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GENERAL ELECTION 2018

This is the fifth of eight question and answer sessions with candidates for local office. This week, candidates for Fiscal Court for election this November, are featured. Each answer, including the bio, was limited to 150 words. In the event of answers longer than that, we are forced to cut from the bottom up.

1st District Joe Greathouse

Republican

Brief bio:

A lifetime resident of District 1, I am a graduate of Midway Elementary, WCMS and WCHS. Following graduation, I made the important decision to join the family business and became a fourth-generation farmer in the Midway community. This decision has allowed me numerous opportunities to serve our town and county over the past two decades. In addition to my roots in agriculture, I’m a proud husband to my wife Kim, a school teacher, and father to three great children.

Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

I do not believe we should have a merged government. While both are part of Woodford County as a whole, we have two towns with two distinct identities and unique priorities to the residents. It is important that we collaborate, but merging governments is not the solution. With the Fiscal Court and appropriate conversations, there is potential opportunity to re-district the county, and move from eight magistrates to six. That would save the county over $40,000 per year and still support both Midway and Versailles.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

I will not accept any benefits.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

Access to high-quality health care is a challenge across the region and the state. As Woodford County continues to grow, it is my opinion that the hospital is vital to our success and long-term sustainability, whether it is built at the Edgewood property or at another location. I hope that together we can meet the needs of each member of the community.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

While serving the residents of District 1, there are several issues I would tackle in office. First, a new entrance to Williams Lane from Big Sink Pike. This is an urgent issue and a matter of safety for these residents. By working with the landowners and the county engineer, I believe I can get it done. Next, to support a leading industry in the district, I would work to establish an agricultural center including a grain elevator, hay distribution, and scales for weighing cattle. By working with agriculture leaders, this could be a driver of the local economy.

Liles Taylor, Democrat

Brief bio:

Born and raised in Woodford County, I know how special it is to grow up in this community. That’s why Robin and I chose Midway to raise our family. The proud product of WCHS, I also hold a BA in media communications from Asbury University and a Master’s in public administration from Morehead. I’ve served in multiple capacities within Kentucky State Government, including Chief of Staff to the House Majority Whip and Deputy Chief of Staff to former Lt. Governor, Crit Luallen. I proudly now serve the working families of Kentucky as the Political Coordinator of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

I strongly oppose a merger. I believe that such a move would remove many of the checks and balances that currently exist in our form of government, and consolidate influence and authority amongst the highest concentration of voters, namely Versailles. In doing so, it would limit the identity and self-determination of smaller communities; including both Midway and Pisgah in my district. I would, however, support the study of potential cost-saving measures concerning additional inter-local agreements for the sharing of services between Midway, Versailles and Woodford County.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

I do not plan to accept the benefits package if I am elected Magistrate. I’m blessed to participate in a retirement plan under my employer and I receive health insurance through my wife’s employer. However, I’d hate to preclude someone from holding public office 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 its employees. Each Magistrate should carefully consider their own circumstances, (including whether they work the required weekly hours) and make their own decision…

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

I have significant concerns about the expansion of the urban service boundary. We have to work together for more innovative development, beginning with redevelopment of existing urban areas. There is no denying that Bluegrass Community Hospital is seriously hindered by the age of their facilities, but I also worry about what would become of that vacant facility. We must work together for innovative development solutions with the many vacant and abandoned properties already within our urban service boundaries. The relocation of the Versailles Police Department should be held a prime example of such a win-win solution.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

The greatest responsibility of the Fiscal Court is crafting a budget that meets our community’s current needs, while investing in solutions for tomorrow. We must set budget priorities that carefully balance vital investments in public safety, education (PK-12 and post secondary), infrastructure, senior services, public health, middle-income housing, parks and recreation, competitive wages for county employees, and economic development. I’d like to see increased transparency through: live-streaming meetings, an online budget, county email addresses, and a constituent services platform. I’ll also work to address the flooding that too often occurs on Williams Lane and a splashpad (or sprayground) in Midway.

3rd District Gary Finnell, Democrat

Brief Bio:

As a lifelong resident of Woodford County, I retired with 40 years of service with Kuhlman Electric Company, 20 years of service with the U.S. Army Reserve (Military Police Unit), am past master of Landmark Masonic Lodge, served 26 years with the Woodford County and Versailles Fire Depts. and am a former member of the Human Rights Commission. Currently, I am a 43-year employee of Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home, a member of Versailles Baptist Church, an eight-year member of Woodford Co. Board of Health and am in my second term as Magistrate in District 3.

Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

Woodford County has eight Magistrates for all of Woodford County. The City of Versailles and Midway city have their own councils for city business.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

Yes, I will, however there are many areas of continuing education that every magistrate should attend in order to keep current on changing regulations within the state.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

Growth in Woodford County needs to be at a progressive rate with careful consideration of any requested zoning changes.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

Work together with other taxing districts to acquire the best results for our tax dollars and do the right thing for Woodford County.

Matt Merrill, Republican

Brief Bio:

Matt Merrill is a long-time Woodford County resident in his 29th 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 US 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.

Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

Let’s look at this question from a different angle. According to data collected in 2016, Lexington’s population is 318,449 people. I understand that this is the entire population, but for arguments sake, let’s use that as our baseline. Fayette has 16 elected representatives, so the representation by elected officials is 19,903/1. Woodford has 25,793 people and 23 elected representatives, so the representation by those elected officials is 1,121/1. I am against a merger. Large ratios only favor the money elite and special interests. I‘m proud to live where I can be accessible and communicate with the neighbors I represent.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

No, I will not take the benefits package. Currently the salary with benefits package is twice the cost to the county as the salary alone. Since I will not take the benefits package, I will cost the county half the budgeted amount for the 3rd district magistrate. That will be a savings to the county budget of $80,000 over four years. In the long term, the county budget could be greatly decreased by reducing the number of Magistrates from eight to six, a savings of $320,000 over four years. We would still have an acceptable representation ratio of 1,800/1.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

I’ll explain the way growth is planned in Woodford County, so citizens can have input/involvement from the beginning rather than being upset by the building of a church, factory, or expansion of a neighborhood at a stage that is too late. Through inter-local agreement a planning commission is formed. Commissioners are appointed by county executives. Judge Executive appoints four, Midway Mayor one, Versailles Mayor four. Magistrates and Council people approve the appointment of these individuals. These nine commissioners develop the Woodford Comprehensive Plan; P&Z implements the plan. I will help you learn the process, and how to be involved @merrill4magistrate.com.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

In communicating with folks, I have found that people would like a way to safely walk or ride a bike to the city center. I have started looking into this with the help of Bluegrass Area Development District (B.A.D.D.). Secondly, I believe that Fiscal Court meetings should be broadcast and available for public viewing. The B.A.D.D. offers a service for recording and broadcasting Fiscal Court meetings. Lastly, I would like to offer people a free course that would help them know how county government works. I would call this Woodford Civics 101: Knowledge is Power.

5th District William Downey, Democrat

Brief bio:

I was born and raised in Woodford County to my parents, the late Kent Downey, and Eileen Kelty. My wife Emily and I are lifelong Woodford Countians, and we live on Broadway Street with our 16-month-old daughter Millie and are expecting our second child, a son, William Kenton, in December. I graduated from Woodford County High School and the University of Kentucky, and currently work for R.J. Corman Railroad Group in Nicholasville. I previously served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and am a current board member of the Economic Development Authority and the Versailles Kiwanis Club. Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while

Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

I believe the citizens of Woodford County traditionally have favored and benefited from personal relationships with their respected elected officials. Representing smaller segments of the population allow for a more direct and impactful relationship which create quicker responses, immediate feedback, and timely results. Many offices in our county government are mandated by the Kentucky Constitution and I don’t believe we would experience the savings that many would anticipate with a merger. I am in favor of continuing to form partnerships and inter-local agreements that create efficiencies while continuing to provide the level of service that Woodford Countians deserve.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

I am in a fortunate situation between my current employer and my wife’s employer that our family receives the necessary health and retirement benefits we need from our private sector jobs. At this time, I will not accept the benefits provided to me from our county government. As a member of the Fiscal Court, I will be asking departments to potentially reduce costs and create efficiencies in their operations, and I intend to lead by example and save the county thousands of dollars by not accepting the eligible health and retirement benefits.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

I am hopeful that the lawsuit gets resolved and we will be able to move forward with a new hospital that will benefit all of Woodford County and other counties in our region. A new hospital would be able to provide additional services to more Woodford Countians, attract more medical professionals to our county, and create new jobs that will continue to expand our tax base.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

I will focus on modernizing our government to increase transparency, accessibility, and ultimately be more responsive to the people. That includes upgrades to our website, county email addresses for elected officials, and live streaming our Fiscal Court meetings to the public via Facebook and YouTube. I will prioritize infrastructure investments to our sidewalks, roads, and specifically Big Spring Park in downtown Versailles. I plan to work together with county and city officials on collaboration efforts when necessary so that we can make the best use of our tax dollars to benefit everyone in Woodford County.

