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Henderson Candidates’ Forum Draws a Crowd

candidates forumHENDERSON, Ky. (5/7/14) — Seventeen candidates in various local city, county and state races took the opportunity to address a crowd of supporters, interested citizens and other attendees at a forum held in Henderson Tuesday evening.

Each speaker was allotted about two minutes to introduce themselves. Most talked about their reasons for seeking election (or re-election), while others, particularly challengers in various races, used the time as an introduction of themselves and their work ethic.

First to speak were the candidates for city commissioner, including Robby Mills, Jesse Johnston, Robert Pruitt, Curt Hamilton, Tom Davis and Jan Hite.

Mills, who spoke first, said city government has been his passion over the 14 years he has served in office. He pointed to the city commission’s accomplishments in sidewalk and park redevelopment work, the Riverwalk, and other public projects as some of the achievements he has had a hand in designing.

Johnston, who is seeking election to the city commission for the first time, told the audience his goal is to “represent you and represent your voice.” He talked about his background and how he believes it will help him as a commissioner.

Three-term commissioner Robert Pruitt said he is proud of the work accomplished at Canoe Creek. In asking for voters to send him back to office for a fourth term, he said his philosophy is to “represent the people.”

Davis, a former mayor of Henderson and current commissioner, asked for voters to re-elect him to the city commission. He said a felony indictment issued against him earlier this year had been lifted as of yesterday afternoon. (Note: The Gleaner reported yesterday that Davis entered an Alford plea to “amended” misdemeanor charges. An Alford plea isn’t an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement that enough evidence exists to convict.)

“I’ve never lowered my head because I have nothing to be embarrassed of,” Davis said.

Hamilton, another challenger for a seat on the commission, said he decided to run for office because he believes people deserve more from their council.

“I’m running for office because I can do better,” Hamilton said. “The tone and impression has been, simply put, not good.”

He accused the commission of having an attitude of “public sniping and discord,” and of “failing to invest in development.” He said the city was once the richest in the nation per capita, and wants to move the city back toward that level.

Hite, who’s finishing her first term on the city commission, expressed regret about the situation with a bad land deal the city made before she was elected in which she said the city lost approximately $300,000. She said she is working to help rectify that issue as best she can, and asked voters to give her a second term to continue that work. She said she is hopeful the city will recoup the lost money over time through property taxes collected after the land is sold and through other tax sources.

Candidates for mayor also addressed the crowd Tuesday night. Mayor Steve Austin said “city government is not an easy task” but added that the community is “blessed with a majority of commissioners that… pay attention to their business” of overseeing the city.

He said the decision to triple spending on infrastructure has paved the way to a number of new projects, such as the city sidewalk initiative and discussions of what to do about the city’s public service building. He said the existing facility is outdated and in need of replacement.

Patti Bugg, who is running to replace Austin as mayor, said her decision to run was divine inspiration.

“God wants me to run for mayor,” Bugg said.

Bugg, a real estate broker for almost 30 years, said she has helped more than 500 families through her career, and pointed to her involvement with the church as an indicator of her commitment to public service. She said her three focuses as mayor are on creating more activities for youth in the community, opportunities for young adults so they will stay in the area, and addressing budget concerns.

At the county level, candidates contending for magistrate seats and the Judge/Executive position in Henderson County where invited to speak as well. Magisterial candidates included Bryce Hazelwood, George Warren, and J.R. Stanley.

Hazelwood, owner of a property management service, said if elected he will begin holding monthly “town hall forums” throughout the county where people can express their concerns about county issues.

Warren, a current magistrate, pointed to accomplishments the county has made while he has been in office.

Stanley said his goal, if elected, is to continue his work in public service.

Candidates for Judge/Executive, starting with challenger Tony Spainhoward, each outlined specific goals for leading Henderson County.

Spainhoward said he is “eager to help the job situation in Henderson County,” and that his work experience has prepared him for ways to “keep morale up” and “bring us together as a team.”

“Teamwork will get more done for less,” Spainhoward said.

Bill Rhodes said his work as a public servant with the fire department prepared him for serving the county as Judge/Executive, and that he will work to “improve customer service” and “customer interactions.”

Judge/Executive Hugh McCormick asked voters to re-elect him based on accomplishments made under his leadership.

“We continue to get things done and haven’t had a tax increase in eight years,” he said, noting that he doubted there are any other communities in Kentucky that can make that claim.

He said the county’s priority is Kyndle, the recently created organization following a merger of the Henderson Chamber and the multi-county economic development agency Northwest Kentucky Forward.

McCormick said getting the county’s ISO insurance rating lowered, a rating that determines insurance rates on all property within the county, is a priority for him.

“We’ve been meeting for two years on how we’re going to get this down,” he said.

McCormick said he is most proud of the recycling center.

“Everyone has bought into this or it wouldn’t have worked,” he said.

Candidates running for state office were allotted time to speak as well, including Suzanne Miles, John Warren, James Buckmaster, and David Walkens.

Election Day is Tuesday, May 20.

Dennis Beard
SurfKY News

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