Wilmore council candidates face the voters

Published 11:19 am Friday, October 28, 2022

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By Gillian Stawiszynski

Contributing Writer

Last Monday, Wilmore City Council candidates met for a public forum to discuss their aims for the city, what they’d like to see change, and what they’d like to stay the same.

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The forum, which the candidates organized, was held at the Wilmore Municipal Center and moderated by Amy Walls.

The Wilmore City Council comprises six elected council members who serve two-year terms. Residents can vote from a pool of 10 candidates this year.

Current council members Leonard Fitch, Andy Bathje, Jim Brumfield, and David Riel are running for reelection. Incumbent Kim Deyer could not attend the forum but is also running.

If elected, Jerri Hemenover, Bradley Cochran, Randy Hardman, Wade Mitchell, and Wes Metcalfe would be new to the positions.

Incumbent David Riel is a long-time resident and professed his appreciation for the residents in attendance.

“First of all, residents come first. The fact you’re all here on a Monday night when there’s no scandal going on in Wilmore that would cause you to come,” said Riel, “Speaks volumes about the quality of the residents in our town.”

Riel’s three aims were to expand parks and plan for a splash pad and skate park, support city services, and public safety workers, and work on government communication. He said he has improved communication with a resident newsletter he began sending out two years ago.

Though Riel wants to keep the way people care about Wilmore, he said he would like to see more partnerships.

Jerri Hemenover moved to Wilmore in 2005 for seminary. After that, her family stayed. For five years, Hemenover owned a business in downtown Wilmore and now teaches art, finance, and entrepreneurship at Wilmore Crossing Academy.

Making meetings accessible, community beautification, liveliness, homelessness, and eviction awareness are three of Hermenover’s aims for the city.

“Jessamine County is number five out of 120 counties for the top counties of overdoses. I’ve spent about 15 years in recovery ministries, so that’s really important to me,” said Hermenover.

Of the things Hermenover would like to preserve, like the rest of the candidates, Wilmore’s culture is at the top of her list.

“I don’t want us to love the essence of a friendly, small town. I’ve lived in a lot of suburbs. I moved here for a reason.”

Candidate Wade Mitchell moved to Wilmore in 2009 and owned Wade’s on Main, a downtown barbershop. He’s also a teacher at Wilmore Crossing and a tai chi instructor.

Mitchell didn’t name three explicit aims.

However, Mitchell stated he has experience working with homeless people from a previous corrections position in Fayette County and can use that experience on the job.

Referring to Wilmore’s new “Wet” status, Mitchell believes the city can benefit instead of restricting change.

“I would like to lay the groundwork for citizens and institutions to buy into the fact that a Wilmore that is thriving and energetic is a plus for them. It’s not something we fear,” said Mitchell.

Incumbent Jim Brumfield is a lifelong resident of Wilmore and works at Asbury Theological Seminary. He didn’t state specific aims for the city. “My agenda is your agenda. Not that I don’t have any goals, but you’re people that I’d serve, so I’ll listen to you,” said Brumfield.

Though there isn’t much Brumfield would like to change, there’s a long list of things he’d like to preserve, including recreational activities for residents and children.

Wes Metcalfe grew up in Lexington and moved to Wilmore after finishing his education in Asbury’s equine program. He has served on the board of Adjustments and the planning commission.

His aims come in three buckets: social services and law enforcement, economic development, business retention, and fiscal responsibility over the city budget.

“We’re here to serve you, and I personally don’t think there’s a demand to change the Christian values of the two, the parades, the festivals- Wilmore’s a lovely place to live, I think for me- the changes I see are subtle. They’re not sweeping cultural changes,” said Metcalfe on what he would like to preserve and change.

Incumbent Andy Bathje has lived in Wilmore since 1998 and was once the executive director for AdventureServe Ministries.

His top three goals for the city are more walkable and bikeable trails and connectivity, community engagement, and recruiting businesses. In addition, he said he wants a sit-down restaurant.

He has already worked on city communications with his website, www.whatsupwilmore.com, which features upcoming local events to get resident adults and youths involved.

Randy Hardman is a Wilmore coffee shop owner and a Charlotte, North Carolina transplant who originally moved to Wilmore for seminary. He highlighted asset-based community development, integration of spaces, and accessibility of city government as his three aims.

Hardman emphasized he enjoys Wilmore being close to Lexington, but wants to keep the larger city from encroaching on Wilmore too much.

Bradley Cochran is also a lifelong resident of Wilmore and a self-titled designer with a creative mind. He wants to encourage nonprofits to revitalize downtown spaces, improve outdoor connectivity for walking residents, improve local playgrounds, and work on Wilmore’s media presence and marketing.

“I’m always looking at ways to maximize the value of something at the lowest cost, so I start at that point while looking at different projects,” said Cochran.

Incumbent Leonard Fitch is the owner of Fitch’s IGA and has lived in Wilmore since 1956. He didn’t highlight specific aims except that he wanted to listen to residents and preserve the city’s faith.

“Wilmore, as I said, is the most wonderful place to live in the United States. I think the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ is the most important of all,” said Fitch. “I love Jesus Christ, and I’m very grateful for all you Christ-centered people who live here.”