Magistrate candidates speak at forum
Ten candidates in contested primaries for Woodford Fiscal Court took part in a forum sponsored by the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce last Thursday, April 26.
The forum took place in the third floor courtroom of the Woodford County Courthouse.
The moderator was Don Vizi, executive director of the Chamber. Vizi began by explaining that Magistrates Linda Popp (Dist. 1), C.L. Watts (Dist. 2) and Jackie Brown (Dist. 8) were not present, and gave their opponents four-and-a-half minutes to introduce themselves and their platforms.
The other seven candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves and two minutes to respond to several questions. In the interest of space, the Sun will cover what seemed to be the most pertinent questions and answers.
Introductions Gina Scott, Democrat, District 2
Scott said she’d been a small business owner for 27 years and, if elected, would promote small, independent business growth and try to help farmers in the state industrial hemp program. She said she would be available to all constituents and that government transparency was very important to her. Scott said local transportation problems include “through traffic” in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard neighborhood, and that she favors, “revisiting the proposed revision of the intersection at U.S. 62 and KY 1964 (Rose Hill Avenue) as a possible solution.” She said she’ll continue to oppose the proposed Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor.
“Thoughtful and practical development in and around Versailles and Midway is essential so we preserve our unique scenic beauty,” Scott said.
Fighting the opioid crisis must be a community effort “and I have a good idea how to start,” Scott said.
She said her district has experienced a surge of tourism traffic to local distilleries and, as magistrate, would encourage those businesses to take part in local community events. Magistrate Duncan Gardiner, Republican, District 6
Gardiner said serving on Woodford Fiscal Court has been one of the highlights of his career. He said he’d worked in the financial industry most of his life, for which his work as a house painter during college helped prepare him.
“So I understand what it means to invoice and get paid and have a payroll,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner said county magistrates oversee a $17 million annual budget and, despite tough financial times a few years ago, hadn’t raised taxes since he’d been on the court. He stressed his bipartisan approach to problem-solving, saying, “While there are Republicans and there are Democrats, we really haven’t fallen along those traditional party lines that you see (at) the state and the federal level.”
Gardiner said intra-governmental relationships were important and that he’d worked with Versailles City Council Member Ken Kerkhoff to hammer out a long-term solution for the Versailles-Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department.
“In the news, there’s so much fighting between parties, and in our community, and I think it’s so important that we, in our community, get along,” he said. Thomas Moungey, Democrat, District 8
Moungey said two years ago, he retired from the racehorse business, and he was running for office, in part, because doing so was one of the last items on his bucket list.
He said as a member of the Marine Corps, he’d served in Vietnam. After obtaining a biology degree in California, he worked as an air quality investigator in Northern California, a “rough environment” that featured a couple of near-death experiences involving angry citizens, he said. Moungey said he did lumber and framing work in the Bay and Sacramento area, opened his own home improvement business, and got into the horse racing business in 1988. Moungey said he and his wife moved to Nonesuch in 2004, and that he’d prepared for the race by studying state and county laws and regulations. Liles Taylor, Democrat, District 1
Taylor, a Midway resident, described himself as a “proud product of public education here in Woodford County,” who obtained his bachelor’s degree from Asbury College and his master’s degree from Morehead State University. He said he’d administered grants for the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and was a chief of staff for the House Majority Whip and deputy chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen. Today he works for the state chapter of the AFL-CIO where he “gets to stand up for working families every day,” most recently as a digital communications director. John McDaniel, Democrat, District 1
McDaniel said he’s lived in Midway most of his life, serving the community as a police officer, president of the Midway Merchants Association and, presently, as a member of the Midway City Council.
He said the number one problem in his magisterial district is the long-awaited replacement of the Weisenberger Mill Bridge that connects Woodford and Scott counties. The bridge has been closed since July 1, 2016.
“Why is it taking so long? Why haven’t our representatives from our area not done anything about it? That’s a good question,” McDaniel said. “We have to get that bridge open and in operation …” Rob Bentley, Republican, District 3
Bentley said his family has lived in Woodford County for 25 years and that he began his career in IT (informational technology) in 1994 with Jericho, Inc.
“For nearly 25 years, I’ve served the health care industry exclusively, so I do know what it’s like to be prompt and to take care of other people’s problems,” Bentley said.
Bentley said in his present job with the global IT company DecisionOne, he works on a variety of projects with the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Treasury and other federal agencies that require him to obtain security clearances.
Bentley said his community service includes work in youth baseball and soccer and a four-year stint as president of the Midway Lion’s Club.
Matthew Merrill, Republican, District 3
Merrill said he’s taught for 28 years and, as a history teacher, decided he needed to choose someone with whom to identify – Herman Haupt, a “great” Civil War general known for building and repairing bridges.
