Friday, October 31, 2014

Race for judge-executive has a strong Midway angle

By Jackson Reams
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Tuesday, Nov. 4, will be the day that the polls will be open and citizens around Woodford County will have the duty to elect their leaders. The race for judge-executive race features two-term incumbent Democrat John “Bear” Coyle and Republican challenger Bobby Gaffney.

Midway has found itself in the thick of the contest. Gaffney said that there has been “turmoil” between Midway and the county, and he wants to meet with the City Council to address it. “We need to work with Midway real close,” he said. “They are Woodford County people.”

Midway has had quarrels with the county government for several years. After the city won fourth-class status from the legislature, giving it alcoholic-beverage fees that had gone to the county, the fiscal court told the city in January 2011 that it would not remove the city’s snow and ice for free anymore.

“Once Midway received its fourth-class status, the county was faced with two fourth-class cities and I think both cities should be treated fairly and by the court’s vote they thought that was the right thing to do,” Coyle said in a recent interview. The citizens of Midway and Versailles pay county taxes that are used partly to assist in maintaining safe roadways for citizens, including snow removal. Midway now pays a private contractor to do it.

Gaffney said he would have handled the situation differently “If they’ve got snow on their roads, they’re Woodford County citizens and I will take the snow off the road,” he pledged.

If elected, Gaffney may find his promise hard to keep. The decision to stop snow and ice removal in Midway was voted on by the fiscal court. Outgoing Midway magistrate Larry Craig said, “In my personal opinion, that would take an act of the court.”

On issues regarding Midway, both candidates emphasized that the town is part of Woodford County and needs to be included. “I have a working relationship with those people” in Midway, Gaffney said.

Asked about the possibility of getting a hotel in Midway, Coyle said, “There is a need for a hotel in the county.” He said a hotel in the city “would be a benefit to Midway and I think, of course, it would naturally benefit the county also.”

Gaffney agreed. “Midway has some of the best tourism in our county,” he said, pointing out that the county needs to give tourists places to eat and stay in town, so that more income can be generated.

Midway is considered the most likely place for a hotel due to its location on the interstate and the development that is progressing at the interchange. A hotel would also boost the county lodging tax, which doesn’t generate much money because the county’s only lodging facilities are bed-and-breakfasts.

Both candidates have been in the county a long time. Coyle was raised in the county and raised his four sons here. He is a 1973 graduate of Woodford County High School and Transylvania University. He farmed in the Nonesuch area for 16 years and still owns a farm there. He served as a deputy sheriff and sheriff before serving as the judge-executive for the past eight years.

Gaffney raised his two sons in the county, spending the last 31 years on his farm off Big Sink Road near Versailles. He was a first lieutenant in the army as a mechanized infantry officer. He taught vocational agriculture in the county schools for 14 years and was the system’s director of transportation. He was president of the state Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, the Woodford County Teachers Association and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Alumni and Development Association.

The two men are familiar with each other because they worked together on the Fiscal Court. The last of Gaffney’s two terms as 6th District magistrate overlapped with Coyle’s first term as judge-executive. Gaffney described Coyle as his friend but said the two just “don’t see eye to eye” on everything, which is why he is running.

Gaffney says he is qualified for the position because he has run his own businesses, has fiscal-court experience and understands budgeting, an important part of the judge-executive’s duties.
“We have handled large amounts of money and we know how to budget and we can budget,” Gaffney said.

He outlines five major points on which he would like to focus if elected: economic development, agriculture, county services, tourism and education. Through close work with the local colleges, farmers and factory owners, Gaffney says he hopes to boost the economy, agriculture and education of the county.

Coyle wants everyone to remember his last two terms when going out to the polls: “Things are going well here and I’d hope that the voters throughout the county realize that.” He points to the successes he has had over the years as evidence of how well his time in office has gone.

Some of the accomplishments he listed include constructing a stand-alone coroner’s office, purchasing the 211-acre farm adjacent to the Woodford County Park for future expansion and providing a location for the Hope Ministry Food Pantry.

Gaffney stressed how much he would like the public’s feedback if he wins. “If I am elected we will have a lot of participation from the public,” he said, adding, “There is no citizens’ participation right now.”

Coyle responded that citizens have every right to come and speak at Fiscal Court meetings; they just have to follow the procedure the court uses. He said if citizens would like to speak they can call his office before the meeting and sign up to speak, or talk to their magistrate in order to voice their opinions.

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