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Former City Councilman, county commissioner looks back: A Q&A with Ron Ford

Ron Ford (Photo: Kyle Gamble)

Ron Ford (Photo: Kyle Gamble)
Ron Ford (Photo: Kyle Gamble)

Lancaster native Ron Ford was the first Black individual elected to Lancaster City Council, the first to be elected president of Lancaster City Council, and the first and only Black person elected as a Lancaster County commissioner.

One United Lancaster sat down with Ron Ford and learned more about his history and love for Lancaster County. Our video interview is embedded below; here are some excerpts:

On running for City Council:

I went to the people in the Democratic Party who were active at that time and said, hey, I'd like to run for City Council, and they said, "Well, as far as we know, no Black person has actually ever run for City Council in Lancaster. ... We think it's going to be an uphill battle, but if you want to give it a shot ... "

I ran twice and lost. Both times I was the only Black person on the ticket and I led the ticket. So I said, "Race is not the big deal. It's being a Democrat." ...

I ran a third time. I got elected. I won by one vote. They were counting the ballots up there, someone said, hey there's a ballot that hasn't been opened up. It's in the 7th Ward 4th Precinct. They went and opened it up and it was my brother, Brian, who was a student at Bloomsburg State College. ... The Republicans went to court, they had one of my votes thrown out, ended up a tie.

We drew numbered marbles out of a bag. ... I got the lowest number. So that's how I first got elected to City Council.

On being a Black trailblazer:

I think I was probably the first African American at Ford New Holland (now CNH Industrial) in an office position. But I was followed by a number of other people. ...

The race thing has always been like, well, just prove that you can do the job. The fact that you're the first to be in certain positions is an indication that society was not opened up or not willing to consider people based on the qualifications versus the pigmentation of their skin. I think we've made progress, but I think we're starting to see the resentment of some of the progress that has been made.

On Lancaster's quality of life:

There are a lot of opportunities here. We have a very rich environment, agriculture and the city. I think Lancaster city's a great place to live. The increased diversity of the city. You can go downtown, you can get Mexican food, you can get Italian food. You can get food from any nation. I think that's great. To me that's a positive thing.

I think we are the right size in terms of the population. There's a lot of good things, a lot of good economic opportunities here, a lot of diverse industry here. So, all those things I think make Lancaster County and Lancaster city a great place to live and work and to grow and raise your family.