Showing posts with label Westminster Elections 20050509. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Westminster Elections 20050509. Show all posts

Friday, July 15, 2005

20050714 Westminster prepares to survey employees cct

20050714 Westminster prepares to survey employees By Robert Brodsky for the Carroll County Times

Westminster prepares to survey employees By Robert Brodsky for the Carroll County Times

Westminster prepares to survey employees

By Robert Brodsky, Times Staff Writer

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hey, Westminster City employees. How do you like your job? Do you feel appreciated by your supervisor? Are you overworked? How about underpaid?

City workers will have the opportunity to answer questions like these and others as Westminster prepares for its first employee opinion survey.

The survey, which will be done by a yet unselected private consulting firm specializing in human resources work, will look at how the city's 160 employees view their jobs and examine what can be done to improve worker satisfaction, said Westminster Mayor Thomas Ferguson.

"It's a physical checkup of the [city's work force] environment," he said.

The employee opinion survey was a central point in Ferguson's campaign for mayor last spring. He said morale among employees had declined in recent years and wanted to find a way to improve relations between the city and its work force.

"One of the major reasons in doing this is to send a message to employees that we will listen to what you have to say," Ferguson said.

The survey's success will be based on two essential elements, Ferguson said. Employees must be assured their answers will be kept confidential and that they will result in meaningful change.

"If nothing comes of it, they're going to say 'Don't ask us again,'" Ferguson said. "We're planning to take these answers and factor them into our strategic planning process."

The survey will not result in any hirings or firings, nor any immediate shift in how the workforce is structured, Ferguson said. Rather, the survey could help determine which departments are lacking adequate equipment, which personnel may need increased training and whether employees as a whole believe they are fairly compensated and appreciated for the work they perform.

The city has received four bids by firms interested in performing the survey, Ferguson said. The bids range from $7,500 - a questionnaire that would be sent to all employees and then analyzed by the firm - to a $27,000 proposal that would include one-on-one interviews, group meetings and focus groups.

The city's personnel committee, composed of Finance Director Joe Urban, City Councilmembers Robert Wack and Suzanne Albert and Human Resources Administrator Darlene Childs, will hear presentations from the four consultants Monday and Tuesday.

Urban anticipates the committee will make its decision based not only on cost but on the services that would be most beneficial to city employees.

"Just mailing out a questionnaire may not inspire the most amount of confidence from employees," Urban said. "We want to structure the process to create the highest level of confidence from employees."

The city plans to pay for the survey by diverting resources from a $100,000 fund set aside to cover the cost of potential salary increments that could be suggested in an upcoming salary study, Urban said.

That study, which will be conducted by a different firm, will compare the salaries of Westminster City employees to those in the private sector and in other neighboring cities.

If needed, funds for salary increases could be supplemented through the city's emergency fund or through it's unappropriated surplus, Urban said.

The personnel committee plans to make a decision on a consulting firm for the employee opinion survey next week. The proposal would then go before the Westminster City Council on July 25.

If approved, the study could start in August and take between 60 and 90 days to complete.

Reach staff writer Robert Brodsky at 410-857-7865 or

20050714 Westminster prepares to survey employees By Robert Brodsky for the Carroll County Times

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

20050620 Carroll County Times: New mayor eager to work with employees

By Robert Brodsky, Times Staff Writer

Monday, June 20, 2005


Name: Thomas Ferguson

Residence: Westminster

Age: 63

Job: Mayor of Westminster

Reason for becoming involved in city government: Was involved for many years in civic and community groups, but, following his retirement, he wanted to provide a greater contribution to the city.

On May 9, Thomas Ferguson was elected mayor of Westminster, besting former Mayor Kevin Dayhoff by more than 120 votes. Ferguson, a retired bank executive, served nearly four years on the Westminster City Council before taking over as mayor.

Q: How has life changed since becoming mayor of Westminster?

A: I still take the garbage out and still have to walk the dog. Obviously, it hasn't been a dramatic change for me. I've only been retired for about a year. I was used to keeping a regular schedule, and I intend to maintain regular hours here. I've been spending a lot of hours here in the initial days and weeks just to get up to speed about what's going on. But not a lot has changed. I guess the only difference now is that I get to sign things.

Q: What changes have you put in place since taking office and what other changes are on the immediate horizon?

A: I started a regular staff meeting with the folks that report directly to me. We had our first staff meeting last week, and we're going to do that on a monthly basis. It's something that's important and needed, and it's new. Most of the first month has been spent figuring out how this place operates and getting a better understanding of the decision-making process.

