Hear from the candidates: city commission

Published 3:06 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

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Kenny Book

1. I have 26 years of experience as a City Commissioner. I retired from doing taxes & bookkeeping in 2016 after 38 years. Owner of Book’s Bookkeeping & Tax Service, Inc. I have an Associate Degree in Higher Accounting & Business Administration.

2. I have 26 years of experience as a City Commissioner, having worked on 26 years of budgets. I have served on several boards & committees. I go out and look at the problems and complaints and notify the right departments to get the problems solved. I go out and check on the street lights at night, and if there are any out, I notify KU because the taxpayers are paying the bills even if they are out. When I see a pothole, I notify Public Works to get them fixed. When I see a dead animal on the street, I notify Public Works, so they can pick them up because their acid causes potholes.

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3. The drainage issues all over town need to be fixed. Need to continue to put money in the budget every year as we have done in the past to fix them all over town, not just one end of town. Need to put all city streets on a rotating basis of 10 years. I know one street that has not been paved since 1968. Need to put rumble strips down on the worse streets that have speeders. We need to honor the veterans with a veterans memorial downtown on the land that the city owns where the Sphar Building once stood at the corner of North Main Street and Depot Street where everybody can see it, as well as the history of the Sphar Building and the history of the building that was on North Main Street that was in the movie “The Flim-Flam Man” in 1967. More affordable housing in town and more retail stores and major restaurants and grocery stores on the north and east end. We need to look at cutting down all dead trees and limbs before they fall on somebody’s car or house, and then Public Works has to get up in the middle of the night or on weekends to clear it out of the way which costs the taxpayers more money in overtime. We need to be proactive on this. We need to continue to look at getting better-paying jobs in Winchester. We have the infrastructure to handle the big factories and also more housing. We have two new sewer treatment plants and a new water treatment plant that can handle growth.

4. I would push to get some grants from different sources to get some of the projects done and put more money in the budget to fix the drainage issues so what we have seen last October would not happen again. I would continue to push for the building of the Seventh Street project to get the heavy truck traffic off Seventh Street and Magnolia Streets. I know that a lot of people are saying why to build the Seventh Street project when Gate Precast is out of business. The design was to combine one street to take care of both problems. Push more builders to build more affordable houses on the North End. Work with others to get more national retail stores and restaurants on the North and East end.

Shannon Cox

1. I have been on the commission since 1998. I retired from GRCHS in 2016 after 32+ years.  I serve on the board of Habitat for Humanity, Brooks Place, Central KY FCA and the Parks Board. I’m also chair of the Salvation Army and founded the Winchester Work Group, which does home repairs for local residents.

2. I am the best candidate because I have the knowledge, experience, and still maintain the passion for the job.  The city budget requires a great deal of work. I do not have to learn the job, I know it. I have an attention to detail and am not afraid to ask the tough questions. Every day, I strive to make Winchester the best it can be. I also love Winchester. I am a proud resident of Winchester and brag about our community continually. I also have the vision to ensure that our town is a better place next year, for the next generation and the generation after that.

3. We have many pressing issues. Economic development is a priority. Fostering not only industry but aiding local people who want to open a small business.  Public safety, having fully staffed Fire/EMS and police departments and making sure they have the equipment and training to do their jobs.

4. We need to continually chase the businesses that we can bring to Winchester. We have to continue to make our community more attractive to people and have the infrastructure that make development here possible. We also need to provide the amenities that make Winchester a destination. As for public safety, we need to actively recruit and provide training to first responders. We need to look at GRC and BCTC as a place for future applicants. I have even suggested pursuing those who have retired from other agencies. I also know we have issues with infrastructure and broadband, drugs, & housing.

John Flynn

1. I work at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown where I have been employed for over 26 years. My current position is Team Leader of HRD 3Pillar Promotional Group in the Power Train Department. I have been a GRC assistant football coach for 6 years.

2. I am a dedicated ,hard working individual that doesn’t accept it cant be done or we can’t do that as an answer when working on an issue. The management tools and skills I use and teach daily at Toyota will drastically improve the functioning of the City Commission through leadership, problem solving, budget management, and respect for all. I understand what companies and businesses are looking for in a community and know all too well the difficulties with manpower issues we currently face. I love Winchester and the people in it and I will always treat everyone with respect and kindness.   

3. Lack of growth in Winchester is one of the biggest issues. We have had zero to negative growth in Winchester over the past 10 years. We need to be investing in our community to make Winchester a place people people want to relocate their business, company, or family to.

4. I will work to eliminate the red tape and reduce fees for start up companies. We have to be more inviting if we want businesses to move to Winchester. We run more people off than we get due to the hassle over getting permits and high start up utility fees. That has to change.

Robin Kunkel

1. I grew up in Campbell County. After earning my Theater Degree from Transylvania University in 2012, I lived in Lexington until moving to Winchester in 2018. I’m a community organizer for racial and environmental justice and prisoners’ rights, as well as an artist and stagehand.

2. I’m a great candidate for this position because I have a proven record of working with young people to make a difference in my community, whether that be campaigning the Lexington Mayor to remove confederate statues from downtown, directing a week long youth camp, or managing a teen-written and produced performance. I believe no one should make decisions about us without us. My background in relationship building across differences and years of practice in conflict resolution will contribute to a city that can look at problems head on and work through them with compassion.

3. The cost of living is too high. It’s not a problem only in Winchester but the damage can be mitigated to some degree at the local level.

4. I would develop a renter’s bill of rights with tenants as well as push for adoption of a fairness ordinance to give LGBTQ folks legal protection in the face of housing and job discrimination. I would also consider hiring a consultant with experience in “peoples’ city budgets” to help us rethink our process, get more citizen input, and determine our spending priorities based on shared values. Another thing I’d like to work on is finding ways to support local businesses in succeeding while paying employees a living wage.

