Candidates for mayor speak their minds

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Goodlett, Hicks and Ritchey vie to be Lawrenceburg's next mayor

The Anderson News interviewed all three candidates running for mayor in Tuesday's election. Below are their responses.


Goodlett seeks to continue improving Lawrenceburg

Meet Sandy

Name: Sandy Goodlett

Age: 73

Office sought: Mayor of Lawrenceburg

Occupation: retired educator

Education: BA and MA from Eastern Kentucky University; EDD from University of Tennessee; Anderson High School class of 1959

Previous elected offices: Eight years, Lawrenceburg City Council; four years, Anderson County Board of Education

Organizations/memberships: Member of First Christian Church of Frankfort; director of Salvation Army; director with the Out of School Daycare Alliance; director of Kentucky School Age Child Care Association

Family: two grown daughters

By Ben Carlson

News staff

Sandy Goodlett says he is running for mayor to continue the work the city council and outgoing mayor have done during the past eight years and to establish a good working relationship with county government, including working together on tourism.

“When our current elected mayor, Edwinna Baker, decided not to run, I decided it was time for me after eight years to put myself before the people, with the idea of trying to continue the work we’ve done over the past eight years,” said Goodlett, a current city councilman.

Goodlett said he would like to continue what he says have been improvements to the fire and police departments.

“As a result of improvements to the fire department, we got an insurance rating that will reduce, or should reduce, the homeowner policies for the citizens of Lawrenceburg,” he said, adding that a poll released earlier this year declared Lawrenceburg the ninth safest city in Kentucky, which he called a reflection of the work done by the Lawrenceburg Police Department.

“We have a pretty solid police department,” he said. “The issue with policing in a small town very often revolves around personalities. I intend to evaluate the police department just as all of the other departments during the budgetary process.”

During a recent interview, Goodlett said there would be “no immediate changes” to key personnel.

“I’m not big on going in and changing just to be changing,” he said.

One of Goodlett’s opponents, James Ritchie, has said that along with replacing the city attorney, he intends to replace its police chief.

During a candidate forum at Anderson County Middle School last Thursday, Goodlett said the chief will remain in charge if he’s elected.

Goodlett said that on a scale of 1 to 10, he rates the overall assessment of the way Lawrenceburg City Hall is operating at an 8. He said there are two important actions he would take if elected.

“One is learning to work with a new city council,” he said. “Two is to prepare a budget that has to be presented before the first of July.

“I intend to use the budget development process to evaluate staff and programs, department by department.”

Goodlett, who chairs the city’s finance committee, said he stands by the decision to increase the property tax rate each of the past four years.

“I do,” he said. “I voted for [the increases] so I must think they were needed.”

Goodlett explained that one of the factors in the increasing rate is that the overall property value in the city has decreased. He said without setting a tax rate to compensate for that loss it would be permanent.

“If you don’t take it, it’s lost forever,” he said. “Eventually the city will go backward instead of forward.”

Goodlett said he wasn’t on city council when a vote was made to tie salary increases to the consumer price index, which measures inflation. That ordinance allows pay increases to occur, including for the city council and mayor, without a specific vote taking place. Instead, those increases are automatically figured into the city’s annual budget which is voted on by the city council.

During his interview, Goodlett said he would evaluate that ordinance “early on” if elected.” During the forum, Goodlett defended it, saying that it helps ensure equal raises for employees and “takes the politics” out of pay increases.

Goodlett also addressed tourism and building a better relationship with county government. He said businesses in Lawrenceburg need to find a way to attract tourists who stop at the distilleries and that he would like to see county government allow city government to participate in its tourism agency.

“I was disappointed when the new tourism chairperson said they were moving forward with or without the city,” he said. “With a new city administration, I’m hopeful we can all work together.”

Doing that, he said, will require the mayor and judge-executive to work together, he said.

“I will make myself available to whoever the next judge-executive is,” he said. “We’re simply not big enough to operate separately. If it doesn’t work, it won’t be because I haven’t tried.”

Establishing a tax on restaurants to fund tourism or creating a payroll tax are not ideas Goodlett said he would support “at this point.”

“I’m not the least bit interested in either,” he said. “If circumstances got to the point to dictate something of that nature, I will not hesitate to do what’s best.”

Comment at theandersonnews.com.


