Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doris Leigh leaving local government after 46 years

Editor's note: Monday evening's council meeting will be the last for Leigh as a member.

By T.J. Walker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Every vote counts.

But to Midway City Council Member Doris Leigh, every vote matters. That's why when she wasn't re-elected in November, she wasn't upset for long.

Leigh, a Midway resident born and raised, wants what her fellow citizens want.

"It was fine, if that's what the people wanted," Leigh said in an interview last week. "It hurt at first, and it hurt the next day, then I got over it. I had done all I could do, and if that's what they want I've done all I could." (Photo by Dick Yarmy)

At 83, Leigh has no plans to run for office again. She said the initial pain to losing the election came because she was had been told she had won, in a race where the top six vote-getters were elected.

After all the votes had been counted, Leigh was told she would be re-elected, getting two more votes than fellow incumbent Daniel Roller to get the sixth spot. But the absentee ballots were forgotten, and when those votes were counted, Leigh was ousted by only four votes.

"I was shocked," Vice Mayor and Council Member Sharon Turner said. "We had all thought she had won."

Leigh won't be in office, but she won't soon be forgotten.  She worked in the Woodford County Courthouse for 42 years as the chief deputy in the property valuation administrator's office, then retired and was elected to the council in 2008. Over the years she has made a lot of friends. She'll even help the three new members of the City Council, she said.

"I wish the three new ones well," Leigh said. "I'll help them because this is a good town to live in. They'll do well." The newcomers are Sara Hicks, Grayson Vandegrift and Bruce Southworth, who respectively placed second, third and fourth in the election, behind Turner and ahead of incumbent Aaron Hamilton.

Leigh has become an icon in Midway. She feels connected to the town and said she knows everybody. Before working at the courthouse and running for office, she worked in the Midway Post Office and as a nurse. She's given half the people in Midway their baby injections, she said.

Leigh has loved every job she's ever had, she said, and even if she's not working in the government she plans to continue helping others.

"Midway means more than anything to the world," Leigh said. "I love Midway and I've done everything I could do."

Volunteering will be the next step for Leigh. She'll spend most of her time at Woodford County High School and at the library. She wants to help any way she can.

City Clerk Phyllis Hudson is inspired by Leigh's commitment and dedication to Midway.

Hudson has been around Leigh long enough to know that she's rare, and that her commitment to her town is one of a kind.

"Doris is absolute gem," Hudson said. "You can't help but to love her. She gives 100 percent at everything she does. Doris treated this community like her family. She truly loved everybody."

Leigh is proud of having known her community. Hudson said in order to do a good job in a government position you have to know what the people want, and Leigh did.

"We need someone like Doris Leigh to be out there to understand everyone's views, so they can make informed choices," Hudson said.

Leigh doesn't look back at one specific accomplishment she and her fellow city council members made during her time in the courthouse or city government. She's more proud, she said, of all the small things she accomplished.

And in an elevator.

When they needed to steal her away for a few minutes of insight, a judge or county attorney often would take an elevator ride with Leigh. It became a valuable brainstorming space.

"Every once in a while I would get a call saying, 'Let's ride the elevator'," Leigh said. "The judge would have something he would want to get settled; the county attorney would do the same thing. We rode the elevator a lot and it was fun. The judge called me the other day saying, 'I miss those days in the elevators, and we solved a lot of problems.'"

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