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GENERAL ELECTION 2018

This is the final question and answer sessions with candidates for local office. This week, candidates for Versailles and Midway mayoral races 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.

Versailles Mayoral candidates

Lisa Johnson

Brief Bio:

I am an experienced, collaborative leader with a vision. That vision is to help Versailles be an even better place to work, live, stay and play. I hold an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Human Resources from Miami University, Ohio and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration. As a non-profit director, I also have experience working with grants, budgets, and managing a large volunteer base (970 volunteers who have contributed over 34,000 hours of service toward mentoring or meal preparation to 500+ youth in our community). I will bring energetic leadership with good governance and transparency. I promise to be an ambassador for Versailles and serve, with integrity, for the next four years.

What are two or three challenges Versailles faces, and what will you do about them?

What I hear most from voters is: “We want Versailles to grow but keep its small-town charm,” “more shopping options,” and “we need more things for our young people to do.” As mayor, I would: 1) Re-energize downtown by helping overcome obstacles so under-utilized spaces could be turned into loft apartments or small businesses. 2) Re-purpose old shopping centers before building new. 3) Supplement manufacturing jobs by working to attract professional and high-tech jobs with smaller environmental footprint and higher wages. This will support a strong economy, a diverse workforce and our small-town charm. 4) For our young people, incorporate Big Spring Park into our downtown, encourage weekly “Thursday Night Live” with Battle of the Bands, Open Mike Nights or “Versailles Got Talent”-type activities.

Versailles, like many communities across America, has an opioid problem. What will you do about it?

Combatting opioid addiction involves education, prevention, treatment, and recovery. There are currently no treatment options in Versailles and there are very few, structured opioid-specific recovery programs. As a member of the Agency for Substance Abuse Policy board, I collaborated with the Life Adventure Center, Blue Grass Community Hospital, Health Department, Law Enforcement, and medical professionals to create a pilot program called “OP OUT- Opportunity to Stay Off Opioids.” This program will provide 15 Woodford Countians a 12-month, structured, dignified program focused on opioid recovery with the goal to keep participants from relapsing. But this is only a starting point. I will … do even more to help those struggling with addiction. Helping those in need will make Versailles a stronger, safer community.

What’s your position on the Edgewood lawsuit, which will receive a hearing just eight days after the election?

There was a lack of transparency in the annexation and zoning process for Edgewood that caused the city to become embroiled in an expensive lawsuit. I will work to make development in Versailles transparent and community based. I would like to see the city utilize land inside the original Urban Services Boundary (USB) first. There are 70 acres of land in the Edgewood property that is already inside the original USB and I would be in favor of re-zoning that portion for a new hospital (if a hospital finds it economically feasible to build here). If the court finds in favor of Edgewood, then appropriate actions need to be taken by the city to ensure appropriate setbacks, viewshed and buffer zones are in place.

How will you work with the city council – and the judge-executive and mayor of Midway – to get things done?

To work most effectively with the Judge Exec and Mayor of Midway, I would suggest we establish a standing meeting the first Tuesday or Wednesday of every month to share our individual and collective goals and objectives with each other. It is also critical for the Mayor and the newly elected City Council members to know and respect each other. A wise person once told me, “behind every business transaction is a human being.” We need to be open-minded and have professional respect for one another, even if there are times we respectfully “agree to disagree.” Overall, my goal as mayor would be to have a cooperative relationship where we celebrate with and encourage each other to do our best work for the citizens.

Brian Traugott

Brief Bio:

I was born at Woodford Memorial Hospital, educated in Woodford County Public Schools and have spent my career serving the public. My family has deep roots in this community, which has given me the historical context in which to lead us into the future. My wife of 14 years, Laini, and I recently became parents for the first time. We look forward to raising Liam in this community. After a short time on the Versailles City Council, I was selected to serve as Mayor in July 2013 and was successfully reelected in 2014. Since that time, we have had great accomplishments in economic development, downtown revitalization, ethics reform, the reduction of motor vehicle taxes, electric and gas franchise fees and garbage collection fees.

What are two or three challenges Versailles faces, and what will you do about them?

