By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Oct. 31, 2012 —
Six candidates for Olive Hill City Council participated in a highly touted public forum Friday night at the elementary school gymnasium.
The event was organized by the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by several local businesses and community organizations.
Incumbent members Linda Lowe and Kenny Fankell were joined by Council hopefuls Glenn Meade, Gayle Smith, Angie Johnson and Debbie Baker Harman.
Current Council members Jerry Callihan, Allen Stapleton and Enoch Hicks did not participate.
Each candidate’s platform and vision for Olive Hill’s future came into focus during their answers to various questions throughout the evening.
Lowe and Harman both expressed a shared vision for revitalization of Olive Hill that would involve continued pursuit of grants and other funds aimed at a restoration of the town.
“I remember the vibrant community we once had,” said Harman. “Not too many years will pass before the generation who remembers is gone.”
“If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail,” said Lowe. “We need to develop a capital improvement plan and go after the financial resources available to make it happen.”
Glenn Meade, however, expressed a more progressive vision for the city’s future.
“We need to move into the twenty first century. Our buildings and infrastructure are dilapidated and need to be replaced and public information also needs to be accessible online,” Meade said.
Fankell and Smith both offered heavy criticism in their responses, each casting blame in different places for the city’s current problems with finances and management.
“The Council has to know what the finances actually look like before we can do anything about them,” said Fankell. “It’s also up to the mayor and city employees to carry out the Council’s wishes. Right now, there’s a feeling of mistrust toward City Hall.”
Smith, however, put the responsibility squarely on the backs of current Council members.
“It’s up to the Council to know what the utility rates are, as well as the finances,” said Smith. “If you have questions, it’s your responsibility to go to the city building and get the answers.”
Citing his experience as a former Council member and mayor, Smith also asserted that the city’s utilities are a vital source of revenue.
Meade rebuffed that comment, however, pointing out that according to state law, using utility money to fund city government generally is illegal.
Smith also was highly critical of the budget resources currently allocated to the city’s police force.
The most engaging and vibrant candidate at Friday night’s forum, however, was Angie Johnson.
The political newcomer cited her faith early and often as motivation for seeking a Council seat.
She also pointed to her track record of overcoming significant life obstacles as proof that she has what it takes to tackle the city’s lengthy list of issues.
“I’ve been to high places and I’ve been to low places,” Johnson said. “I’ve come out of a wheelchair from multiple sclerosis and when I thought everything was gone, He (God) wouldn’t let me quit.”
“We have to address our attitude and adopt the same kind of ‘don’t quit’ mentality when addressing Olive Hill’s problems.” Johnson said. “There are solutions. There is a way.”
The forum was moderated by Keith Kappes, publisher of the Journal-Times.
Joe Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 286-4201.