Ritchie says chief, attorney among planned changes

Meet James

Name: James Ritchey

Age: 58

Office sought: Mayor of Lawrenceburg

Occupation: case manager for McDowell Stromatt and Associates out of Louisville

Education: 1974 graduate of Anderson County High School, bachelor’s degree, Eastern Kentucky University

Previous elected offices: none

Organizations/memberships: Member, Sand Spring Baptist Church

By Ben Carlson

News staff

The police chief? Gone. The city attorney? Gone. High-paid city employees? If he’s elected mayor, James Ritchey says some of those positions will be gone, too.

Ritchey delivered a blistering review of city government during a recent interview, saying the current mayor and city council have Lawrenceburg on the brink of death.

“We have a city that is dying and Main Street is all but dead,” said Ritchey, adding that those currently in charge are actively trying to make sure he isn’t elected.

“I’m running against the current administration and current city council,” he said. “I’m probably the last person they want to see in there and I don’t blame them for working against me.

“I’m running against their actions and I don’t like them. I don’t like what they’ve done to our town.”

Statements like that aside, what Ritchey said during the interview and reiterated at a candidate forum last Thursday night has his supporters and detractors buzzing the most — that if he’s elected, the chief of police will be replaced.

“There will be new leadership in the police department,” Ritchey told a crowd of several hundred people during the forum, held at Anderson County Middle School that included the current chief and a contingent of his officers.

“There, I said it. You came to hear me say it and I said it,” Ritchey said.

During his interview, he said the chief would be replaced with B.J. Crane, former chief deputy of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office who retired several years ago and now works for that office as a bailiff.

Crane acknowledged that Ritchey has approached him with the job, saying it is something he would consider.

Ritchey made it clear that his planned house cleaning would include key city staff.

“We have too many salaries above $60,000 a year, plus the benefits,” he said. “You have a clerk making over $70,000 a year. You have a treasurer making over $70,000 a year. You have public works director making over $70,000 a year and the city maintenance [person] making $60,000 a year.”

The Anderson News, through an open records request, confirmed those salaries.

Ritchey said he would turn those four positions into two, which he said would save around $180,000 when benefits are included. He added that he will not take a salary as mayor and only accept what council members are paid for expenses.

“I’m not running for the money; I don’t need the money,” he said.

Those savings, he said, would translate into better pay for police officers, allowing them to make working for the department a career rather than having them work for a short time and transfer to other police departments, including the sheriff’s office.

The department has indeed lost numerous officers to the sheriff’s department, where many still serve. In the past two years, the department has only lost one officer who joined the Kentucky State Police, according to information obtained via an open records request.

“They haven’t had the respect they deserve,” he said. “As mayor, I want to increase police salaries, rank and file, to the point where they can stay for their entire career. Then it will become the respected department it deserves to be.”

Asked if he would continue to allow the city attorney to operate his private practice out of city hall, Ritchey said no.

“Absolutely not, and I anticipate a change in that position,” he said. “I think it should be a local attorney. I don’t think that person needs an office in city hall and don’t believe [the position] is worth $62,000 a year. I’m looking to save money.”

Ritchey said other city workers would thrive under his leadership.

“If I’m elected, city employees will have the best four years they’ve ever had,” he said. “I’m not going to propose any cuts, but to get a raise you may have to do more work.

“We’ve got to give people in this town some tax relief. You pay city taxes but if you use any services other than fire, you get a bill on top of that.”

As for the city’s efforts in tourism, Ritchey said during last week’s forum he gives it an F.

“They have failed,” he said, adding that his for tourism would be to first mend fences with county government to try to get it to allow the city to join its tourism authority.

“I will work with them,” he said, “and if I have to make concessions to start, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Ritchey vowed to oppose any new taxes or fees and said his goal is to lower them.

“We’re reaching a point where people won’t be able to pay their taxes,” he said. “We have a crisis in the nation and local community. Taxes are too high.”

Ritchey also vowed to revitalize Main Street by actively recruiting a variety of business, including Amish stores and shops.

“The town is dying,” he said. “When I retired 11 years ago, Main Street was thriving. Now [government] has taxed and priced us out of existence. You have the clerk’s office take part of your money and the courthouse takes the rest.

“That’s on her [the current mayor] watch. The current administration put our town in the shape it is now.

