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Primary 2018

In our fourth of five Q & A sessions, Sun readers will meet candidates in contested primaries for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd magisterial districts. Our thanks to those who sent us suggested questions, one of which was addressed to the magistrate candidates. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, beginning with their last name.

1st District Democrats

John McDaniel

Brief Bio:

I have lived and been involved in Midway and the Midway area for most of my life. I am presently holding my first elective position as a Midway City Council member. Other positons that I have held while in Midway include:

• Past officer of the Midway and Woodford County police departments, named Who’s Who in American Law Enforcement

• One of the founders of the Woodford County Arts League

• One of the founding members of Midway’s first City Festival, which just celebrated its 44th year as the Midway Fall Festival

• In 2013, served on the “Uniquely Woodford” branding committee which developed the “Uniquely Woodford logo”

• Past president of the Midway Museum Inc.

• Midway Museum Director, set up and designed Midway’s first full time museum.

• Past president of the Midway Renaissance

• Past president of the Midway Merchant’s Association

• Past chairman of the Midway Veteran’s Memorial Committee

• Received Midway’s 2003 Outstanding Citizen award.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

The Weisenberger Bridge located between Woodford County and Scott County has been shut down for over two years now. This has caused delays in emergency response times. This has caused traffic issues and a great deal of inconvenience to those, both in Scott County and Woodford County, that have to go to work each morning and take a longer route to work. There is absolutely no reason that it takes two or more years for our state and county governments to fix a bridge.

There have been two other bridges fixed in Woodford County that have been fixed since our bridge has been closed down. Do we matter on this end of the county?

It’s time that representatives of both counties and state resolve this matter. This matter needs to be addressed at every fiscal court meeting until the bridge is fixed.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

I would have to agree with magisterial candidate Mathew Merrill when he commented at the courthouse debates that this is not a question for a magistrate since magistrates or candidates can only vote on this as a resident of Woodford County. Personally, I am for better schools and higher pay for teachers and more accountability for all money that is spent on education.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

Some magistrates treat this position as a part time job. I will put in as much time as needed to serve this district, a district that has been sorely neglected. As for accepting the benefits, I believe that I will do what those before me have done.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

I don’t have any hidden agendas such as using this position to run for a higher office. I will have an open door policy to anyone that wants to talk to me. I will not be afraid to ask questions and insist on answers.

Liles Taylor

Brief Bio:

Born and raised in Woodford County, Liles knows how special it is to grow up in this community. That’s why he and his wife (Robin) chose Midway to raise their son (Bennett, 11 months) and daughter (Jolee, four).

The proud product of Woodford County Public Schools, Liles went on to continue his education at Asbury University, where he received a BA in media communications and a Masters in public administration from Morehead State University.

Liles has extensive governmental experience, climbing the ranks of state government and serving in multiple roles within Governor Steve Beshear’s administration and gained valuable legislative experience serving as chief of staff to the House Majority Whip. His work in the Executive Branch culminated with his service as Deputy Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor, Crit Luallen.

Liles proudly now serves the working families of Kentucky as the political coordinator of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

The most important responsibility of the Fiscal Court is crafting a budget that meets our community’s current needs, while investing in solutions fortomorrow. I will strive to set budget priorities that carefully balance vital investments in public safety, education (early childhood, K-12, & post secondary), infrastructure, senior services, public health, middle-income housing, parks and recreation, competitive wages for county employees, and economic development.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

This investment will yield benefits in the form of increased safety and security, a greater competitiveness for economic development projects, opportunities for academic programs and career technical education that will enable our students to compete for jobs in the modern economy, and fiscal responsibility.

The current building faces significant maintenance costs and energy inefficiency, but the greatest financial loss to our district will occur if we are forced to forgo any state funds. Kentucky law requires that in order to be eligible to receive State funds under the FSPK and the SFCC, “school districts must levy a 5-cent equivalent tax.”

To put it simply, if we want to receive any financial support from the Commonwealth, the School Board, must, by law, levy the “nickel” and nothing less. If they don’t, the taxpayers won’t have access to millions of their state tax dollars and will pay more for the project.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

I do not plan to accept the benefits package if I am elected magistrate. I’m blessed to participate in a great retirement plan under my full-time employer and I receive health insurance through the family plan under my wife’s employer.

However, I would hate to preclude someone from holding public office because they are forced to seek other employment (even part-time) because they need benefits. I believe offering a good benefits package is part of being a responsible employer, and the county should lead by example with highly competitive compensation packages for all of its employees.

Each magistrate should carefully consider their own circumstances, (including whether they work the required weekly hours) and make their own decision.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

I will seek to bring greater transparency to county government through the broadcast and/or streaming of Fiscal Court meetings, making the county budget available online, and holding regular, advertised times of public availability within the district.

2nd District Democrats

Gina Scott

Brief Bio:

I am a native Woodford Countian and a graduate of WCHS. I earned a B.A. and M.A. from Georgetown College and the University of Kentucky.

For 27 years, I owned and operated a very successful business, acting as president and general manager, overseeing daily operations, budgeting, staff, advertising, payroll and public relations.

