2013: Women to Watch

Published 9:24 am Friday, March 1, 2013

By Candace Matthews

Whether she is discussing public policy, interviewing people for her show, or leading service organizations, Patricia Ferguson is always busy making a difference in the local community.

Ferguson describes herself as a public servant. One may ask how does she do so much? The answer come when you meet her and see just how energized she is, and how passionate she is to serve.

Ferguson was born in Bertie County to a single teenage mother. Ferguson notes that it was her grandparents farming discipline and her mother’s sacrifice that gave her the work ethic to do the many things she does.

The bulk of her early years were spent in Philadelphia where she also attended college. She started her first non-profit at the tender age of 15 when she brought children from the streets of Philadelphia into her home. She helped the children understand the importance of health and wellness while providing them a safe place to spend their day.

While in college she met her husband, Dr. Steven Ferguson, and the two of them shared a vision. That vision was to bring healthcare to underserved communities. Over 20 years later the duo is continuing to see that vision unfold in Bertie County.

It was not Patricia Ferguson that decided to move back to Bertie County. Early in his career, Dr. Ferguson dreamed of fulfilling the vision they imagined when they first met in college.  Their young family moved to the area in 1993.

“I knew I was called back home to make a difference,” Patricia says of the transfer.

Shortly after the move, she became the first female to chair the board of commissioners in Bertie County and the first black female elected to that board.

Now years later, with more than 30 years of public and community service, she has spent a life time working on behalf of children and families and a number of years refocusing her efforts redesigning strategies to help families and local communities thrive.

Patricia has always been passionate about the impact public policy makes on local communities and in particular, communities who have a long standing history of being economically distressed.

“Policies that come out of Raleigh must address local issues,” she stressed. “I know as a policy maker that at the end of the day the question has to become all local – how does a policy at the state and federal level impact local politics and how does it impact the quality of life of people that live here. A lot of times those policies don’t address areas like we live in, economically distressed communities. That is why we have to fight to ensure that policies that might be good for Charlotte and Raleigh and all of that are good for all of us.”

Creating strong families, caring for the elderly, and supporting economic development are very important arenas to Ferguson. She has founded many organizations for such causes, including the Women in Business Task Force and the Katheryn Elizabeth Chavers Center for Healthy Aging.

“My passion is with children and families and women and this whole notion of how do you help families improve the quality of their life,” Ferguson explains.

A YouTube search for her name will lead you to her YouTube channel called ‘My News Real’, and ‘County Impact’. On the channels she discusses policy issues as well as has several shows that include interviews, word study, and her most recent venture – A Girl and Her Money. The latter speaks to women about the importance of money management.

“County Impact was born to look at policies and say do I oppose or support,” she said.

Ferguson is the current Bertie County Red Cross Disaster Action Team Leader and a member of the North Carolina Rural Center Board of Directors. She has also been a governor appointed member of the Rural Internet Access Authority, and a commission member on the NC Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service as well as the NC Partnership for Children. She is a founding member and former president of the NC Association of Black County Officials and a former board member of the National YMCA.

Ferguson has won awards at the local and national levels for her community service. These accolades include being an inaugural William Friday Fellow for Human Relations. Some of her other awards include the NC Governors Award for Public Service, NAACP Freedom Fund Award, and the Bertie County Family Resource Center has recognized her for Outstanding Support for Families and Children.

“One of the things I am really looking forward to doing is a lot of public speaking, traveling the country and having conversations around the work I do with families and children and my passion for rural communities and asset building and community development,” she stated.

When asked about her future plans, Ferguson’s passion for the local community and the region surfaced again.

“I am looking forward to serving again; I am just not sure what capacity that may be in,” she added.” I decided to allow the opportunity to come to me. If an opportunity for service at any level of leadership was to surface I am more than willing to have a conversation about that. All I want to do is serve. I have got skills, gifts, and talents that I know can benefit the state of North Carolina, the nation, my community, and I just want to make sure that I vet those to the maximum as much as possible.”

The key to her success is faith, family, and friends. Her advice to young women is to “love self, love family, and love community.”