Ferris honored for 28 years of service to Albemarle

“Albemarle is a better place because of you.”

“I came to work for the city because of Michael.”

“Your wisdom will be sorely missed.”

Such were a few of the expressions of thanks, appreciation and well-wishes delivered at Monday’s meeting of Albemarle City Council by employees from all departments in honor of retiring City Manager Michael Ferris.

“Tonight is bittersweet,” opened Mayor Ronnie Michael, who described the past 10 years as “a time of tremendous change in Albemarle.”

Noting that the city had seen both retail and residential growth during that time, Michael noted that the city council’s goal of bringing additional jobs to Albemarle would require a place for industrial expansion, and that Ferris had been a key player in working toward that goal.

“We know that Michael is looking forward to retirement, and the city regrets seeing him leave,” the mayor said, before recognizing four speakers.

The first, former Albemarle City Manager Ray Allen, brought Ferris on staff in 1995. He noted the city’s major accomplishments during Ferris’ tenure, including Pfeiffer’s Albemarle campus, the ongoing development of Albemarle Business Center and the adaptive reuse of the old Home Savings building for Police Department headquarters.

“Michael has never sought the spotlight in his roles with the city, but has been content to let the city’s accomplishments speak for themselves,” Allen said, describing Ferris as, “having shown the highest levels of integrity in carrying out his job.”

Former Public Works Director Mike Lambert spoke of his time working alongside Ferris, who was assistant city manager at the time.

“We developed a close professional and personal relationship during that time, because we both had the same goals for the direction we wanted the city to go,” he said, adding that Ferris wanted to get to know all the city employees.

“He enjoyed meeting the employees and supporting them…and he wanted to know each one by name, what their story was, and what their goals were.”

Greg Whitehead, city manager in Richlands, said he first met Ferris when both were working in Troy in 1994. Whitehead, who was working as an intern at the time, said, “We both cut our teeth on the ‘mean streets’ of Troy.”

“There’s no one in this field of work who is more professional than Michael Ferris,” he said. “It’s not what you build as far as structures, it’s relationships with people and what you mean to them, and in that regard, Michael is tops.”

The final speaker was Sandy Selvy-Mullis, former Stanly News & Press publisher and Chamber of Commerce president, and current development and marketing manager for Tillery Compassionate Care.

“Michael was always available to answer questions, and he represented Albemarle professionally,” said Mullis. “We all know how busy his position is, and it was always appreciated when you knew you could call and he would return your call…he always had time to answer questions and provide needed information.”

Ferris was presented a certificate of appreciation from City Council, as well as receipt of induction into The Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the mayor, after which he spoke to those in attendance, focusing on the relationships with co-workers and the public as being particularly memorable.

“Today’s been really overwhelming, and I appreciate everything everyone’s done for me over my entire career,” he said. “We’ve all seen retirement presentations here, and the retirees all have one thing in common, and that’s that they will miss the people here at the City of Albemarle…and that’s exactly the way that I feel.”

Ferris went on to express his thanks to a number of persons, including the mayor and his own family (wife Marla, son Evan and sister Melissa) who were on hand for the presentation.

“It’s a heck of a way to make a living, a crazy profession, but a great profession,” he said. “It comes with a lot of sacrifices, but that comes with the job…there were no surprises there.”
Ferris said his future plans are to “spend more time with family.”

He gave a closing encouragement to the city staff.

“I ask you to keep the faith, and keep up the good work,” he said. “What you do has meaning and it’s very important to the city, to our future and to all our residents.”

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.