The dedication made the front page of the Norfolk Daily News.
‘Godfather’ of Norfolk growth honored with street name
by Nick Gebhart
Norfolk Daily News
Joe Ferguson’s legacy in Norfolk was not in question before Wednesday. But now, a new street named in his honor will cement that legacy permanently.
Ferguson was honored by various leaders from the Norfolk community Wednesday afternoon during an official ceremony christening the newly opened Ferguson Drive. The street runs from north to south in the NorPark neighborhood in southeast Norfolk.
Roger Nadrchal, the CEO of NeighborWorks Northeast Nebraska, said that because the drive doesn’t align with any existing streets, NeighborWorks was free to name it whatever it wanted. And Ferguson was the first person to come to mind.
Ferguson is a former board member of NeighborWorks Northeast Nebraska who served for 25 years and was actively involved in developing housing in Norfolk even before then.
Russ Wilcox, a real estate developer who serves on the Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation, said Ferguson had a hand in just about every housing project in Norfolk over the past few decades and that institutional knowledge remains important to the community.
“Rarely when you look around at projects in this community, it’s rare for his name to not be involved,” Wilcox said. “When I started 15 years ago in economic development, (he) was telling me stories about what happened 30 years before that. You can’t account for that legacy.”
Mayor Josh Moenning echoed Wilcox’s sentiments.
“Someday we’ll look through the history books about Norfolk and Joe Ferguson’s name will loom large,” Moenning said. “To come here and share his expertise, his knowledge and his uncanny ability to form partnerships with people has made a lot of these projects go.”
Moenning and Wilcox both compared his influence to The Godfather from the film franchise.
“He’s like the godfather of economic development of Norfolk,” Moenning said.
Ferguson, who was in attendance with many members of his family, said he has been fortunate to work with other visionaries to help grow Norfolk. He specifically mentioned J. Paul McIntosh and Jerry Huse as examples.
He said leaders like them sought to look ahead at what Norfolk would need for the future, and he hoped to learn and spread that mentality.
“If it weren’t for visionary leadership, who knows where Norfolk would be,” Ferguson said. “It takes a lot of patience, it takes a lot of time to make things work.”
Mitchell Shultze, current vice president of the NeighborWorks board, said the new name would be a fitting one for the new neighborhood, honoring someone who has helped many Norfolk families have access to a home.
“We’re looking forward to seeing Ferguson Drive full of families and children running around,” Shultze said. “It’ll be a beautiful sight.”