By Mark Vasto
You’ll excuse Marvin Ferguson if he’s a bit unaccustomed to campaigning for Parkville alderman. After all, the Melody Lane resident has served on the board for nearly half of his adult life.
“It’ll be 40 years in April,” Ferguson, who’ll turn 76 this summer, told The Luminary. “It was 1971…John Reineke was mayor then and he asked if I’d be interested in running…I filed, got elected and I’ve managed to stay in office since then.”
Yet this year, Ferguson is facing a rare challenge in the city’s third ward – the area roughly encompassing The National, Pinecrest, Commons and I-435 corridor -- from Kendall Welch, 48, the National resident who is perhaps best known locally for initiating and bringing the city’s curbside recycling service to fruition. She told The Luminary that it was her understanding that Ferguson had never been challenged in all of his time serving on the board.
Welch was all but nine years of age when he was first sworn in and hasn’t been challenged since she’s been a resident of Parkville (the Pennsylvania native moved here with her husband Steve and two children in 2002), so she can be forgiven if her numbers don’t add up.
Of course, Ferguson proves to be one of the more reliable sources in the matter. He was there. “There’ve been a couple elections…not a lot, probably three or four [challenged elections],” Ferguson said. “They never made any substantial inroads.”
Despite her two-terms on The National Homeowner’s Association board and the Parkville City Land and Recreation Board (CLARB), Welch is under no illusions. She knows she’s the underdog in the race.
“People have asked me ‘when does the mudslinging start?’” Welch said, adding there wouldn’t be any mud flung from her campaign. While she admits that she had not spoken with Ferguson during the campaign or prior to her filing, she says that his son is her daughter’s soccer coach and that she’s seen him at meetings of the Board of Alderman.
She said she made her decision to run after a conversation with Mayor Gerry Richardson regarding recycling issues. When she asked how she could push her cause further, Richardson said that the practical answer was to serve on the board and have the opportunity to vote for it herself. She said it was an off-the-cuff remark and not recruitment, but that the seed had been planted.
“This isn’t ‘anti-Marvin,’” Welch insisted. “But I want to be on the board and this is when the election is. I want to have a say in what’s happening in Parkville and I want to help move it forward.”
Specifically, Welch said she would like to see an increase in recycling and closer attention paid to the city’s growing park system. The City has been at odds with the County Commission regarding cooperative planning, development, and management of the newly acquired Platte Landing Park and it’s an issue she believes needs a hands-on approach.
“I’d like to help move Parkville to the next level,” Welch said. “I’d like to move the ‘for rent’ signs that we have in our businesses…I’d like to see more environmental consciousness. Only three percent of Parkville residents recycle and that’s because it’s voluntary in The National and Riss Lake.
Ferguson says he has been a part of the city’s record of growth. Ferguson said the city’s population was 1,400 when he first took office. Today, the town’s population is pegged at just over 5,000 residents. “We have grown,” Ferguson says with a laugh. During that time he has served as the city’s budget and finance committee chairman and has served as the Alderman’s representative to various boards such as the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“[Parkville] never had a deficit during that time,” Ferguson said. “So that’s kind of something good.”
And as the city’s mayor pro-tem – the acting mayor whenever the mayor cannot be present – he’s actually been a four-time mayor of Parkville.
“Three of them died and one resigned,” Ferguson confirmed. In all of those years, Ferguson said he never felt tempted to actually run for mayor. A partner in the Ferguson & Ferguson law firm (his wife Sandra is the Parkville Municipal Judge), he said that he tended to focus more on attendance (save for a few health related issues, Ferguson is a reliable attendee to the boards he serves on).
“I kind of meet myself coming and going,” he says with another laugh.
And he doesn’t plan on going anytime soon, either. A few months ago, when Richardson tried to appoint someone else in his place on the Parkville Planning and Zoning Board, Ferguson dug his heels in and stubbornly resisted. He has no plans on retiring and sees no reason as to why he wouldn’t plan on running again in two years. Besides, things are going well for the ward and city, he says with assurance.
“It was a little tight last year but we ended up with a surplus,” Ferguson said. “Things are moving along at The National…the Hwy. 45 project is percolating. We have $500,000 in our reserve fund. We’re faring pretty good.”
Welch said that she wasn’t sure what to expect in this, her first try at elected office. The ward 2, 1 and 4 elections are all uncontested, making her initial foray into politics a little bit more intense. Still, she insisted she was going to give it “the ol’ college try.”
“I’m a hardworker and a doer,” Welch, who runs a home and office organization company, said. “I can get things done.”
The election takes place on Tuesday, April 5.