Kitty W. Strode

1. I grew up in Lexington, graduated from Henry Clay, and attended the University of Kentucky. I worked on the Lexington Tobacco Market, Stein Mart, Churchill Downs, and Keeneland! I retired from all but Keeneland and have been a commissioner since 2011. I moved to Winchester in 1975, became involved in this community with the Pioneer Festival & Chamber, then other volunteer opportunities like Bluegrass Heritage Museum & Downtown Beautification. Serving on the Public Works Committee has been such a learning process about all aspects of our community from streets, lighting, water, and new projects.

2. My experience in leadership as well as my passion and love for Winchester make me a perfect candidate for this position. I’m involved in all aspects of our community Main Street, Chamber of Commerce, festivals, Rock the Block, Preservation and Tourism. We are moving forward to fix infrastructure problems, fix sidewalks, restore and adopt property such as Lincoln Street. We have just given our police a raise so we can attract more qualified officers. First responders are crucial for our wellbeing and quality of life. We have invested heavily in upgrading our parks this past year and will use ARPA funds to fix storm water issues. Always a work in progress, I want to support whatever makes Winchester the best it can be!

3. In my opinion, we have three issues that need our attention: the drug problem, affordable housing, and stormwater. We are looking to fix the other side of Lincoln Street, take down dilapidated properties, and create a stormwater assessment so we can be productive to these issues. Our drug problem is tough. I’d like for us to offer a medical detox in Clark County; there is not one near us. Have the city & county work together to establish a plan for drug rehabilitation and education. Communication is key. We also need to have activities for the youth in the form of a skating rink & bowling alley. We have wonderful sports programs for them, but no indoor facility.

4. Winchester is a wonderful place to live filled with the most caring people who give so much back in many ways. We need to promote ourselves more by working with tourism to get the word out. Our downtown is such a jewel. We are alive & well with new owners coming in the past year. So proud to be here, let’s all support what we have in this special community. On Nov. 8th, I’d appreciate your vote to continue the momentum we have going for us.

Paula Branham Thomas

1. My name is Paula Branham Thomas and I have been married to Ricky Thomas for 42 years. I have lived here most of my life. I have worked at Shearer School for 29 years. I am running for City Commissioner to make Winchester a better, safer, and more affordable place to live for everyone!

2. I am the best candidate for City Commissioner because I believe in Winchester and all it can be. I would like to have good paying jobs, a variety of restaurants, and an improvement in salaries for our city employees. Our police officers and firefighters put their lives on the line for us and we need to acknowledge them with pay raises but not raise our taxes.  I think we can improve our budget and make Winchester a place where all people can afford to live.  Everyone deserves a piece of the pie!

3. Better paying jobs and affordability to live in Winchester. The incumbents that are in office have bragged about being in office for 16 (or more) years and bringing 7000 jobs here. That is only 437 jobs a year. We can do better than that. I’m prepared to do the work to improve Winchester.

4. I will be dedicated to meeting and working with the county to accomplish our goals and checking what kind of industry Winchester needs here.  Also, I would like to see where WMU could take us in recycling.

Hannah Toole

1. Raised in Winchester and a graduate of GRC. I work in beverage distribution and sales and as a part-time fitness instructor at the Barre. I am honored to serve on the City Ethics Board, Legacy Greenscapes Board, Winchester Young Professionals Committee, and as a member of the Chamber.

2. I consistently strive to be a leader, seeking the best outcome for those involved, and excel in tasks I am given. If granted the opportunity to serve as City Commissioner, I will bring a new perspective to the group of veteran officials. A balance of experience, knowledge, new ideas, and fresh interpretation of our city is ideal for a growing commission. Winchester’s tourism industry has shown post-COVID growth, and we must continue to support the businesses and individuals that make our downtown what it is. I also look forward to working towards making Winchester an entertainment district.

3. Town Branch watershed and the integrity of our downtown businesses impacted. There is currently a work in progress. As progress is being made, there are opportunities for growing an entertainment district,prioritizing growth for our existing downtown businesses. As always, safety is most important.

4. This is not a one-person job, nor a simple answer of how to fix the issues. While repairing what had already been damaged, we need to repair and have a safeguard for surrounding buildings and businesses that could be affected in the future due to flooding etc. If we don’t address the repairs and adjustments made to buildings and businesses affected by Town Branch, we will not be able to fully support our downtown development. Once we find better, long-term solutions, and secure the integrity of our infrastructure, we have a better stance on bringing new businesses and growth to our downtown.

Greg Yates

1. I am a retired US Army Major, spending almost 25 years in the military. My family has called Winchester home for 17 years. I currently serve as the Executive Director for Partners In Education as well as the President of the Winchester Kiwanis Club. A fiscal conservative.

2. I believe I can bring new ideas to the position. During my 25 years of military experience, I lived in both small and larger communities around the world, which have provided me with a vast background to garner ideas from. I consider myself an excellent long-range planner which would help our community develop a strategy to set the stage for growth over the next 25 years. Not being from here allows me the opportunity to listen to all sides of an issue before deciding what is best for the future of Winchester. I am not a yes, man! I don’t mind asking the hard questions.

3. Lack of economic development is what I hear most often from voters. Over the last decade, our growth was very low when compared to surrounding communities. We have to find a way to grow our community.  We need more starter homes and affordable apartments. More housing will draw in more businesses.

4. I would visit surrounding communities and talk to their elected officials to determine how they enhanced economic development. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. I would visit our current small businesses, factories, and local developers to see what we can do to help them expand. Being a former small business owner, I think we must find ways to become a more business-friendly community. Developing a strategic plan would help as well.