Strategy (NIS), a pilot project developed by coordinating government programs in various communities. Fran’s areas of focus included land use, transportation and environmental protection.
As the City Clerk, Fran coordinated the activities of the seven-member City Council and administered the Council offices. Also during her tenure, Fran initiated the historic preservation of the Columbus City Council Chambers located in City Hall and was able to accomplish this through private funding.
Since her historic election as the first woman chair in 1987, the Franklin County Democratic Party has fostered greater voter awareness and education of the political process and impacted growth of the Party as a whole. During her tenure, Fran was selected as a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by fellow delegates at the 1992 National Convention.
Today, Fran is perhaps the biggest champion of our city’s senior community. In 2007, she co-founded and remains acting chairwoman of the Senior Services Roundtable of Columbus and Franklin County, an informational clearinghouse of more than 900 members that meets monthly to focus on services and programs for senior citizens, particularly those striving to remain independent. Fran co-chairs the Columbus branch of the National Age-Friendly Initiative in collaboration with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). She also founded and chairs the annual Senior Festival that brings thousands of seniors and vendors together for fun and information sharing.
Fran has been actively involved with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Life Care Alliance, Emergency Assistance Coalition, Six Pence School, Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Breathing Association, March of Dimes, Catholic charities and other church organizations, Beta Sigma Phi, Delta Delta Delta, Women in Communications, Inc., and the Forest Park Civic Association. For years, Fran also invested in education of our youth and those with disabilities serving on the boards of, among others, Northeast Mental Health, Columbus Public Schools Vocational Program, St. Joseph’s Group Home and others. Fran also undertook the renowned historic preservation of the Harrison House in the 1980’s.
With her philanthropic endeavors spanning nearly 50 years, Fran’s awards are numerous and include YWCA’s Woman of Achievement Award, WSNY’s 20 Outstanding Women You Should Know, the 2010 Heritage Award for Caring, the 2015 Outstanding Breathing Association Volunteer Award, the 2015 Columbus Chapter-National Philanthropic Award, and so many others.
Fran and her late husband Dick have shared their commitment to public service and philanthropic efforts with their five children and 11 grandchildren.