By Robert Brodsky, Times Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2005
Job: Mayor of
Reason for becoming involved in city government: Was involved for many years in civic and community groups, but, following his retirement, he wanted to provide a greater contribution to the city.
On May 9, Thomas Ferguson was elected mayor of
Q: How has life changed since becoming mayor of
A: I still take the garbage out and still have to walk the dog. Obviously, it hasn't been a dramatic change for me. I've only been retired for about a year. I was used to keeping a regular schedule, and I intend to maintain regular hours here. I've been spending a lot of hours here in the initial days and weeks just to get up to speed about what's going on. But not a lot has changed. I guess the only difference now is that I get to sign things.
Q: What changes have you put in place since taking office and what other changes are on the immediate horizon?
A: I started a regular staff meeting with the folks that report directly to me. We had our first staff meeting last week, and we're going to do that on a monthly basis. It's something that's important and needed, and it's new. Most of the first month has been spent figuring out how this place operates and getting a better understanding of the decision-making process.
Longer term, I want to start a formal strategic planning process. We are going to do a citywide employee opinion survey to get an understanding of how they feel about their jobs. That's the basis for another part of the strategic plan. What is it that employees need and want and what improvements do we need to make as an employer? It's a 360-degree look at ourselves. My experience in all the years that I have been doing this kind of stuff is that the best place to get information is from employees. They'll tell you the truth as long as their opinions and comments are protected and confidential. Sometime - I suspect this summer - we are going to do a citywide analysis of how our jobs are ranked; how we evaluate our jobs and whether or not our job categories are properly structured.
Q: Keeping with the subject of employee relations, you expressed concern during your campaign about the morale of city workers. Do you believe that your concerns were accurate and, if so, what can be done to improve the situation?
A: Part of the purpose of the opinion survey is to get to that question. Is morale an issue and, if so, what are the factors causing concerns among morale? I think my instincts are going to be true and that employees are looking forward to getting their opinions out. ... We are going to get the answer to that in the next few months.
Q: How will your administration be different than that of your predecessor,
A: I am going to be here on a regular basis and be accessible for citizens and employees. I tend to be involved with what's going on in city government. Not to the degree of doing any micromanaging. That's what we hire experts to do. But to understand how we operate and ask questions about why we are doing what we are doing and is there a better way to do it? I am very interested in finding ways to make this place more efficient and more cost-effective. I am confident the employees will help us identify areas where we can find some productivity improvements and cost savings. So, I am going to be very much interested in getting employees involved in their day-to-day work life here and telling me and the council and the supervisory management staff what they think can be improved.
Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the city of
A: We have a flood of lots outside the city limits of
Q: How does the city balance continued residential and commercial growth while also remaining a small
A: First of all, we need to make a decision on size and what we are going to look like. Get that down in the form of a document that everybody has bought into and then stick to it. How much more annexation do we want to do? And where do we want that to occur? The whole question of planning for growth and where we want that to occur has to be part of our overall plan. And what kind of growth? Do we want all our neighborhoods to look alike? I live in a neighborhood that is mixed. Different-style houses. Different architectural features. Multifamily, single-family, small houses and big houses. That's the kind of neighborhood that used to be typical. Mixed use has sort of gotten a bad name somewhere along the line. But that's kind of how we all grew up in small-town
Q: What do you envision
A: Well, growth is inevitable. We're blessed in many ways. We are in a beautiful part of the state, geographically convenient to places like Baltimore, [
We have beautiful architecture in these older neighborhoods. You see some of that late 19th-century, early 20th-century architecture that's still very visible, particularly in some of these older neighborhoods on
Reach staff writer Robert Brodsky at 410-857-7865 or RBrodsky@lcniofmd.com.