“That’s why I want to run. It’s service, and it’s building bridges,” Merrill said.
He promised to be an accessible candidate and, if elected, help make Fiscal Court more accessible to citizens.
“I think this job is about helping fund services. My question is, ‘How can you fund a service that you don’t understand?’ And so understanding who I’m serving … is important,” Merrill said. Kelly Carl, Democrat, District 4
Carl said she’s been serving the community for 28 years, including her present position as a deputy sheriff and a stint as director of Woodford County Community Education.
“In both of these positions, I have prepared and balanced a budget, developed policies and procedures, and supervised personnel,” Carl said. “In the Sheriff’s Office, I was responsible for 23 million taxpayer dollars and the disbursement … to the taxing districts.”
Carl said she’s served on numerous boards and committees, including the Chamber of Commerce and Versailles-Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department.
She said she’s been a leader in the community and would, if elected, be a leader on the Fiscal Court. Magistrate Ken Reed, Democrat, District 4
Reed said he was a lifelong Woodford County resident who worked for IBM/Lexmark for 36 years, during which time he prepared 34 budgets.
“I managed a number of people. I was procurement manager for several business units at IBM and I was afforded the opportunity to travel all over the world to visit other IBM locations as well as vendors that we did business with,” Reed said.
He noted that he was chair of the court’s contracts and lease committee, and said he enjoys hearing from constituents and helping them solve problems with the county and city governments.
Democrat, District 4
Bohanan, former co-owner of the Main Street shop, “Pretty in Pink,” said she’s lived in Versailles for more than 20 years.
She also worked as a financial and legislative analyst for the state, including 12 years with the Transportation Cabinet, during which she helped develop the six-year highway plan and programs like the graduated driver’s licensing program. With the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, she provided economic forecasting for Medicaid.
As president of the Versailles Merchants Association, Bohanan began the group’s Friday Night Block Party series. She was also vice-chair of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Having a small business in town has given me the knowledge and appreciation of this community,” Bohanan said.
How many fiscal court meetings have you attended in the past year, and how long have you lived in your magisterial district?
McDaniel said he’d lived in the district most of his 69 years and had attended between 30 to 50 meetings over the years.
Bentley said he’d attended the last four or five court meetings and has lived in the district for 25 years.
Merrill said he hadn’t attended any meetings, in part because he was the night school coordinator at Safe Harbor Academy. He said he’s lived in the district for 16 years.
Carl said she’d attended three meetings and has lived in the district for 32 years.
Reed said he’d missed only one meeting since he was first elected in 2010 – and that was because he and his wife were on a 50th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii.
Bohanan said she’d attended two, including the most recent, and that she’d lived in the district for 21 years.
Taylor said he hadn’t attended any because of his duties as a “dance dad,” and that he’s lived in the district for five years.
Do you support magistrates receiving full-time benefits for part-time work?
Merrill said he didn’t and wouldn’t accept the benefits.
Carl said she wouldn’t and that the county would save many thousands of dollars if magistrates weren’t given benefits.
Reed said he believed he earned his compensation, and that he’d supported reducing the size of the court from eight members to six as a way to save money.
Bohanan said she didn’t and wouldn’t accept them.
McDaniel said he couldn’t comment and that he needed to do some homework to learn what benefits are available.
Bentley said he wouldn’t accept the benefits, but added that if benefits weren’t available, some qualified people wouldn’t run for office.
What’s your position on the proposed 5.5 cent property tax increase for a new high school?
Carl didn’t take a position, adding that the question has divided the community and was best decided by the voters.
Reed didn’t take a position, but said citizens needed to vote on it and that the property tax hike would affect senior citizens the most.
Bohanan said she was for it and “didn’t mind” it being on the ballot.
Taylor said he was for it and believed it would help education, school safety and economic development.
McDaniel said he was for it, partly for school safety concerns.
Bentley said he “didn’t have an issue” with it, but said the question was best decided by citizens, not the School Board.
Merrill said while he didn’t see it as a “magisterial question,” he approved of the school tax hike.
What is the solution to Woodford County’s drug addiction problem?
Bohanan said she didn’t have one, but that more education and a regional solution were needed.
Taylor said if he had a solution he’d run for governor, but supported first responders being properly equipped and said more investments in community health are needed.
McDaniel said he knew of no single solution, and that he would study successful anti-drug programs in other counties.
Bentley said he’d ensure that the Woodford County Health Department has proper funding for addict education programs, including the ongoing needle exchange program.
Merrill said he’d support funding for training and materials for the Sheriff’s Department and work to improve the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
Carl said DARE works, and that it was important to have a variety of local activities for children to provide alternatives to drugs.
Reed agreed that there was no easy solution, but said a lot of progress has been made and that he’d offer as much support as possible to first responders.