Longer term, I want to start a formal strategic planning process. We are going to do a citywide employee opinion survey to get an understanding of how they feel about their jobs. That's the basis for another part of the strategic plan. What is it that employees need and want and what improvements do we need to make as an employer? It's a 360-degree look at ourselves. My experience in all the years that I have been doing this kind of stuff is that the best place to get information is from employees. They'll tell you the truth as long as their opinions and comments are protected and confidential. Sometime - I suspect this summer - we are going to do a citywide analysis of how our jobs are ranked; how we evaluate our jobs and whether or not our job categories are properly structured.

Q: Keeping with the subject of employee relations, you expressed concern during your campaign about the morale of city workers. Do you believe that your concerns were accurate and, if so, what can be done to improve the situation?

A: Part of the purpose of the opinion survey is to get to that question. Is morale an issue and, if so, what are the factors causing concerns among morale? I think my instincts are going to be true and that employees are looking forward to getting their opinions out. ... We are going to get the answer to that in the next few months.

Q: How will your administration be different than that of your predecessor, Kevin Dayhoff?

A: I am going to be here on a regular basis and be accessible for citizens and employees. I tend to be involved with what's going on in city government. Not to the degree of doing any micromanaging. That's what we hire experts to do. But to understand how we operate and ask questions about why we are doing what we are doing and is there a better way to do it? I am very interested in finding ways to make this place more efficient and more cost-effective. I am confident the employees will help us identify areas where we can find some productivity improvements and cost savings. So, I am going to be very much interested in getting employees involved in their day-to-day work life here and telling me and the council and the supervisory management staff what they think can be improved.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the city of Westminster?

A: We have a flood of lots outside the city limits of Westminster that have an awful lot of potential development. I think the pressure the city will be facing is the question of annexation. How big do we want the city boundaries to become? Because the number of available building lots is going to be stunning. I think that's a big issue and one we have to get our arms around pretty quickly. That's why we need to have a full-blown strategic plan that talks about where the future city boundaries should be. We have this thing on a map now. There's this hypothetical line - and literally it's a line on the map - that says "future city boundary." And we have the city water and sewer service area and then we have the actual boundary. We need to ask ourselves a question: Where did that come from and is that what we want? Do we want the boundaries of the city of Westminster to be as big as that? And what are the implications for services and taxpayers? And along with that comes growth and questions about water and where it is going to come from.

Q: How does the city balance continued residential and commercial growth while also remaining a small Main Street town?

A: First of all, we need to make a decision on size and what we are going to look like. Get that down in the form of a document that everybody has bought into and then stick to it. How much more annexation do we want to do? And where do we want that to occur? The whole question of planning for growth and where we want that to occur has to be part of our overall plan. And what kind of growth? Do we want all our neighborhoods to look alike? I live in a neighborhood that is mixed. Different-style houses. Different architectural features. Multifamily, single-family, small houses and big houses. That's the kind of neighborhood that used to be typical. Mixed use has sort of gotten a bad name somewhere along the line. But that's kind of how we all grew up in small-town America. We can't turn the clock back, but I think there's something we can be doing better in our planning process to make the neighborhoods look less homogeneous.

Q: What do you envision Westminster will look like 20 to 25 years from now?

A: Well, growth is inevitable. We're blessed in many ways. We are in a beautiful part of the state, geographically convenient to places like Baltimore, [Washington] D.C., Philadelphia, Gettysburg and, for that matter, even New York. It's three hours to the ocean and four hours to the far western part of the state. Geographically, we are in a wonderful situation. We still have an awful lot of open farmland that is very attractive to people, so we are going to be a magnet for growth. And we're not going to be able to avoid that. I am hoping what we can do is deal with that in a way that doesn't turn this community into something that looks like everything else.

We have beautiful architecture in these older neighborhoods. You see some of that late 19th-century, early 20th-century architecture that's still very visible, particularly in some of these older neighborhoods on Main Street. These are things worth preserving. I would like to see more and more opportunities for people to live here and to work here. Not much in that regard the city can do by itself. But we need the help and cooperation of the county. I am hoping we can find ways to make it affordable.

