Ferguson to be sworn in to Congress today
By Jennifer Shrader
In 2007, Drew Ferguson IV had just been elected mayor of West Point. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia had just begun to turn dirt at the future site of the automaker’s plant east of town and the city was just beginning to experience a taste of the growth and opportunities that were to come, although many questions still remained about what it would mean for the city.
Today, Ferguson will be sworn in as Congressman of the Third District of Georgia, which includes Troup County and his home city of West Point.
“I’m excited for the work ahead and honored to be going to Washington, D.C. to serve the people,” Ferguson said Saturday. “I’m optimistic for the district, for Georgia and for the nation. America has a lot of work to do. People expect Congress to start getting it right. I believe we will.”
It’s been a time of big changes for Ferguson prior to today’s event. He sold his dental practice, per House ethics rules. He and his wife Buffy sold their house and moved closer to West Point’s reenergized downtown, where just about any restaurant of your choosing is within walking distance.
He’s ready to be a congressman, but he’s not going to let Washington change him.
He arrived to a recent interview with red Georgia clay halfway up the sides of his pickup truck and still sporting hunting gear after helping his oldest son, Drew V, locate a deer in the woods.
He knows who he’ll represent when he begins his term today. He knows transportation issues around here mean finding ways for people to get to work and improving routes from West Georgia to the coast. Uber is not a pressing issue. Neither are driverless cars, unless someone invents an automatic pulpwood truck.
He knows poverty still has a tight grip on the region, in spite of Kia’s opportunity and the suppliers and growth it’s brought with it.
In fact, doing something about poverty is one of his ultimate goals of being in office.
“I’d like to work myself into a position where I can do something about poverty and the entitlement programs and bring in some real-world ideas,” he said. “We can’t get rid of entitlement programs, but we do have to make them more effective. This government has kept people in poverty.”
Fixing it, though, means not just looking at entitlement programs but many aspects of government, from education, to continuing education to criminal justice reform, he said.
In the meantime, he’s hoping to land a spot on the House transportation committee or the energy and commerce committee in his first term. Transportation issues are vital to Georgia and the district, he said.
“We’ve got the interstate. We’ve got the automotive manufacturing industry. We’ve got something as forward-thinking as the Ray,” he said. The Ray is the stretch of interstate near West Point called the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway with a series of initiatives planned to improve safety and environmental standards in transportation.
“We’ve got a large population of people in the district affiliated with Delta (airlines) and we’ve got the proposed interstate from here to Macon,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson also believes he’d be a good fit for the education and workforce development committee after seeing what Kia wanted in its employees’ education and the development of Thinc Academy.
“I know what the industry is looking for,” he said.
As a member of congress, Ferguson would like to see the federal government get out of education and let it go back to state and local control.
“The federal government has driven up the cost of education,” he said.
He would also like to see tax reform while he’s in Congress and joins many incoming and current congressmen in calling for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed and replaced.
In the meantime, he’ll adjust to life as a congressman, working in two cities. He has no plans to rent an apartment in Washington, D.C., and will spend as much time in West Point and the district as he can. He’ll bunk in his office, like his predecessor, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland.
One of the biggest adjustments has been giving up control of aspects of his life, from scheduling to driving.
“I’m driven everywhere,” he said. He quickly figured out, however, it’s so he can spend as much time as possible going from event to event, reading, corresponding and educating himself on the issues at hand. But the drivers are usually around 19 years old, and make him nervous.
“I literally have had to give that up to Jesus,” he said.
Overall, though, he says one of the things that has impressed him most has been his Congressional staff.
“They’re all young and eager and don’t make a lot of money and they’re there because they have a genuine interest in how government works,” he said.
While he’s looking forward to the opportunities ahead, he admits he does miss being mayor.
“I miss the camaraderie of the council and the way we worked hard to reach a consensus,” he said. “I absolutely love this community and the people here.”
To see the swearing in, watch CSPAN on television or go to clerk.house.gov and click the “Watch House Live” button under the calendar. Proceedings are expected to start at noon.
Jennifer Shrader is editor of the Daily News. Reach her at 706-884-7311.