Your Vote “The Mayors Race” Hernando


By Amanda Compton-Ortiz

For lifelong Hernando resident N.C. Tom Ferguson Jr., there is no place like home.
A child of the city in the 1970’s, Ferguson has watched Hernando grow and change in ways he could have never imagined. But for him, there’s still plenty of work left to be done.

That’s why Ferguson decided to run for Hernando city mayor.
“As long as I can remember, I have always done what I can to contribute to the improvement of our community,” Ferguson said. “Maybe it was seeing my father as an alderman (for the city), or just my sheer love for Hernando that gives me the motivation to always do what I can, yet always want to do more.”
Ferguson, a Republican, is running against Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson in the 2017 primary May 2.
The general election will be held on June 6. Any run-off election, if needed, will be set for May 16.

Johnson, also a Republican, will be competing to serve his fourth term in office. He was first elected to the post in 2005 following the retirement of former Mayor Ed Gale. He beat four other competitors for the open seat that year and has since never run unopposed
Johnson, 50, moved to Southaven when he was 7 years old. After graduating from Southaven High School in 1984, he went on to serve in the United States Navy becoming a decorated serviceman who served as a quality assurance manager on a nuclear powered submarine.

Johnson graduated with honors in 2015 from the University of Memphis, earning a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree with a concentration in Organizational Leadership.

His mother worked for Sears until retirement as did his father, who retired from the company as assistant plant manager after 51 years.

“My grandfather served on the planning commission in Little Rock (Ark.), and I remember as a child riding with him to look at properties that were on the agenda for rezoning,” Johnson said. “I remember when he ran for city council his slogan was ‘A Man for all the People.’ I try to govern with that thought in mind.”

During his tenure as mayor, Johnson has accepted numerous awards on behalf of the city including Family Circle Magazine’s Ten Best Cities to Raise a Family in 2015, CNN/Money Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Live in 2011.
Johnson himself has received several personal achievement awards for his service to the city. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the DeSoto County Economic Council, America Walks, Bike Walk Mississippi, and Mississippi Main Street Association.

Ferguson, 53, said while he has never held elected office, he is eager for the challenge.
Ferguson said his main focus if elected mayor of Hernando will be to stabilize the city’s finances and create a transparent government that welcomes feedback from the community.

“I have pride for Mississippi history and a love for this town and its people,” Ferguson said. “I want to try to keep things positive. My goal is to work with the people and keep moving forward.”

Ferguson graduated from Hernando High School in 1982 and attended Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Mississippi State University while working on a local farm, Springbranch Farm in Love, MS.

Since 1984, he has been a volunteer helicopter pilot for the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department. He also started an aerial application service for local farmers and works as a crop duster, which he said allows him to combine two of his greatest interests; agriculture and aviation.

Ferguson is a first officer for a local airline, a captain, an instructor, a check airman, and an airline program designee.
He learned to fly while at NWCC at a grass airport in Walls called Twinkletown.

His mother Charlotte McCain Ferguson, was from Tunica. She moved to Hernando, where she would meet his father and later have three children. In the 1950’s, Mrs. Ferguson worked for the county’s agricultural service, formerly housed in the Hernando courthouse, and later in the mid-1970’s at NWCC for the dean of Vo-Tech.
Ferguson’s grandfather, Lee Stewart, owned the old Stewart Chevrolet Company that was established in Hernando in September 1970. His father, N.C. Ferguson, would later inherit the business and serve a term as city alderman in the 1980’s.

Ferguson is currently working with volunteers in the community to revive DeSoto County’s oldest cemetery, Springhill Cemetery, established in 1836 and located on five acres at the northwest corner of the intersection of Oak Grove Road and Church Street/Robinson Gin Road in Hernando.
Ferguson’s father and grandfather are buried at the cemetery. Their graves remain two of only six marked graves at the site dating after 1900.

Efforts by Ferguson and others are underway to conserve the 19th century monument grave markers in the cemetery, where hundreds of more graves remain unmarked. As part of the project, historic and archealogical investigations will also be conducted and the site will be beautified with native vegetation and Victorian ornaments to create a recreational asset for city residents.


1. What do you hope for if elected mayor?

Johnson: The hopes I have for Hernando can be easily measured by the value of our homes and the happiness of our citizens. The things that make that happen, however, are not so easily defined. It takes hundreds of different pieces to make the puzzle come together. Tight design standards for new construction, reasonable sign ordinances, a system of parks for all ages and needs, a quality transportation grid, high quality drinking water and sewer treatment facilities, and well-trained public safety personnel are but a few of the hopes I have for our citizens. We have made great improvements in all of these areas since I was first elected and are working on more improvements every day while maintaining the lowest tax rate among the four major cities in DeSoto County.

