By Jill Novak
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
With the news of Mayor Tom Bozarth’s decision to not to seek a third four-year term, candidates are already lining up for a shot at the position.
City Council Members Sharon Turner and Grayson Vandegrift announced in separate interviews last week that after encouragement from family and friends, they have both decided to run for mayor next year.
“I’ve been on council since 2005 and I think it’s time to take the next step,” said Turner, 51.
After Bozarth changed his mind and decided to run for re-election in 2010, Turner said she chose not to run for mayor out of respect for him.
Having gone so far as to fill out mayoral filing papers last time and patiently waiting for a chance to run for the position, Turner said that she’s been “very diligent.”
“I attended council meetings for a year before I even joined council,” said Turner. The filing deadline is more than 11 months before the elected candidates take office.
Asked why she thinks she is right for the job, Turner said, “I think I’m a well-rounded candidate.”
Vandegrift, 31, has served on the council since 2012. He says he also thinks that he has what it takes to be the next mayor.
“The amount of support I’ve gotten from my fiancé as well as from family and residents, has been inspiring,” said Vandegrift.
As the general manager of 815 Restaurant and Tavern, Vandegrift thinks his business experience is another factor that makes him a qualified candidate. “Having a small business allows me to have flexibility to do the job,” he said.
Turner is also self-employed, working as the manager for the Kentucky Malt Beverage Council in Frankfort.
“Because I’m self-employed, I don’t have set hours, which allows me to have time to do the job,” said Turner.
As an active member of the community, Turner has spent her time working with students at the Northside Elementary School and has served on the Midway nursing home task force, a group of public officials and community leaders that worked to create The Homeplace at Midway, a senior living residence now being built.
Leslie Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store, said she believes Vandegrift’s business experience will come in handy as mayor.
“Grayson is open-minded and has appreciation for business and tourism,” said Penn.
Turner said she plans to work more with members of the Midway Merchants Association to have a successful downtown.
“I plan to keep Midway the small, quaint city that it is, but also vibrant,” she said.
Kenny Smith, president of the Merchants Association and owner of the Kennydid Art Gallery, said the next mayor of Midway should be someone who is willing to work with the other merchants of Midway and their ideas.
“It needs to be somebody that will help promote downtown and its merchants,” he said.
As far as her future plans for Midway go, if she is elected mayor, Turner said that she intends to continue on with the same mission as Bozarth.
“I want to follow through and continue to keep tourism and government separate,” said Turner.
In hopes of raising Midway’s tax base, Vandegrift said he would like to de-emphasize residential development at Midway Station and include more “light industries,” like distribution centers, to create more jobs, which would raise occupational tax revenues.
“We need jobs, not homes,” said Vandegrift.
While each candidate may have different ideas for the future of Midway, Turner and Vandegrift agree that Midway’s biggest concern still remains the city’s water and sewer systems.
“I plan to do more about providing better city services,” said Turner.
When asked what candidate he would support for the next mayor, Council Member Bruce Southworth responded, “I think that they would both be qualified for the job.”
Bozarth declined to comment on his speculation of who might run, but concluded, “I would not be surprised if there was not multiple candidates who may file for the office of mayor.”
Turner and Vandegrift still have yet to officially file their paperwork for the election in 2014. Candidates have until Jan. 28 to file; if more than two file for mayor, a May primary will reduce the number of general-election candidates to two.