By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
William C. “Bill” Ferguson, IV, was born April 15, 1983. That’s the same year I graduated from Walbrook High School. Ironically, it was tax day.
Now, at 36, he is poised to take the Senate President’s chair, which has been occupied by Thomas V. “Mike” Miller since 1987.
Ferguson was four in 1987.
The point is, Bill Ferguson is a really young guy and if he lasts in that chair until he is 76, the age Miller is now that will give him a 40 year run presiding over Maryland’s Senate, arguably the most powerful political position in the state. If the Senate President’s chair is indeed the most prodigious in Maryland it was Miller who made it so. He is currently the longest serving state senate president in the nation. When he announced his retirement during a meeting of Maryland Senate Democrats on Oct. 24, Miller, who has been battling stage four prostate cancer said later during a press conference, “My mind is still strong, but my body’s weak.”
I know very little about Ferguson, who represents the 46th District in South Baltimore beyond the obvious; he seems to have mastered Baltimore’s political terrain in short order.
“I want to congratulate Senator Bill Ferguson on his unanimous selection as Maryland Senate President,” said Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott in a statement once it became official Ferguson would succeed Miller.
“…Senator Ferguson is a tremendous, hardworking public servant for the people of the 46th District and for every Baltimorean. He loves our city and he loves our state. I know he’ll honor our city as President…I’m thrilled for my friend and colleague and wish Senator Bill Ferguson luck as he takes on his new leadership role in the Senate,” Scott added.
Clearly, Scott and Ferguson are allies and the new Senate President has many more in the city and around the state who fall into that category. But, again, I don’t know much about him. So, I asked one of the smartest people I know his opinion of Ferguson and the end of the Miller era of leadership.
“I think generally speaking, it’s good Miller is gone. I mean Miller had such a stranglehold…even if you don’t take into consideration his politics, just his style, he was so authoritarian in his style. So, from that vantage point it’s a tremendous win,” said Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy, for the Black grassroots think tank, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS). Since 2010, Love, the co-founder of LBS, along with Adam Jackson, the CEO and the other members of the group have been fighting for structural change in our city and state. It’s no secret Miller and the political status quo in Maryland is anathema to LBS’ radical advocacy for Black people. At 32, Love and his colleagues at LBS (who are mostly in their 20’s and 30’s), are not just young, they are formidable.
“And then if you look at it ideologically my experience of Bill is, he is actually one of the more… liberal Senators in the Maryland Senate. And so, I think to that regard it means the concepts we would push for, there’s going to be much more consideration that we’ll be able to get the stuff we work on,” said Love.
“But, I don’t think that means Bill Ferguson is going to save the day, or going to be the perfect Senate President as it relates to our issues. But, like I mentioned he is one of the more liberal senators. So, it will be a huge step up from Miller.”
There is a broader, more compelling narrative emerging here beyond the ascension of Ferguson; new blood is finally being infused into Maryland’s somewhat decrepit political hierarchy and infrastructure. And the fulcrum of power and influence could be shifting back to the state’s largest city.
But, going forward, how will the city’s burgeoning young leadership help combat Baltimore’s towering structural challenges, some which have bedeviled our people for generations?
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.