All communities in Kentucky are dealing with a drug problem, and Versailles is not immune to this. The unfortunate closing of Kmart created a large gap in our retail offerings. We have the vacant space in that same shopping center, and we will continue to work diligently to fill that space with a retailer that will serve the needs of our community. We don’t need to act in desperation but approach this opportunity with a thoughtfulness that will benefit residents of all ages. Another shortcoming is the quality and pricing of our internet and cable providers. The City has been working diligently to entice Metronet to extend their services from Lexington into our area. This increased competition would benefit all consumers.

Versailles, like many communities across America, has an opioid problem. What will you do about it?

We have made great progress on this issue. Our enforcement efforts have been ramped up and we have kept mid and high-level dealers out of our community. We have also worked with RAW and others to not only increase awareness of the issue but to implement policies that make it easier for those willing to seek treatment. The recently enacted Angel Program allows addicts to come to the police station without fear of arrest and be transported to a treatment facility in Kentucky. We will continue working with stakeholders in pursuit of that elusive “silver bullet” that will allow us to eradicate this problem. Not only does it impact those suffering from addiction and their families, it also increases thefts and other crimes.

What’s your position on the Edgewood lawsuit, which will receive a hearing just eight days after the election?

Edgewood is not a perfect proposal, but it is better than some others we have seen. The two aspects of it that make it difficult to oppose is the industrial land that could be used to create an agricultural facility to serve our local farmers and potentially supply our local manufacturers and the likely potential of a new hospital on the site. Those are potential game-changers for our local economy and would likely meet our needs for decades. I am hopeful that some sort of compromise can be reached between the property owners and those who have filed the lawsuit that will serve the future needs of the City of Versailles while removing any negative impact from neighboring property owners.

How will you work with the city council – and the judge-executive and mayor of Midway – to get things done?

I have a proven record of building intergovernmental relationships and working successfully with the City Council to deliver results. I have personal relationships with not only our incoming Judge-Executive, but all candidates for Versailles City Council and Midway Mayor, as well as many on the Fiscal Court and Midway City Council. While I will never sacrifice the best interests of the citizens of Versailles, I am always searching for ways to improve services in the entire county and will never dismiss an idea before giving it due consideration. The best approach to working together is to accept that we will not always agree and in those instances where we don’t, treat each other with respect and not attempt to demonize those we disagree with.

Midway Mayoral candidates

Grayson Vandegrift

Brief Bio:

I grew up three miles from Midway, just across the Woodford/Scott border, and have lived in this area most of my life. I attended Wittenberg University in Ohio and University of Kentucky, and from 2007 to 2015 I was the general manager of my family’s restaurant on Main Street. I was elected to the Midway City Council in 2012 and was elected mayor in 2014. My wife, Katie, and I welcomed our wonderful son, Jackson, into the world on Aug. 18, 2016, and it’s a privilege to raise him in Midway. Serving as your mayor is the honor of a lifetime, and I hope to have the privilege to serve you again and continue the progress we’ve started.

Please identify two or three challenges facing Midway, and what you plan to do about them?

Without a doubt it’s our aging water and sewer lines, our roads, our sidewalks and our storm sewers. I plan on continuing what we’ve started – it was clear to me from day one that we couldn’t do anything until we created new revenue, and four years later we’ve doubled our occupational tax revenue. With this, we’ve begun paving our worst roads first, with more scheduled this spring. We’ve also initiated a sidewalk repair cost sharing program with property owners to help bring sidewalks up to date, and we’ll be calling for sign-ups this fall. We’ve put money into our water and sewer systems and paid off all sewer debt in August of this year, which is why we’re already planning larger projects.

People often complain about downtown businesses keeping irregular hours. Do you believe a mayor has a role in the matter? If so, what will you do about it?

As mayor, I’ve never presumed to tell a business owner how to run their business, especially since I’ve done it myself and understand that small business owners are unique, with different niches, needs, and clientele. I have always worked hard to help create the environment for our businesses to thrive, but I don’t believe government should try to regulate hours. Market forces and individual business needs generally dictate such decisions. As much as I’d love to see shops open more at night, I respect our business owners very much and believe that each one knows what’s best for themselves and their businesses. I encourage those that do stay open later to share their experience with their fellow merchants – many already do.

