City Council member Neil Ferguson had been looking forward to this re-election campaign. He said he knew that there was a large number of newly registered voters who didn’t know him, despite his six and a half years on council, and to get their vote, he was planning on doing something he hadn’t done in his 2015 campaign — block-walking.
Those ambitions were torn into on Black Friday, when an 850-pound motorcycle fell on his left leg in his garage. The vehicle pinned him down for 20 minutes as he called for help and then waited for an ambulance after finding his phone. As it was falling, the motorcycle carved an angled gash deep into his leg that he would refer to simply as “the wound.”
Ferguson said it was the worst pain he’d ever felt, and it was far from over. He was unable to get the treatment he needed immediately, and the wound would stay painful for months. He experienced staph and strep infections and might have lost the leg if he didn’t cut down his city involvement.
According to his schedule, last September he attended 29 city events in the 30-day month. In January, he attended just seven.
These included both council meetings that month — Ferguson takes pride in having missed only one meeting during his tenure as council member.
“I’ve kind of been off the radar for a lot of people,” he said. “My wife went to Christmas dinner with family, I didn’t go. There was a New Year’s Party, there were several but there was one in particular, I didn’t go.”
With block-walking out of the question, Ferguson said campaign season would be difficult, but he remembered why he was in the position in the first place.
Ferguson points to several little touches in his time on City Council. He said the city’s preference toward concrete as a more expensive but longer-lasting construction material over asphalt was his preference, as were the visibility stripes and lights on the steps of the MCL Grand.
His most visible contribution, however, was his work lobbying against the Camelot Landfill’s expansion in a legal battle that would last years and eventually see a state law passed to address the situation. The Farmers Branch-owned landfill, which now exists in Lewisville city limits, wanted to expand without updating the landfill to comply with newly passed city ordinances, which is a usual requirement for new construction on an old installation.
“The overall idea that they were going to expand part of the landfill on top of an old landfill where the liner at the bottom was an old-fashioned liner and already had a lot of weight on it and was already leaking and so we put more weight on it, it was just going to get worse,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson took the lead representing Lewisville in the project, working directly with State Rep Ron Simmons (R, Carrollton) and testifying before house and senate subcommittees numerous times.
Some nights, he said, he would take a change of clothes to a Monday night City Council meeting, drive down to Austin afterward, check into a hotel at 2 a.m., be at the capital by 8 a.m. and end up not speaking until 2 p.m., then drive right back to Lewisville.
The state law he helped pass gave Lewisville the bargaining power it needed to get a landfill expansion deal that fit within the city’s goals, protecting the air local residents breathed and the water they drank. Protecting water, wildlife and local control, even at a neighborhood level, is a theme of Ferguson’s work going back to before he was on City Council.
Ferguson holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas at Arlington with a dual major in psychology and computer science. He had an eclectic career. He served as an executive for Atlantic Richfield, and oil and gas company that has since been bought by BP, then worked for E-Systems doing government work that required top secret security clearance. He also worked for MPSI, Inc. doing retail site analysis.
Ferguson said he would realize after being on council how valuable all of his experience was. His work with MPSI, for example, gives him context for what retailers are looking for and how the city can make itself more attractive to them.
“It’d be one thing if I, you know, repaired airplanes,” he said. “But I don’t know how that applies to the city.”
Ferguson initially rose to prominence in Lewisville as a neighborhood organizer, rallying the local community against proposed natural gas drilling in the area across the street from Memorial Park, which will soon be converted into a nature trail in conjunction with the Multi-Generational Center.
Ferguson used his knowledge of the business as a former oil and gas executive to take neighborhood protests that were simply saying “no” and instead have them suggest a better drilling site — one that wasn’t in the neighborhood’s backyard.
Publicly speaking on that and other issues and rallying residents behind him, Ferguson was asked often if he’d thought about City Council himself, but said he was getting so much done as a citizen he didn’t feel the need to run. Then David Thornhill, a council member Ferguson said he admired but had never spoken to outside of a council meeting, died of sudden heart failure. Ferguson said Thornhill’s wife, Maureen, approached him at her husband’s funeral three days later and asked him to run for his seat.
“Leading up to it, I mean, I kind of lost count of people saying, ‘why don’t you run for city council? You ought to be on city council,’” Ferguson said. “That was a mandate.”
Ferguson said in the years since, the best part about working in Lewisville was the Lewisville 2025 plan. He said the city has a roadmap that residents are fully behind, and every discussion they have and every item they bring up is thought about through that lens.
“We haven’t taken 2025 and said ‘when can we get to it,’” he said. “We’ve taken 2025 and said, ‘how fast can we get this done.’”
Ferguson is running against former council member Ronni Cade and Mary Smith. The local election will be May 5.