Ferguson files as candidate for mayor

Councilman first to apply for a spot in May election


December 14, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A councilman and retired banker with 30 years of management experience jumpstarted Westminster's next mayoral race by filing his intent to run yesterday.

Thomas K. Ferguson, 62, a first-time candidate for mayor of the county seat, is the first to file for the position. The filing deadline is in April. The election is May 9.

Appointed to the Common Council in June 2001 when then-Councilman Kevin E. Dayhoff won the city's mayoral race, Ferguson ran for a four-year council seat last year and reclaimed his spot on the five-member panel. Ferguson garnered the most votes - 379 - in that election.

"I've given a lot of thought to this over the last couple months," Ferguson said. "A number of people have approached me about it. I've got the time, energy and commitment, and the experience I think the job requires at this point."

Ferguson recently retired after 40 years in banking, working most of that time with Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. Starting as a bank teller, he worked his way up to supervisory roles. In 1982, he was elected the bank's president and chief executive officer. He was responsible for 350 employees in that position until April 1997.

After the bank's merger with BB&T in 1999, Ferguson became the executive vice president for community development. He retired in July.

Plans for position

As mayor, Ferguson said, he would make sure the city had an appropriately staffed and qualified Police Department and adequate fire and emergency services. He said he also would be vigilant about growth and the impact it has on those services and the city's water supply.

"Tom's the real deal, a true chief executive," said council President Damian L. Halstad. "Tom's been at the center of most of our accomplishments over the last four years. It'll be good to have as a mayor someone who can bring people together, someone who can provide leadership to the staff. From his experience and his community involvement, he has every quality it takes to be a terrific mayor."

Besides his business background, Ferguson said that nearly four years as a councilman have prepared him to step up to the role of the city's chief executive.

"A person may gain a position of leadership, but the position doesn't necessarily mean that person is automatically a leader," Ferguson said. "A leader has to earn that privilege, which is done through consistency and communication: consistency in your views of things and building a level of trust. When you say something, you mean what you say."

`A lot of experience'

As a councilman, Ferguson played an integral role in dealing with the city's allocation of water and sewer resources and helped draft legislation that required annexation for property owners who want to tap into those resources.

Former Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro, who served with Ferguson until January last year, said the council was lucky to have someone of Ferguson's caliber.

"He wasn't your typical freshman councilman," Pecoraro said. "You rarely get a guy who's been CEO of the largest financial institution in the county. ... He brought a vast amount of knowledge of the Westminster area and the businesses in it. He brought a lot of experience as an executive in a complex organization. Westminster is pretty big business."

According to the U.S. Census, Westminster's population is about 17,400. The mayor oversees about 150 city employees.

Ferguson is also proud of the work the council has done in revitalizing troubled city neighborhoods and promoting downtown Westminster.

As chairman of the city's Finance Committee, he's used his acumen to help configure budgets and to overcome the initial resistance toward building the city's two new parking decks.

"The city is not the small town it once was, and I think my business background and experience in dealing with people give me insights as to how to approach problem solving," he said.

He said he would use his management experience to foster discussion about increasing affordable housing in the city.

"How on earth are we going to achieve the kind of economic development we want to achieve, attracting employers who'll bring jobs to the community, if we don't have housing stock that a $10- or $12-an-hour employee can afford?"

City native

A Westminster native who graduated from St. John Catholic High School and completed a four-year stint in the Air Force, Ferguson received degrees from the American Institute of Banking in Baltimore, the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin.

Ferguson has helped raise millions of dollars as a longtime volunteer and board member of several local nonprofit organizations.

Married to his wife, Sandy, for 40 years, Ferguson has two sons. The couple has four grandchildren.

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