Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wilson, 1 of 10 applicants, gets council seat on 3-1 vote; mayor says lot platted for Midway hotel is overpriced

Johnny Wilson took the oath as a council member.
The Midway City Council voted 3-1 Monday night to appoint Johnny Wilson to fill the unexpired term of Council Member Libby Warfield, who died Feb 24. The council chose from 10 people who applied and indicated they would not run in the fall election.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift praised the quality of the applicants and told the council, "You all have a remarkably difficult decision to make."

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher moved to appoint Wilson, noting that he has been a regular attendee at council meetings for at least six months. Council Member Bruce Southworth seconded the motion. After some silence, Gallagher indicated that the members had apparently discussed the matter among themselves before the meeting. "I kind of know where everybody else is," she said.

When Vandegrift called for the yeas and nays, only Gallagher and Southworth voted yes. Council Member Sarah Hicks voted no, and Council Member John McDaniel, who is running for magistrate in the May primary, did not vote. After looking over the letters and saying "There are some good applicants here," Council Member Steve Simoff voted yes, making the final tally 3-1.

Vandegrift swore in Wilson, who took Warfield's old seat at the council table. "Thank you for your confidence," Wilson told his new colleagues as the meeting ended. "I'll do my best."

Wilson, 69, said in his application letter that he has lived in Midway most of his life. After four years in the Air Force, he worked in factories and horse farms, and retired from Kroger in 2011. He and his wife Beverley have been married almost 50 years and have four children and seven grandchildren.

"I'm a clean slate and haven't had any business dealings with anybody in Midway," Wilson wrote. "I love Midway and I know I'll never take Libby's place but to do a fairly good job for the citizens of Midway in the short term."

Vandegrift said in opening the discussion that he was "blown away" that there were "ten good applicants," and "I am determined to include all nine who don't get chosen into other ways of helping our city out," such as appointments to boards.

Other applicants: Hicks said after the meeting that she was for Stacy Thurman, manager of the Midway branch library, because she was "the most involved civically" among the applicants and "I wanted to bring in young people." Thurman said in an interview she will turn 40 on April 21. She said she is considering running for council, but wouldn't say if that is more likely than not.

Thurman said in her application that she moved to Midway in 2009 and "I am a representative of the many young families that are raising their families in Midway." She cited her membership in the Leadership Woodford County class of 2018 and said "I am a community-minded person, something I believe was instilled in me during my undergraduate time at Berea College."

Cynthia Sharon Karrick, a sister of Warfield, was also an applicant. "She asked that I try to complete the remainder of her term," Karrick wrote in her application. Karrick said she works for the state Revenue Department and is a retired teacher who coordinated the county schools' program for gifted and talented middle-school students, where "I gained useful experience in diplomacy, tact, problem solving, de-escalating, being authoritative and motivating others."

Here are the other applicants, in alphabetical order, with information from their applications:

Miller Benson, 29, of the 200 block of West Higgins Street. He said he is the son of a former councilman and has seen "the impact of civil servants on their communities" and, as an employee of a family-owned restaurant in Midway and later in Versailles), "am keenly sympathetic to the residential and commercial interests of this town" but wants to "keep Midway . . . well, Midway" as it grows.

Freeland Davis of the 400 block of Mill Road, who moved to Midway in 2014 and is property-administration director for Alliance Coal. He also cited his experience managing loans for a housing-development firm; his work as vice president for housing development at Community Ventures Corp., a national nonprofit serving low-income communities; and volunteer work with the homeless.

Joe Fisher, owner of Fisher Antiques on Main Street for the last four years. He cited his master of business administration degree from the University of Kentucky, his work with water and wastewater systems, his family's five generations in Midway and his age, 30, noting that "the council has indicated a desire to make positions attractive to 'younger' persons."

Michael S. Michalisin, owner of Timberfence Capital Partners, a horse-focused investment firm based the old city hall building, and CEO of Bob Mickler's, a horse-goods store in Lexington. He also cited his MBA from the University of Maryland, his support of Midway University and his work for Wall Street investment firms. He moved to Midway four years ago.

Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Midway Museum Store and treasurer of the Midway Business Association. She also cited her leadership roles in Midway Renaissance and Midway Presbyterian Church. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, with a major in teaching and a minor in music, and an accounting graduate of the University of Illinois.

Mark Pitzer, a building inspector in Scott County. He cited his experience in the construction industry, particularly with steeple projects in large manufacturing facilities; his applied science degree in architecture; and his work as a farm manager and farrier. He said he attended elementary school in Midway and is "owner of a Lehman home on the National Historic Register."

Curt Savage, of the 100 block of Highland Drive, cited his work as a manager and president of tire companies. He was the Republican candidate for magistrate in 2010, losing 642-405. He applied for the council seat in 2012 and said appointing a candidate would be unfair. Vandergrift said likewise, but filed and then applied. He was not appointed, but he was elected, and was elected mayor in 2014.

In seeking applications this time, Vandegrift and the council said preference would be given to applicants who pledged not to run in the fall council election. The filing deadline is Aug. 14.

Chamber talk leads to hotel talk: The council heard a report on Woodford County Chamber of Commerce activities from Executive Director Don Vizi, who renewed the chamber's request for a $1,500 subsidy from the council, which gave the chamber $1,000 last year. He said the county is being asked for $5,000 and the City of Versailles for $5,500. His three-page letter to the council is in the council's meeting packet, available here.

Asked by McDaniel for the chamber's budget, Vizi said the mayor gets monthly financial reports. Vandegrift said, "They look better than they have in a while." Vizi said the chamber has erased the $12,000 debt it had when he started, but needs to make up loss of "partnerships" with Midway University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which is based in Versailles.

Vizi said 20 of the chamber's 242 members are businesses or individuals in Midway. He said Versailles has 170, Lexington 28 and Frankfort 14. Vandegrift noted that three members of the county tourism commission, which the chamber staffs, live in Midway. "I think you do a great job," he told Vizi. "I know you inherited a mess."

The commission is funded by lodging taxes, paid only by bed and breakfasts because the county has no motel or hotel. "We're expecting a great increase" when a Holiday Inn Express opens in Versailles this fall, Vizi said, adding that he got a call recently from a company that wants to build a lodging facility in Midway.

Vandegrift indicated he was familiar with that, but said the property in question isn't priced right. A large lot in the Green Gables development, next to the Shell convenience store, is zoned and platted for a hotel. It is owned by developer Dennis Anderson.

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