Ferguson lauded at last board meeting

David Ferguson

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County Supervisor David Ferguson’s last meeting as a board member Tuesday drew praise for the chairman and attracted some drama.

Ferguson lost his bid for re-election to the District 3 seat Nov. 3 to newcomer Richard Walker. Ferguson served three terms on the board and the last two years as chairman.

Toward the end of the meeting, Ferguson allowed members of the audience to comment on topics not on the agenda. Seth Coffman, chairman of the board of directors of the Shenandoah Forum, thanked Ferguson for his time as a supervisor.

“You’ll be missed but I hope you’ve set a good legacy for others to live up to,” Coffman said.

Then Ferguson’s wife, Janet, asked a reporter from another local newspaper known for its critical positions on the chairman if she got Coffman’s comments. Janet Ferguson then walked over and leaned in close to the reporter.

“You forgot to take notes,” Janet Ferguson said, then grabbed the reporter’s notebook. “Take notes. What did he say? What did he say about my husband? … You are being used.”

The reporter didn’t respond as Janet Ferguson talked to her. Chairman Ferguson called out to his wife a couple of times. She then stopped and walked away. Someone in the audience said “that was inappropriate.”

Supervisor Marsha Shruntz said “that was just beyond.”

“This board has to be above that and to comment on a citizen, I think that’s just as inappropriate,” Chairman Ferguson told Shruntz.

“More inappropriate than what she just did?” Shruntz asked.

“You are a supervisor,” the chairman said. “You represent everybody so don’t be calling the kettle black here.”

One woman who recently moved her family to Mount Jackson pointed out the discord between officials that she has seen at various board meetings. The woman did not give her name but said she is a news anchor for an area radio station. She then lauded the board for approving a School Board request for money to pay for studies aimed at handling the division’s space needs and facilities.

Former District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris congratulated the chairman for his time on the board. Shruntz unseated Morris in November 2013. Morris said Supervisor Ferguson brought enthusiasm to the board and asked hard questions.

“You always brought a gleam in your eye and sometimes you would be the devil’s advocate but that was good as well because you brought things to the board’s attention that maybe wouldn’t have been,” Morris said, adding that the supervisor had to make tough decisions.

Morris lauded the chairman for his work on the project that ultimately turned former Edinburg School into the Charter House School. Charter House leases the facility, which is also used by the county for recreational activities. The project helped Edinburg, the county and the special-needs students it serves, Morris said.

School Board Chairman R.L. “Rick” Koontz Jr. also thanked the supervisor for his service.

“You’re up against a lot and you’ve handled what you’re up against very well,” Koontz said.

During a break in the meeting, Chairman Ferguson apologized to the newspaper reporter.

Later in the meeting, Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley thanked David Ferguson for his service.

“I think your insight has been very good and very helpful and the decisions that you have made will be very valuable to the county in the future,” Helsley said. “I envy you not having to come to these meetings twice a month.”

District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker echoed Helsley’s sentiment, noting that the job is not easy. District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese noted that he and Ferguson didn’t always agree but worked out their differences.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey criticized Ferguson, in his role as chairman, for not addressing the person in the audience who disrupted the meeting and said she didn’t appreciate how he treated Shruntz.

Ferguson then made his final comments, saying it’s been a pleasure to serve.

“Sometimes it’s been a struggle but I have always tried to be truthful, be honest and not do anything that would jeopardize my character,” Ferguson said. “Sometimes individuals can try to take that away from you and they will attempt to do so but you give it away yourself.

“If I was to leave any comments to this board it was to ask you to try to start being civil with one another, to be civil to the employees that work for the county, to be civil to the school system … elected officials and to the administration, and never be so right, or think you’re so right that you can’t be wrong,” Ferguson added. “We need to start turning around the impression that a lot of citizens have of the dysfunction of this board and I know that it’s in each and every one of you to do that and to work together and maybe with Mr. Walker’s help that’ll happen.”

Ferguson said he hopes Walker comes to the board as a mediator and team member.

Also at the meeting, supervisors:
• Voted 4-2 to approve Matthew and Donna Griffin’s request for a special-use permit to allow them to operate the business on 21 acres at 183 Quicksburg Mill Lane near Ridge Road. Ferguson, Helsley, Baker and Neese voted to grant the permit. Bailey and Shruntz voted against the motion. Before the vote, Bailey said neighbors remain concerned with the proposal and the situation with the access road has not changed since last year. The board denied a similar request by the Griffins in November 2014 but this time Ferguson voted with the majority to approve the application. Bailey said neighbors still have concerns about the effect the business might have on the access road and traffic.
• Voted 6-0 to change the county ordinance pertaining to kennels to require new businesses to operate under a special-use permit. The ordinance had allowed kennels as a by-right use in certain zoning districts.
• Voted 6-0 to hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the county’s tax relief for elderly and disabled property owners. The changes call for pushing back the filing deadline to seek relief from Jan. 1 to March 31. The county also could increase the income levels that establish how much relief a property owner can receive.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com