Reach staff writer Robert Brodsky at 410-857-7865 or

Sunday, May 1, 2005

20041102 West Green St Wster Liberals by Justin Palk for the Carroll County Times

West Green St Wster Liberals by Justin Palk for the Carroll County Times

Webmaster’s note: In all three of my elections in Westminster in the past – May 1999, May 2001 and May 2005 - almost every one of my campaign signs, folks placed in their yards in the West Green Street area, were promptly removed…

Whatever… Oh there is no doubt that there are many really nice folks in the neighborhood. However, the perception of the Westminster community is that perhaps there are idiosyncratic examples of tolerance, but this area of town has a reputation for being elitist and condescending – and intolerance for anything or anyone who dares not believe as they do… May 2005/ked

Differences in politics don't prohibit folks from being friendly

By Justin Palk, Times Staff Writer, Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Lawns on West Green Street in Westminster are dotted with more Kerry-Edwards signs than might be expected, given that registered Democrats make up only one-third of registered voters in the county.

But the area is in a pretty progressive precinct, said resident Lloyd Helt.

However, with half the county's electorate composed of registered Republicans, it shouldn't be too surprising that some of those Kerry backers find their neighbors posting their own signs, urging passers-by to vote for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

Take the case of Helt and his wife, Ruth Gray, and their next-door neighbors, Jim and Mary Judge.

Helt and Gray have lived on Green Street for 10 years, and the Judges have lived there for five.

The Judges have a Bush-Cheney sign in their yard, while Helt and Gray have two signs in theirs - one supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket, the other calling for the defeat of President George W. Bush.

Despite their differing political views, all four of them agree that they're pretty friendly neighbors. For the most part, the couples said, they don't even talk about politics.

"It's wonderful," Gray said. "It's America, it's democracy. Only through our signs do we communicate our politics."

They haven't even discussed it enough to agree to disagree about it, said Jim Judge.

"We don't have anything in common there," he said. "We just remain friendly neighbors."

Both couples said they usually have signs out.

This year, the signs are less of a mismatch than they could be, Helt said. In a year with local and state elections, the couple's lawn has signs for all the Democratic candidates. This year, with only federal races, things are a little less pronounced.

Reach staff writer Justin Palk at 410-751-5909 or

Politics Carroll County Democrats and Progressives

Westminster Scrapbook Green St W

Thursday, April 28, 2005

20050427 Budget to give police a raise The Advocate by Jamie Kelly


Budget to give police a raise Council to hold a public hearing May 3 on proposed Budget


In Westminster’s proposed budget, introduced at Monday’s Council Meeting, the police are slated to get a large raise as a way to keep more officers and better recruit highly-qualified officers to join the force.

During a budget workshop April 28, the council agreed to change the proposed budget to give the officers a three-step pay raise, two steps more than the other employees will receive. In the original proposal, all employees would have gotten a one-step raise, like they do each year, with more money possible after a planned salary study.

The proposal came from Council Member Thomas Ferguson, who asked Joseph Urban, city finance director, to determine how much it would cost to increase police salaries by two extra steps. That would cost $125,686.

Council Member Roy Chiavacci strongly supported that measure. When his turn came to ask questions about the budget, nearly all were concerned with the police department.

Police Chief Jeff Spaulding sent out a survey to other departments that
Westminster competes with for recruits. He said that new police officers in Westminster make around 20 percent less than those in other jurisdictions.

That, he said, will keep people from applying. Chiavacci said that the police need more help than other departments, because they have seven vacancies out of a staff of a little more than 40, while other departments have only a few with staff size of about 100.

Spaulding asked the council for the pay increase, because while the council has already done some to help with recruitment, pay is a major issue. He said he didn’t expect the problem to be solved overnight, or even in one fiscal year, but that the raise would be a big step.

But both Mayor Kevin Dayhoff and Council President Damian Halstad opposed the raise.

Dayhoff said that since the budget already includes money for a salary study, it wouldn’t be fair to other employees to raise police salaries before everyone’s salary has been looked at.

Rather, he said, the council should approve the budget, which already gave every employee a one-step increase.

The other employees have seen the council repeatedly favor the police department, he said, and if that continues to happen, it could hurt morale.

He said the other employees of the city also have an effect on public safety, and that should be recognized.

Halstad said his major problem was that Westminster’s salary was being compared to those in Baltimore, Baltimore County and other, larger jurisdictions.

While Westminster might compete with those places for officers, he said, the city can’t afford to pay as much as they can, and the salaries don’t necessarily need to be as high, because there’s less danger.

But four council members voted to change the budget to include the raises for the police.

“It’s a leap of faith, but it’s a good leap,” said Council Member Suzanne Albert.


20050427 Budget to give police a raise The Advocate by Jamie Kelly