Ann Miller, Republican

Brief bio:

As the mother of three children, Leigh (Preston and grandson), Laura (Dylan) and Benjamin, I have worked hard on the Council to serve Versailles and Woodford County for 10 years and have demonstrated a commitment citizens trust and rely upon. As a representative across Kentucky, I bring energy and leadership to reduce poverty, find affordable housing, work with developers to expand retail options. As Co-Chair of the Police and Fire Committee, I led the initiative purchasing the former St. Leo’s school property to build the new police department. I chair the Downtown Marketplace Pavilion committee (permanent home WC Farmers Market). Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while

Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

As taxpayers, we are represented at Fiscal Court and City Hall and are being served with water, sewer, police and fire protection services. However, there may be more government services that can be able to be merged. But we do not know I until all government representatives come to the table to analyze services. We will without question, maintain the high quality of services that we all have come to expect and enjoy in Woodford County but look at reducing expenses if possible. But we first have to agree to talk about it!

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

Yes, I will accept the benefits. After 10 years of serving on the Council, I have been available to serve our citizens daily, evenings and weekends. We work beyond attending regular meetings. Work may include: phone calls, meetings, school visits, training, personal visits, committee meetings, visiting various department location sites, working with developers, working with local businesses, emergency events and the list goes on. It is a privilege to continue to serve Woodford County. I also want the citizens to know that I do not believe in yards signs and will not be using them in this campaign.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

I voted to approve the annexation of the Edgewood farm and the rezoning recommendation of our Planning and Zoning Commission and am in favor of the moving forward with the Edgewood development. Edgewood would provide a highly visible location for a new hospital and allow for expansion of services that are not feasible in the current facility. Edgewood also provides for more retail options and much needed residential alternatives such as multi-family and single-family homes. In addition, the increase of property taxes will move us closer to creating revenue needed to build a new high school.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

Continuing the improvement in our community through diligent attention to the issues such as poverty. Continuing the work on the Outdoor Marketplace and Pavilion project and seeing it funded and built. I firmly believe that the lack of affordable housing is a crisis in Woodford County. I will work to reduce obstacles impacting this crisis as well as improving the building blocks that will encourage affordable housing. Will focus on making downtown housing a reality. Versailles and Midway are major contributors to Woodford County, and we need to make sure both Cities are represented well at Fiscal Court.

6th District Duncan Gardiner, Republican

Brief bio:

I am a two-term Magistrate in District 6. My wife Laury and I have been married for over 31 years and have two children, Zak (27) and Shannah (25). I hold a BA in Economics and English from Miami (Ohio) University and was employed at Kentucky Bank in Versailles for 24 years, most recently as the Market President. Currently, I am a certified financial planner professional with Thrivent Financial. I served as President of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, board member of Bluegrass Community Hospital, and as an Elder and Sunday school teacher at Journey Church in Versailles.

Lexington, with a population 12 times that of Woodford County, has 16 elected representatives in its urban county council, while Woodford County has a total of 23 on the two city councils and fiscal court. Are Woodford County taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Is merger worth considering?

I am not for merged government although I am for merged services. One concern over merged government is the loss of identity to our community, particularly to the City of Midway which stands to lose not only its representation, but also its autonomy. Property taxes in Lexington/Fayette County are higher than in Woodford County. Payroll taxes in Versailles are comparable to Lexington and lower if you work outside of the city limits. Merging governments won’t guarantee tax savings, but it may cause us to lose our small-town charm which is why I live in Woodford County and not Lexington.

Magistrates are paid a starting salary of more than $21,000 a year and are eligible for benefits worth several thousand more. Will you accept those benefits?

I am not currently receiving benefits and I will not accept benefits if elected to a third term.

What is your position on the fate of the Edgewood property, which is tied up in court but was once considered a possible location for a new Bluegrass Community Hospital and other businesses?

I am for the Edgewood property development. The bigger issue is how much do we want our community to grow? I am not for unchecked growth, but neither am I for no growth which leads to economic stagnation. Moderate, planned growth will ensure the vibrancy and economic health of our community. One concern I have is the lack of affordable housing including apartments and homes, projects that are being considered in the Edgewood development. New businesses will provide additional sources of property and payroll taxes that will keep our current tax rates from increasing. I am for moderate growth.

What are two or three issues you’ll tackle if elected, and how will you achieve success?

The first is developing and promoting healthy relationships between local governments and public entities such as the school board through informal gatherings designed to build personal relationships and cooperation. Secondly, having previously negotiated a long-term contract to ensure future funding of Falling Springs, I plan to work with the Woodford County Parks Department to develop land adjacent to our county park to provide more recreational activities for our community. Lastly, providing leadership and experience on the Fiscal Court next year will be important with a court made up of three to five new magistrates and a new County-Judge Executive.

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