I have been an actor in productions with central Kentucky theatre companies, including Woodford Theatre, for over 40 years. I also accompany the middle school’s choirs in concerts and assessments.

On behalf of the health and well-being of citizens and the environment, I worked with grassroots groups in this region to successfully end the proposed construction of the Bluegrass Pipeline.

I have been a substitute teacher for nine years and live in the woods by the river with my husband, John Lynaugh, and our furry family, Bette Davis, Casanova and Ariel.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

First, local businesses are the backbone of communities and our county needs that local business growth. Thoughtful and practical development in and around Versailles and Midway is crucial so we preserve our unique scenic beauty in this Bluegrass Region.

Second, I am a strong proponent of reintroducing the hemp industry to Kentucky. I will help small farmers pursue this financial opportunity, beginning with the application and on through the processing phase.

Third, the Martin Luther King neighborhood in my district, as well as other areas, lack sidewalks and the through traffic puts pedestrians and playing children at risk. I will address their issues by revisiting the proposed revision of the intersection at 62 and 1964. Another possible short-term solution is speed bumps to slow traffic and discourage vehicles from cutting through the neighborhood.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

I am in favor of a new high school as long as the same emphasis is given to creativity that is given to technology. A well-rounded education that challenges and develops all parts of the brain is a no-brainer.

A new high school is a smart investment for the county. Putting this proposed tax hike on the ballot so tax payers can make the decision, is the correct step to take.

Some citizens have expressed concern that the tax is permanent and that it should be reduced after the high school is paid off. This should be considered in the tax proposal.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

Until the Chamber of Commerce’s forum on April 26, I was not aware that magistrates were offered insurance and other benefits. I have insurance and would not need a policy through the county. I would not opt in for other benefits.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

Transparency in government is an important part of my platform. Constituents should have regular opportunities to voice their concerns so they are heard by the Fiscal Court. The public should be informed about Fiscal Court agendas. Possibilities include using social media or actually posting the agenda outside of the courthouse.

With the exception of personnel concerns, the practice of executive sessions by the Fiscal Court needs to be reviewed. The taxpayers need to be made aware of this practice and given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter.

C.L. Watts

Brief Bio:

It has been my privilege to serve as Magistrate of District 2 for this current term. I have lived nearly my entire life in this district.

I was taught from an early age the importance of giving back. I have chosen to do this through my church, community organizations, public service employment and getting involved in the political system. My involvement includes but is not limited to: (1) Serving for 18 years as a probation and parole officer in the 14” Judicial District before being appointed as state director of Probation and Parole by Governor Paul Patton; (2) Post 67 American Legion Executive Board; (3) member and past president of Versailles Kiwanis; and (4) Deacon at Millville Christian Church.

I am husband to Denise, father to Katie Watts Parrish and Lee Watts and grandfather to Landen, Lilly and Lucy.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

Necessary road improvements are among the top needs district and county-wide simply because all citizens regularly use the highways.

The existing state roads in District 2 need some improvements. In the Millville area, roads were not built to handle the volume of traffic that Woodford Reserve and Old Taylor/Castle & Key are drawing to the area. In Versailles, Martin Luther King, a residential street, is being used as a pass through in order to avoid the intersection of U.S. 62 and Ky-1964.

I have attended several meetings with the Kentucky District 7 Transportation personnel and voiced my concerns about these matters. I will continue to keep these issues in the forefront as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet looks for funding and resources to improve the condition of our existing state roads.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

It appears we may very well need a new high school building. However, it is my belief that the building of a new high school is not a fiscal court matter. The Board of Education is a separate taxing district in and of itself. My personal position on the matter is that the proposed tax hike should be held for a vote as this is a more transparent approach to the matter.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

When I was elected for my first term I made a promise to my constituents that I would not take the offered benefit package and I have not done so. I will make that same promise for my second term, if elected. I believe it would be unfair for me to accumulate such benefits at a cost to county taxpayers. It is my understanding that by not taking the benefit package I am providing a savings to taxpayers of approximately $60,000 for a four-year term.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

Transparency in county government is imperative. I have always had an open-door policy. I have a listed home phone number (873-9689) with an answering machine. All calls are returned as soon as possible. I take phone calls many times each week and share information, answer questions and render aid to constituents.

In addition, I have constituents who regularly attend fiscal court meetings. This is a great way to educate oneself in the county’s current business matters. Court meetings are open to the public. Committee meetings are advertised and announced and also open to the public.

I urge all constituents to attend meetings or to call if they have a matter to discuss.

3rd District Republicans

Rob Bentley

Brief Bio:

I am Rob Bentley, seeking election to the office of Magistrate, District 3. As a life-long Kentuckian, I have chosen to make Woodford County home for over 25 years. My wife, Julie, and I met while attending Eastern Kentucky University where I achieved a BS in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in Computer Electronics. I am currently employed by Decisionone, a global IT solutions company. The bulk of my career has been servicing the healthcare industry. Julie attained a BBA in Business and is a 30-year employee of UK. We have a daughter, Lindsay Bentley, a graduate of Murray State University and UK, she has been teaching at Saint Leo’s since 2011.

