Hernando Mayor N.C. "Tom" Ferguson Jr. is celebrating his first month on the job after being sworn in as the chief executive of the DeSoto County seat.
It was a day that began Wednesday with a busy round of meetings with department heads and budget meetings that lasted for the better part of the afternoon.
Ferguson was the featured guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Hernando at noon Wednesday in which he laid out his experiences encountered so far and the city's plans for the foreseeable future.
"I feel like I have learned a lot in a month and I'm still learning," said Ferguson, 53.
The former crop duster, Pinnacle and Endeavor Airlines pilot said it has been a busy first month.
Right off the bat, Ferguson said he was perplexed to learn the city is presently more than $1.5 million over its projected budget and city officials are working feverishly to reduce that amount.
Ferguson said the city is working to pare down an $18 million budget and openly lamented the fact the city has plenty of rooftops, with more residents on the way, but fewer industries than other cities in the county to help foot the bill of providing services to more than 16,000 residents.
The budget will not be finalized for a few more weeks and a public hearing on the budget will be held.
Ferguson, who has made transparency a major part of his campaign and governing style, said he fears the city just might have to levy some sort of tax increase to cover needed services and planned projects.
"I'm sure we'll probably have to raise taxes, but the question is — what kind of community do we want to live in? I was born and raised here. I want to see it grow in a smart way."
At the top of Ferguson's agenda is to hire a new city planning director.
Ferguson said the city's future growth depends on a highly-qualified planning director.
To obtain an individual of that caliber, the line item for that position may have to be larger than in years past.
"Our planning department needs a lot of money thrown at it," Ferguson said. "It's the future of our city."
Ferguson said before the nation's economic meltdown, there were at least five employees in the planning department to handle all the permits and applications.
There are now two in the department with former Director Jared Darby agreeing to stay on as a contract employee.
"With I-269 coming on, we need somebody who knows what's going on," Ferguson said. "We have expedited the new McIngvale Road Extension from McIngvale to I-269 by eight to ten weeks. That just happened — some people don't know about that."
Ferguson was referring to the new McIngvale Road Extended which will connect from existing McIngvale, through the Gerber property behind Hernando Hills Elementary School.
The project is being paid through joint funds from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Hernando and the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.
Ferguson said he wants to apply principles which he learned working for a major airlines.
"I had a great aviation career," added Ferguson. "I want to do my best. I've applied those skills I learned to include all the people I can and all the resources that I have."
Ferguson noted that single family residential building applications are rising steadily and industries like North American Electric continue to expand.
Colonial Hills Church on Monteith Drive is beginning construction on its new church/community center, the Pizza Hut is undergoing renovation and two major intersections — U.S. Hwy. 51 and Nesbit Road and U.S. 51 and Robinson Road are receiving new traffic signalization.
Railroad repairs at the railroad tracks and Commerce are taking slower to make than expected, and Ferguson urged patience.
"That's what built this town — the railroad," Ferguson said.
A nagging question that he is often asked.
How did he acquire the nickname "Tom," when he is named after his late father N.C. Ferguson Sr., a longtime Hernando alderman?
"When I was brought home from the hospital, they said 'what are we going to call him?' since he is N.C. Jr. My sisters named me Tom."
In fact, that's how the affable Ferguson introduces himself to people.
"Just call me Tom."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.