Duane Ferdinand announces retirement as city planner
Lewistown City Planner Duane Ferdinand announced his retirement last week. Ferdinand, 78, has worked for the City since 1999.
Photo by Charlie Denison
On March 26, 2017, Duane Ferdinand is retiring from his position as Lewistown City Planner/Historic Preservation Officer.
“It’s probably time,” he said. “I’ve got 49 years of government involvement under my belt, so it probably is time for change, I guess.”
Ferdinand, 78, has held the planner title since 2005 and has worked with the City since 1999.
“I was hired on by our first city manager, Bill Sheridan, as an independent contractor,” Ferdinand said. “After six years, they converted me to a full city employee.”
Ferdinand has enjoyed serving as Lewistown’s city planner, a job he’s taken great pride in.
“I still like my job and I like all the things I’ve been able to accomplish,” Ferdinand said. “I think much of it has been for the benefit of the community, but it’s probably time for somebody else to assume the responsibility and work with all the different groups and take a different approach to things.”
As City Planner, Ferdinand worked extensively on the City’s growth policy, was instrumental in the historic streetlight project and was intimately involved with the downtown master plan. He also spent much time working with a wide variety of groups and organizations in town; some of these groups he even helped get established.
“I was one of the initiators of the Lewistown Downtown Association,” Ferdinand said. “At that time it was the Lewistown Downtown Revitalization Project. That transformed into Lewistown Downtown Incorporated and most recently it turned into the Lewistown Downtown Association. There is a different board there now and I don’t feel like I fit in there very well anymore.”
Ferdinand said he feels “perplexed” about retiring. There is much he has enjoyed about being the City planner, and much he will miss. There is also much that still needs to be done. However, Ferdinand is trying to focus on the accomplishments that took place during his time in office. There is a lot of work he’s played a part in that makes him proud: the Brewery Flats and Berg Lumber clean-up, railbanking and creating the Lewistown Trail System, assisting with the creation of a Tax Increment Finance District, the Arts and Entertainment District and the Broadway Apartments building restoration.
“Downtown housing is really vital to downtown economic revitalization,” he said.
Ferdinand was instrumental in a number of housing projects through the years, particularly the Ouellette Place Apartment Project.
“Ouellette was a five and a half million dollar project, and I was heavily involved,” he said. “I also helped put together the first-time homebuyer housing rehabilitation program. The program helped more than 125 families buy their first house. And, of course, there has been a lot of floodplain work and standard work involved with the position. I’ve issued more than 90 sign permits, 86 miscellaneous variances, 72 conditional work permits and zoning amendments.”
Through the years, Ferdinand has also been passionate about historic preservation. Such preservation projects include the Reed and Bowles Trading Post, the Symmes Park missile restoration, the railroad interpretive park, historic Lewistown walking tour, Save the Barns initiative and the Main Street Program.
There is still much that can be preserved in town, Ferdinand said, and there are many more projects on the horizon, which makes it hard, he said, to say goodbye.
“There is an awful lot left to do,” Ferdinand said.
Ferdinand is a little nervous about retirement. Once he’s freed up, he’s not sure what’s next.
An owner of two buildings downtown, he said he is going to put more work into maintenance, something he’s not exactly excited about.
“The façade and roof need work,” he said. “I could spend a quarter of a million dollar on these buildings. The work never ends. I could never live long enough to accomplish all that needs to be done.”
Another job Ferdinand has as a newly retired man is helping his wife, Donna, with her business, Keystone Bookstore, on Main Street.
Having more time on his hands, Ferdinand said he plans to get together with his children more often, although that makes him a little nervous, too, as he is a little concerned his son-in-law, Bill Plouffe, will put him to work, he said with a smile.
Ferdinand, however, said he is confident he will figure out his future plans and enjoy retirement. He feels Lewistown will also figure it out, as the City is in good hands moving forward.
“I hope Lewistown continues to grow and prosper and become a better place to live,” Ferdinand said.