Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Grayson Vandegrift elected mayor with 53.4 percent of the vote over fellow council member Sharon Turner

Grayson Vandegrift
By Quinn Schwartz
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Grayson Vandegrift narrowly defeated fellow city council member Sharon Turner to become the new mayor of Midway, by a vote of 374 to 325.

There was an excited buzz around the polls Tuesday evening as last-minute voters cast their ballots for who they believed would best succeed Mayor Tom Bozarth, who didn’t seek a third four-year term. 

Before the polls closed, Turner supporters felt confident that her four two-year terms on the council would put her in position to win the election, while Vandegrift voters hoped the restaurateur’s hospitable approach to his campaign would put him in position to effect change in Midway.

“He was the only one that knocked on my door, came into my house, introduced himself and told me a few of the things he would like to change,” said Midway resident Mary Raglin. “I really think he is for the people. Midway is a horse town and a lot of people do things for the rich and forget about the poor, but I really think that Vandegrift is going to be for everyone.”

Vandegrift said he believes it was this kind of campaigning that gave him the edge in such a tight race, as well as what will make him a successful mayor in the upcoming years.

“I think I ran my campaign a lot like how I want to run the administration,” said Vandegrift.  “I heard a lot of voices and had a lot of help – I went to every door myself and got a lot of input from people in the community.” 

Some of the biggest issues Vandegrift faces as mayor include improvements to water lines, sewers, sidewalks and other infrastructure and how the city plans to pay for them. Vandegrift says these improvements will be his first order of business and has a plan on how to incorporate them successfully.

“I want to put together a committee of council members and citizens with certain expertise to devise a five-, 10-, 15- or even 20-year plan on how we can start to use new revenue as well as existing revenue to improve the water and sewer system without having to raise taxes,” he said.  “The only time taxes are raised is when a city doesn’t plan ahead.”

While Vandegrift’s vision for Midway may be ambitious, not everyone, including Turner, believes his single term on the city council will provide the 32-year-old with enough experience to succeed as the mayor of Midway.

Sharon Turner
Turner, 52, wasn’t fully ready to answer the question of what she believes Vandegrift would bring to Midway as the newly elected mayor. 

“I have to say I’m worried,” said Turner.  “His inexperience really scares me.”

Turner, who has served on city council since January 2005 and as mayor pro tem since 2007, now plans to retire from politics and focus on community service, which will include the new senior living center now under construction in Midway, for which she helped lead the campaign.
Bozarth offered some advice for his successor.

“People in Midway have their own agendas,” he said.  “Always remember to keep Midway first, and try to hear what everyone has to say.”

Due to the mayor's race and the retirement of City Council Member Aaron Hamilton, the council will have three new faces. There were only six candidates for the six council seats; Bruce Southworth led the ticket with 420 votes and by tradition would become mayor pro tem. The other two incumbents, Sara Hicks and Dan Roller, each got 407 votes. Steven Craig got 385, Libby Warfield 380 and Kaye Nita Gallagher 373.

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