In the past I served as President of the Midway Lions Club, Little League coach and am an active member of the Creative Camera Club of Lexington. District 3, I’d be pleased to represent you.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

Some of the needs I have been informed about from the people of District 3 are storm water drainage in some areas, sidewalks that need repairing, caring for our seniors and drugs in our neighborhoods. I would verify the proper personnel are aware of the drainage and sidewalk issues, and inform the citizens if there is any funding to assist in correcting these problems.

We need to verify that our seniors are being checked on and assisted either by the health department or non-profits. The Fiscal Court needs to seek ways to help them. Seniors are one of the fastest growing segments of our population and all communities need to seek ways to help them and also our people with disabilities.

The Fiscal court needs to fund our health department to help and educate citizens with drug and alcohol issues. Continue to support the D.A.R.E program.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

Our youth need facilities that are conducive to learning. The information about the tax was confusing to some and maybe not communicated well which divided the community. I am pleased that it is being brought to a vote for the people to decide.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

The subject of benefits for elected officials has always been controversial. I believe that careful consideration needs to be given before making a rash decision to reduce or eliminate them, even though I am not sure what all of them are. We do not want to discourage highly qualified individuals that may need benefits from serving the public. I will not be accepting the benefits.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

Personally, all I can do is give you an honest answer to questions when asked.

The minutes are posted online but procedures requiring them to be approved the following meeting and then posting them, is about a month after the meeting. All meetings are opened to the public except for closed sessions and I would encourage citizens to attend. The budget and audits are public record and accessible.

I will encourage the Fiscal Court to broadcast the meetings on the local community access channel on our cable provider. I also think live streaming them to Facebook or a county government website would be beneficial.

Matt Merrill

Brief Bio:

Matt Merrill is a long-time Woodford County resident in his 28th year as a teacher at WCHS. His leadership roles at WCHS include theater director, four terms on site-based council, and department chair. A graduate of Asbury University and Georgetown College, he has a master’s degree and National Board Certification. Merrill has also served in the U.S. Army, and was mobilized during Desert Storm. He is a member of Versailles United Methodist Church, and currently pastors Owenton UMC, a church that is seen as an example of growth and vitality under his leadership.

He believes management of county business and its growth need careful consideration and planning. Providing for infrastructure, services, and county programs calls for leaders that are fiscally responsible and willing to expand their education to meet ever-changing needs. He believes accessibility to fiscal court information is important for our county’s citizens.

What are the top needs in your district and the county, and what will you do to address them?

Over the last month I have enjoyed meeting with people of District 3. I have been forming a punch list from the conversations we have had. In communicating with folks, I have found that one of the needs is to connect the Stonegate neighborhood with downtown Versailles.

They are connected by automobile, but many people would like a way to safely walk or ride a bike to the city center. The people living in Lanes View would like some road work completed in the front of their neighborhood. With two weeks to go to the election, I am currently talking with folks in Merewood and the Douglas/Broadway neighborhood. Once I have my list complete, I will pursue the education and research I need to address these needs. I am committed to communication and accessibility.

What is your position on the 5.5 cent (per $100) property tax hike for a new high school?

The question of a school tax has no application to a Fiscal Court race. Magistrates and the judge- executive have no authority to levy tax for the building of a new school. With that said, I do have a unique perspective on the matter. I am a teacher at the high school, and I can say with authority that we need a new school. In 1965, the builders could not conceive of the needs of the 21st century. A new school would have the technological infrastructure to support 21st century learning. Classrooms now are a network of conduits and wire that are becoming more obsolete each year. The safety needs of a modern school need to be considered. With a new building, security measures and modern safety equipment could be integrated. The list can go on.

Should magistrates be given health insurance and other benefits for what some argue is a part-time position – and will you accept such benefits?

The question of benefits must start with the statement that I am not calling to strike the benefit package. I do have a problem with the idea that receiving them requires nothing more than an affidavit. No business issues benefits or pay without verifiable hours. In the 21st century, there are ways to “trust but verify” as a great statesman once put it. Currently the salary with benefits package is twice the cost to the county as the salary alone. This expense to the county budget multiplied by eight is significant. I will not take the benefit package, which means I will cost the county half the budgeted amount for the 3rd district magistrate. In the long view, the county budget could be greatly decreased by reducing the number of magistrates from eight to six.

What will you do to bring transparency to county government?

Transparency is a pop culture word. Let me examine this question in a more specific way for the citizens of Woodford County. It was mentioned recently at the candidate forum that the Fiscal Court meeting should be broadcast. This is a simple matter, and it could be done by the sitting court long before November. The Bluegrass Area Development District offers a service for recording and broadcasting Fiscal Court meetings. Scott County is currently using the service. Woodford County citizens want a magistrate that will be accessible. This modern world allows for such connection with the voter. Citizens also want a magistrate that will communicate with them, clearly and openly. They want to be informed about the issues and challenges of the court. Citizens also want someone to listen to them as they communicate their needs. I am committed to accessibility and communication in my service to our community.

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