Which political leaders, past or present, do you admire, and why?

There are many, but the political figure I most admire is Abraham Lincoln. While he was far from perfect, he managed a nearly impossible situation with wisdom, grace, and forgiveness, often bringing his political enemies into his fold for the sake of the nation. He understood that every change and every bit of progress requires a process, and a lot of listening and thinking. Too many politicians now want to promise the moon for expediency or say whatever they think is necessary to improve their position, but Lincoln did the right thing when it was most needed, despite any questions of political expediency. To me, that’s the definition of integrity in politics.

What’s your position on the Weisenberger Mill Bridge, and what will you do to reopen it as quickly as possible?

The bridge needs to open as soon as possible, and the current plan the state has for the similar style that already exists is acceptable. Even though it’s not in our district, it affects Midway’s traffic and roads, and for that reason we passed a joint resolution with Scott County Fiscal Court to send to the governor’s office to urge them to take quicker action. It’s now in the planning phase, going through federal regulations, and construction is scheduled to begin in 2019. While the timeline so far has been disappointing, it appears that state officials have gotten the message and are now moving with a greater sense of urgency.

Ambrose Wilson

Brief Bio:

I have 30 years of employment experience in conflict resolution, employee relations and management consultation. I retired from Kentucky state government where I served as Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet. I managed a staff of over 700 employees and a budget of $98 million. I was responsible for 13 departments and agencies that provided public safety, consumer protection and financial integrity through enforcement and administration of laws and regulations. I have represented Midway as a member of the Woodford County Board of Education for 26 years, serving as Chair of the Board for 12. During my terms, we replaced our aging elementary school and led the effort to maintain its presence here rather than relocating our school to Versailles.

Please identify two or three challenges facing Midway, and what you plan to do about them.

The most pressing challenge that faces us continues to be the problems brought on by our aging infrastructure. This effects our citizens daily and can no longer be addressed in a piecemeal manner. I will partner with our city council to develop a strategic plan to address our sewer and water line rehabilitation and replacement needs. We must also develop a plan to allocate our new occupational tax revenues to immediately address our sidewalk and street maintenance needs. Citizens are tired of waiting for next year to see the promised improvements in their neighborhoods. We also cannot wait any longer to address the public’s desire for a one-call communication system. We must also ensure adherence to posted speed limits on our city streets.

People often complain about downtown businesses keeping irregular hours. Do you believe a mayor has a role in the matter? If so, what will you do about it?

The position of Mayor has a limited role in addressing the hours of operation for our downtown businesses. There are contributing reasons why some business owners choose to have irregular hours of operation but is ultimately their decision based on their needs and plans of operation. I will work with all businesses to ensure Midway continues to be a destination city and to foster a climate where the downtown area continues to be a one-of-a kind place to visit and spend time. Increased visitors may lead to more regular hours of operation, but it is the decision of owners.

Which political leaders, past or present, do you admire, and why?

The elected leader I admire is my father, Ambrose Wilson III. He served on the Midway City Council and was our Mayor from 1993 to 1996. He applied his experiences and profound love of Midway to best meet the needs of our citizens. Once elected, he did not delay addressing the cities’ problems and did so without calculating how his actions would affect his next election. He believed in public service and not self-service. Although his time in office was short, his accomplishments were many. He never forgot those who had the most need and least influence. I have always attempted to follow the many admirable examples of true public service he demonstrated and will continue to do so should I become Mayor of Midway.

What’s your position on the Wiesenberger Mill Bridge, and what will you do to reopen it as quickly as possible?

Although the Wiesenberger Mill Bridge is outside the Midway city limits, it has been closed too long and has inconvenienced many Midway residents. However, it seems the State Transportation officials have a final action plan to replace the structure with a single lane bridge next year. We could have partnered with the Scott County and Woodford County representatives, state legislators and state transportation officials to ensure this project moved ahead with appropriate urgency. If elected, I will immediately meet with all pertinent parties to ensure this project continues to move forward until it is completed.

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