Inaugural Mayor’s Think Tank takes place at Winchester City Hall

Published 3:33 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

Winchester City Hall, located at 32 Wall Alley, has bore witness to various meetings. 

On Friday, Feb. 2nd, a new type of meeting took place. 

The Mayor’s Think Tank, featuring a group of individuals throughout Clark County, gathered together for its first meeting with the goal in mind of producing long-term positive growth for the city. 

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Susan Bishop, one member of the Mayor’s Think Tank, was one of the first to speak. 

“What I would really love for people to really understand about Winchester is that you can do all phases of our life here,” Bishop said. “We have so many great opportunities right here in our hometown.” 

The idea for the Mayor’s Think Tank was inspired in part by a question posed at the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for JAG, or Jobs for America’s Graduates, that took place in the fall of 2022. 

In attendance at the time, Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed overheard a student ask the following question: What efforts are being made to bring our young people back to our city after college graduation? 

Though Reed, now entering her second year, was a few months away from being officially inaugurated, the question stayed with her – even being written down and carried with her on a paper napkin since then. 

Members of the Mayor’s Think Tank are Susan Bishop, Rhonda Blythe, Christy Bush, Steve Crosby, Dickie Everman, Kelly Fithen, Ricco Floyd, Betty Jane Glasscock, Baylee King, Allison Roberts, Emmie Rose, Sue Staton and Josh Wood. 

They represented a wide range of people with different personal and professional backgrounds. 

For example, while Wood is a realtor with Freedom Realty and Property Management and Floyd has pastored for over 30 years, King and Rose are both students at George Rogers Clark High School, with King serving as senior student body president and Rose a representative of Smoke Signals Student Media. 

With this being the first meeting, each member introduced themselves and answered an engaging question generated by www.random.org

However, a large portion of the meeting – moderated by Bruce Manley – would be spent talking about community strengths and concerns. 

Divided into groups of two at one point, members brainstormed what other cities might be doing that Winchester can benefit from, any weaknesses which could be addressed, what makes Winchester different from other cities, what Winchester can do to expand on new or existing regional partnerships, and what skills or opportunities Winchester has that others might not. 

Among the topics brought up throughout the meeting were affordable housing, economic growth, opportunities for youth, services for senior citizens, homelessness, and more.

GRC student Joby Mitmesser, filling in for Rose – who could not be present – brought up one interesting possibility. 

“I feel like we can get a [frozen yogurt] place.” Mitmesser said, adding that finding ways to bring other chain locations such as Raising Cane’s or Chick-fil-A could be beneficial and avoid others going to places like Lexington just to socialize. 

“[Affordable housing] is a tragic, tragic issue going on in Clark County right now,” said Rhonda Blythe, who works as an administrative assistant for Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates. “The way that people have raised their rent on houses that have been here since I was little is just absurd.” 

“We’ve got all these wonderful companies in Winchester, and I think about the industrial park.” Bishop said. “A lot of those leaders don’t live in Winchester. They live outside our 

community…I think it would be nice to ask our companies for more community support.” 

While much discussion occurred, pride in Winchester among those present was evident.

In addition to Friday’s meeting, three other additional meetings for the year are scheduled for April 19th, July 19th and Oct. 18th. 

Floyd expressed hope and enthusiasm that further action would be taken prior to Thursday’s meeting. 

“Given all these things that we’re talking about doing, what is the plan to implement some of these things,” he said. “This meeting wasn’t just to come and have a conversation.” 

Reed expressed gratitude for those present. 

“It’s critical that we have these kinds of talks, and we need this input,” she said. “I just really appreciate you [all] and want you to know that.”