Ferguson: If elected mayor, I hope to become an official who is trusted, and one who people feel they can count on to make a real difference in the community. I will utilize all resources at my disposal to ensure that necessary improvements are made.

2. Where do you see Hernando five years from now?

Johnson: As we strive daily to make Hernando a great place for our citizens to live, work and play, others are finding our high-quality town and are seeking to move here and be a part of our extended family. With that growth, comes the need for improvements. In the next five years, we will have better transportation with the opening of the I-269 loop with two Hernando exits at Getwell Road and McIngvale Road. We will also see a $10 million dollar realignment of McIngvale Road between Byhalia Road and Green T Road. I see many new retail opportunities for our citizens which will help expand our sales tax revenues which fund our public safety and street budgets. Of course, we will see an expansion of our public safety services to keep up with this population growth. In a nutshell, I think that Hernando’s position as one of the premiere towns in the Mid-South will be even greater than today.

Ferguson: Five years from now, I see Hernando as a thriving community where we live within our means. Our police, fire and ambulance units will have what they need and our City Hall will operate with transparency to ensure trust and dollars well spent. Our city will be financially stable. Small businesses will thrive, and parks and infrastructure will become what we have come to expect from the great City of Hernando.

3. If elected, what are you going to do to make the people happy?

Johnson: This is an interesting question. I have learned over the years that I need to stay focused on what makes the overall population of Hernando happy and not focus so much on making individuals happy. Many times, what would make one person happy will have repercussions that negatively affect the overall happiness of our citizens and even lead to property devaluation. I will continue to stay accessible to the citizens while further educating myself on best practices of city government.

Ferguson: If elected, first and foremost, I will listen to the people. I will hear their concerns and respond in a way that is best for the city. I will encourage the people to look into how their tax dollars are being spent and welcome feedback.

4. Are there any changes you would like to see?

Johnson: There are many changes that the citizens of Hernando and I would like to see. Higher quality streets, more retail options, more housing options, and more recreation options, are but a few. We would also like to see a new exit at Commerce and I-55 to replace the undersized one we have now. Through conversations with Commissioner (Mike) Tagert, we have convinced the Mississippi Department of Transportation to hire engineers to do the design work. While this work is occurring, I am actively talking to our federal delegation to try and secure funding for this work and the needed widening of I-55. While we have been very fortunate in obtaining millions of dollars in grants for major road improvements, many of these things cannot be done with our current revenue stream. To provide this revenue stream, we are actively recruiting sales tax-generating retailers to Hernando.

Ferguson: There are many changes I would like to see. Hernando will always have a special place in my heart but as all communities do, Hernando needs some attention. First, our government and Town Hall need transparency. The people of Hernando need to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and be given an opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas and goals for the community. I will ensure tax dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible as financial stability is essential to our success as a city. Next, is public safety. I would like to see the fire, police and ambulance units have everything they need to do their jobs quickly and efficiently, including incentives. If I am elected mayor, I will see to it that this happens and our public safety will be top notch.

5. What is your motivation for running for mayor?

Johnson: When I was first elected, Hernando was in a building boom. Then, in 2007, we saw the recession hit. Hernando has continued to grow during these tough economic times while building our brand as the place that everyone wants to call home. We have recently been awarded over $12 million dollars in grant funds for major road and signalization improvements. Getting through this lengthy bureaucratic process will take someone with experience. I am a project manager at heart and am looking forward to the challenge of improving our infrastructure while continuing to beef up our public safety services.

Ferguson: My motivation for running is the love I have for Hernando and the yearning to see improvements being made. Hernando can be even better and I want to be the one to initiate this change. I welcome the challenge of becoming a mayor that everyone knows and trusts.

6. If there was one thing or need this year you could implement immediately, what would it be?

Johnson: I would like to find a way to fund another ambulance in our shared county/city ambulance service. We operate together as a system with the county paying the operations costs of three ambulances, Olive Branch paying the operating costs of three ambulances, Horn Lake paying for two, and Hernando paying the costs of one. DeSoto County gives each of these cities $185,000 every eight years towards the purchase of a new ambulance. The county also pays the salary of the medical director, Dr. Ken Thompson. We have budgeted $717,000 to run our one ambulance this year with a projected revenue of $300,000. This means that we would need to buy a $195,000 ambulance and find about $400,000 annually to staff it. If I could snap my fingers and find this money, that would be my priority.

Ferguson: If I could implement one thing immediately, it would be transparency. As I said, the people need to know where their tax dollars are going, and the finances of the city need to be stabilized. I feel that this is very overdue. In my opinion, trust in our city and the elected officials are dependent on accountability.

Additional questions for both candidates can be sent to the following email addresses, Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson,, and N.C. Tom Ferguson Jr.,