Ritchey said he would also seek ways to roll business license fees by finding savings elsewhere.

“We have the most unfriendly business town I know of,” he said. “Excessive license fees, regulations and taxes … we have all three.”

Ritchey vowed he would be very visible as mayor and attend fiscal court and school board meetings, along with special taxing district meetings such as health, library, Extension.

“You’ll see me on the streets and at board meetings,” he said. “I feel like the mayor is the spokesperson and advocate for the people. They’re electing a mayor, not a city clerk or public works director, a mayor.”

Comment at theandersonnews.com.

Hicks says common sense, hard work needed

Meet Tracy

Name: Tracy Hicks

Age: 41

Office sought: Mayor of Lawrenceburg

Occupation: auto mechanic, A&J Tire

Education: GED, 2003

Previous elected offices: none

Organizations/memberships: none

By Ben Carlson

News staff

Tracy Hicks says a healthy dose of common sense and giving taxpayers back their voices are what’s needed to improve Lawrenceburg, and that’s what he intends to do if elected mayor.

“I don’t have a college degree,” said Hicks, “but I think common sense can get this place back the way it needs to be.

“In talking to different people and getting their point of view, theirs is always the same as mine. I’m running for this community and they need to have a say. I think the citizens of Lawrenceburg need to their city back.”

Hicks said on a scale of 1 to 10, most of the city’s functions are doing well. He gave the current mayor a 5, however, saying that she isn’t accessible enough to residents.

“The mayor shouldn’t just be seen in the Christmas parade,” he said. “The mayor needs to be out communicating with the public because the money spent by the city of Lawrenceburg comes from the people here in Lawrenceburg.”

Hicks said people tell him when they try to call the mayor she often isn’t available.

“If you go into a restaurant and get bad service, you don’t want to talk to the second in charge, you want to talk to the one running the restaurant,” he said. “If you’re the mayor, there should be a line to your phone 24-7.”

Hicks graded the police department as a 9, but wants officers to be more visible.

“My biggest issue is getting them back into the community,” he said. “I don’t feel there’s enough patrolling going on. I want citizens who are out sitting on their porches to see a cruiser go by every hour or two.”

City hall ranks 7 or 8, he said.

“I’m not going to point fingers or make accusations without being able to back them up,” he said. “Whoever gets to be mayor needs to evaluate everyone. I want to see a better city of Lawrenceburg and better employees. I want to make them aware that the citizens and taxpayers make their paychecks.”

Hicks said he doesn’t think it was necessary for the city council to increase the property tax rate each of the past four years. He said the focus instead should be to increase revenue by attracting more businesses.

“Anyone can site there and raise taxes,” he said. “If we had good leadership, they would pick up the phone and call the CEO of a place like O’Charley’s and ask what Lawrenceburg needs to do to get them in here.”

Hicks, a mechanic at AJ Tires, says one way to keep expenses down would be to make employees who drive city-owned vehicles responsible for making sure they are serviced regularly. If not, Hicks said that employee should have to take care of it.

“We need to keep the vehicles serviced,” he said. “I’ve seen trucks come in with banged up bends and fenders and they’ll run the brakes until we have to replace the rotors.

“I’m going to cut that expense in half.”

Hicks said the city ordinance that ties pay increases for employees, city council and the mayor to automatic increases based on the consumer price index needs to be tweaked.

“For the people not retired and who work every day, sure,” he said. “They have families to take care of.

“But for the mayor and city council, their pay shouldn’t go up. They only meet once a month and I can’t see them getting more money every year to make decisions to spend other people’s tax money.”

Hicks said he wants to see the city council and fiscal court “work together as a team,” including on tourism.

“We need to unite and do what we can in the best interest of the citizens,” he said. “I think getting together on tourism would be very important.”

Hicks said he would not support a restaurant tax, though, which has been considered in the past as a means of funding tourism.

“If you do that you’ll run the ones off that are already here,” he said.

Hicks he also wants to work to revitalized Main Street by having the city work more closely with businesses.

He said sidewalks are a concern.

“They may be the business’ responsibility, but if you want to bring business back, what would it hurt to have the city pay to have them redone?” he said. “What would it hurt to have the mayor pick up the phone and say to a building owner if you lower the rent, we’ll work something out on taxes?

“If we work together, we can do it.”

Comment at theandersonnews.com.