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Lesson In Leadership: Vice Mayor Linda Gorton Reflects Time in Office

gorton 300LEXINGTON, Ky. (11/20/13) – She's a jack of all trades.

An elected official, registered nurse, writer, wife, mother, and grandmother, there isn't much Lexington Vice Mayor Linda Gorton cannot do. Yet, she has decided to begin devoting her attention to something that does not require paperwork, studying and campaigning. She is ready to spend her time with family.

Gorton announced last week she is stepping down from the council in 2014, a decision she did not take lightly. When Gorton ends her current term, she will have been on the council for 16 years, the longest of any council member since Lexington developed its merged county and city government.

But, with one grandchild and twin grandchildren on the way, she said it was the perfect time to retire.

“Lately, I had been thinking that I've put a lot of things on hold for 16 years. So it might be about time for me to step down,” said Gorton. “I do love it. In a way, it's bittersweet because I love working the legislative issues and lobbying my colleagues and working on good issues and getting votes for them.”

Gorton added her son and son-in-law are also both in the military and will be moving all over the world for the next eight to 10 years.

“Family is really important to me,” said Gorton. “All of that really combined for me to say 'I think I'm ready to move on.'”

Gorton's daughter and family currently live in Alaska, so she plans to do a great deal of traveling, along her husband of 42 years, who retired four years ago.

“You know, I'm kind of ready to give up the alarm clock,” Gorton said laughing.

Besides traveling, Gorton is also looking to try her hand at writing. She said she has had a strong passion for writing poetry since her high school days, and wants to focus on learning the techniques of fiction writing.

“Who in their right mind would give up a job they love? People have been asking me that,” said Gorton. “There are lots of other things out there that interest me.”

With a new chapter in her life on the horizon, Gorton reflects on her origins in the workforce. A native of Circleville, Ohio, she began working at a very young age. Around her fourth-grade year, Gorton and her siblings each had newspaper routes. From then on, she worked babysitting jobs and in a dental office until college.

“I've basically worked at something for pay since I was in the fourth grade,” said Gorton. “It's a long time. It wasn't like I was working full-time or anything as a younger person. But, my parents raised us to contribute and always help and be working. It's pretty much stuck with me. It's hard, when you have that in your background, to give up work.”

When it was time to decide on the college she would attend, Gorton said she decided to break the mold of typical college students from Circleville.

“In Circleville, many people go to Ohio State. I knew I wanted to go to nursing school. But my one little tiny rebellion was I was not going to Ohio State,” Gorton joked. “So, I started researching colleges of nursing and UK had a good one.”

Gorton met her husband at the University of Kentucky and the rest is history. She added that her experience as a registered nurse was great preparation for her future career on city council.

“Most nurses like working with people. They like solving problems and trying to help with challenges in their patients,” said Gorton. “So, it translated perfectly into being an elected official because we work with people in neighborhoods and businesses and with challenges and with problems. It's been a great fit.”

City council was most definitely a great fit for Gorton. She decided to run for the council after reading in the newspaper that the fourth district representative was stepping down. After talking it over with her husband and mustering up the courage, she ran for the position and soon had a seat as the new fourth district representative. In 2010, she received more votes than any other council member, which automatically made her the vice mayor.

During her time on the council, she's been part of some groundbreaking city legislation that has helped shape Lexington today. Some of that legislation includes putting in place the rural land management plan and the city's fairness ordinance, and establishing the first smoking ordinance in Kentucky. She added one of her favorite parts of public service is leading the city's legislative body.

“My leadership style is not in your face. It's not bully. It's not ramming things through,” said Gorton. “It's more of a collaborative style because I think teamwork helps us get farther than some other styles that I could have.”

Being such an effective leader, would she ever consider taking over the top spot and becoming Lexington's mayor?

“Lots and lots of people have asked me to do that, but I don't desire that. I've worked with four mayors. Most of them really wanted to be mayor,” said Gorton. “I just never had that burning desire to be the mayor. It's non-legislative. It's administrative and executive. It really suits some people perfectly. I think I could do the job. I have the confidence that I could do it. I just don't know that I would enjoy it as much as the legislative work I've been doing.”

Yet, Gorton added she really never expected herself to be a member of the city council in the first place, so anything can happen.

“I learned quite awhile ago not to ever say, 'Never' to anything,” she said. “But right now, it's not a desire of mine.”

For now, Gorton is ready to take a step back, relax and welcome the next phase of her life, something she has been waiting on for a long time.

“I think we all have times when we make a decision to start a new chapter in our lives,” she said. “We don't always know way ahead of time we're going to do that. Some of it is just a natural progression.”

She said the opportunity for her to serve has been wonderful and goes back to thank the people who trusted her and put her where she is today. However, she's not leaving office without giving some advice to the next vice mayor, who will follow in her footsteps.

“When you become vice mayor, you're in a position of power. I would say use your power for the good. Remember that the council needs to work as a team and collaboration always gets us further than other styles of leadership,” said Gorton. “I think if the new person will realize those things, it will take them very far, and not to ever forget that the people are your bosses. You're not in a seat, where you're the boss. The people are still your bosses even when you're the vice mayor. Follow the processes in place.”

Gorton will be available to give advice to council members and the new vice mayor. But, they better check the clock before they call her up.

“I might just stay in my jammies until noon,” said Gorton, full of laughter and smiles.

David Gillum
SurfKY News

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