Wednesday, August 15, 2018

School board chair Ambrose Wilson files to challenge Vandegrift for mayor; 8 candidates seek 6 council seats

Ambrose Wilson IV
By Sarah Ladd
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Ambrose Wilson IV, a 26-year member of the county school board and its current chair, joined the Midway mayoral race with incumbent Grayson Vandegrift on Tuesday, the filing deadline.

Meanwhile, two more City Council members filed for re-election, bringing the total of would-be holdovers to four. Four newcomers have filed, so eight candidates are running for six seats.

Wilson, 68, said in an interview that many citizens had asked him to run over the last few months and he decided his record of service for the community would be helpful in a mayoral position. “I have a deep sense of love for the city of Midway and the entire community,” he said. “I thought this would be another way to provide service to our city.”

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift speaks at his kickoff. (Photo by Sarah Ladd)
Vandegrift, who will be 36 on Sept. 24, said at his campaign kickoff on the Mezzo patio Tuesday evening that he is glad Wilson is running. “As much as it’d be great not to have an opponent, in reality, all mayoral elections should have a debate,” he said. “I’m so proud of my record. I’m really excited to get to talk about it. I’m geared up, I’m ready to go. I’m more fired up than I was in 2014.”

Wilson said he is not trying to compete with Vandegrift or his accomplishments. “We’re very blessed to have a strand of revenue from the occupational-tax increase [from increased employment]. There is a lot of opportunity in the future that we can address our aging infrastructure needs such as our water lines, sewer lines, roads, etc. One of the important aspects of being a successful mayor is to be a good listener and to collaborate and to build consensus.”

Vandegrift replied, “It’s encouraging to hear that my opponent agrees with the things we’re already doing. We replaced one of our oldest water lines in town in 2015 and have been making smaller repairs to sewer lines -- repairs that don’t require borrowing money. We need to be completely debt free before we do any major projects so that we can put up as much cash as possible to ensure we don’t have to raise rates to cover what we borrow. This is why I worked tirelessly for six months to help bring Lakeshore Learning Materials to Midway.”

He added, “By listening to my constituents over the last four years it’s become apparent that lowering water and sewer rates is a must as well, and I’m extremely excited that we’ve found a way to both lower rates and put ourselves in a position to continue fixing our water and sewer infrastructure and our roads and sidewalks.”

Wilson said his candidacy is unrelated to the June 26 referendum that defeated the extra property tax the school board proposed to rebuild Woodford County High School. “If the school tax had passed, I still would have arrived at this decision,” he said. “I think it’s the right time. Numerous people requested that I do it. There was hardly a night or day that I would walk that I wouldn’t receive encouragement from people.”

In the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear, Wilson served as deputy commissioner of financial institutions, commissioner of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, and finally as secretary of the Public Protection and Regulation Cabinet. His father was mayor in 1993-96.

Vandegrift said his record in one four-year term as mayor speaks for itself. “I just believe if you do good things and you take care of people, you listen to them, good things happen,” he said. “Things are going great now. No one can deny that.” At his campaign kickoff, he introduced his campaign slogan, referring to the town’s train history: “Full Steam Ahead.” 

Vandegrift’s nominating petition for his campaign included signatures from Liles Taylor, the Democratic nominee for Midway-district magistrate against Republican Joseph Greathouse; and local businesspeople Leslie Penn and Steve Morgan. Wilson’s included signatures from family members Charlie Wilson, Terri Wilson, Anito Wilson, Patricia Wilson and Shirley Wilson.

Council race: The candidates are political newcomers are Danielle Doth, John Holloway, Logan Nance and Stacey Thurman and current members Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sara Hicks, John McDaniel and Bruce Southworth.

Doth is a fitness trainer and yoga instructor. Nance works at Scholastic in the Lexington area, where he said he enjoys working to promote literacy. Thurman is manager of the Midway Branch of the Woodford County Public Library. Holloway, a theatre professor at the University of Kentucky, is the unpaid manager of Walter Bradley Park.

Vandegrift signed the nominating petitions for Thurman, Nance and Hicks, but said his signature was not necessarily an endorsement. “I haven’t supported anybody,” he said. “Anybody that would have come to me running for council, I would have signed their forms. Those are the only three that came to me, so I signed them. If any of the eight people would have come to me, I would have signed. I support people running for office. I think it’s important.”

Thurman’s petition also included signatures from Carl and Brenda Rollins. Nance’s had signatures from Liles Taylor, and businessman Doug McDaniel. Holloway’s included a signature from local civic leader Helen Rentch.

Gallagher and Southworth filed Tuesday afternoon, less than two hours before the 4 p.m. deadline. Gallagher declined to comment, but Southworth said his late filing did not indicate reluctance. “I was gonna run, but this is the last time I’m running,” he said. “I believe in term limits.”

Another two-year term would be Southworth’s fourth. He said he wants to see a few things through. “I’d like to get through Dennis Anderson’s option with the industrial park and I’m sure we’ll have a wastewater plant review coming up. I’d like to get through those, but then I think eight years is enough. Let somebody else step up.”

Hicks and McDaniel filed earlier. Hicks, who attended Vandegrift's kickoff, said of her chances, “I think to be confident would be arrogant, but I’ll work for it.”

Steve Simoff announced last week that he wouldn’t seek re-election, and Johnny Wilson, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Libby Warfield, indicated when he applied for the seat that he wouldn’t run.

The new council members and mayor will get a lot more pay than the city currently pays. In September 2017 the council raised the mayor’s pay for the next term from $100 to $1,400 per month and raised council members’ pay from $50 to $200 per month. The council said the increases were long overdue because the pay hadn’t been raised in 30 years.

Besides the races for council, mayor and magistrate, the Nov. 6 ballot will also have races for state representative and U.S. representative.

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