Ferguson Mulls Priorities for Year as Chairman

(Monday, October 2, 2006 8:02 AM EDT)
He's the longest-serving of the five County Board members - not to mention the youngest and the tallest. But Paul Ferguson has never served a full term as chairman.

Fate twice stepped in, elevating Ferguson from vice chairman to chairman and requiring him to fill out the terms of his predecessors:

* In 1999, Ferguson was elevated to chairman when Al Eisenberg left the board to take a position in the Clinton administration seven weeks into his tenure as chairman.

* In 2003, Ferguson succeeded Charles Monroe, who died shortly after suffering a stroke while chairing a board meeting just 11 days into his tenure.

Although Ferguson won't formally be tapped as chairman for 2007 until December, he is beginning to put together an agenda for his year as chairman.

He will lay out all his plans for the coming year when he assumes the chairmanship on Jan. 1.

“Some of my colleagues have had a chance to give two [Jan. 1] speeches as chairman,” Ferguson said in a recent interview. “I am very excited to give mine.”

Although Ferguson does not want to reveal the full details of his plans as chairman until the beginning of the year, he offered the Sun Gazette a general idea of where his priorities will lie.

Neighborhood conservation is high on his list, as it has been in past years. Ferguson said he realizes that the county has been unable to fund new neighborhood projects because of the rising costs in projects in progress. He hopes to find the money to complete old projects, and start on new ones.

He also supports the efforts to revitalize parts of South Arlington such as the Columbia Pike corridor.

“Although the Columbia Pike project begun by [current County Board Chairman Chris] Zimmerman has a way to go, it has resulted in numerous quality retail establishments to the Pike,” Ferguson said. “I want to continue the initiative.”

And there are a number of other projects of Zimmerman's that Ferguson would like to build on.

“Increasing transit routes is a goal we share,” Ferguson said. He plans on increasing bus and transportation services for Arlington residents.

More specifically, Ferguson wants to increase transportation for seniors in the county.

During his stint as chairman in 2003, Ferguson started a senior taxi program that offered seniors 70 and older vouchers for half-off on rides in Arlington taxis. He wants to continue this initiative, but also increase shuttle service to senior centers.

“Zimmerman's senior readiness initiative will probably take more than a year to complete, and it is something I want to build on,” Ferguson said.

And as in years past, Ferguson will push for “green buildings” and other environmentally friendly options. He plans on taking stock of Zimmerman's tree initiative, and making sure its heading in the right direction.

County Board Vice Chairman Paul Ferguson is the longest serving board member, but has never served a full term as chairman. That's likely to change next year.

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