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Paducah City Commission

Staff report

Richard Abraham

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

I am a servant of God and His Son. I was a high school football All American, while attending Paducah Tilghman High School. I attended the University of Kentucky on a football scholarship as well as completing the Mid-Continent University (18 month) Organizational Leadership Program. In 1995, I began producing and co-hosted The Safe Haven Radio Show with my wife (WGCF-89.3). I co-founded Vision Inner-City Paducah (V.I.P. Street Ministry) with the late Carol Hoover, which was started in 1996. I was awarded the Mayor's Award of Merit, Paducah Citizen of the Year (Fraternal Order of Police), and The Champion for Children Award (Citizens Foster Care Review Board). I am a Certified Personal Trainer (30 years) and a certified Life Coach. I am a Teacher's Aide for special needs youth at PTHS. I have been married to Cynthia N. Abraham (33 years). We have two daughters, Mckynleigh Abraham, professional actress, and Scytha T. Freeman, who is a registered nurse and married to Charles Freeman. We have five grandchildren. As a city commissioner, I am a servant to the citizens of Paducah and we are regulated by KRS rules. I have always voted my conscience in service to our citizens.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

There are many qualified candidates in this race. I qualify to be a candidate as set out in KRS requirements. I love Paducah and its citizens. I would want to live nowhere else. My experiences, as a commissioner, have been very eye opening. I have learned to combine my passion for the people and the city into the role and responsibilities of one of the members of the board of commissioners.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

To do everything I can to promote understanding and dialogue between our citizens and city hall and to keep our community a pleasant place to live for all its citizens.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

Updating our aging infrastructure is a great priority. It is a very challenging issue because of the expense. This "service" is very important to the health and well being of our citizens.

Frank Bennett

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

My mother is a first generation American who moved to this country from Italy with five brothers and sisters. Having lived in a very low income community in Italy, they moved to America to find job opportunities. In many ways, they are an example of the American dream. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. My dad owned a small restaurant the entire family worked there. I attended college at Middle Tennessee State University. While I was in college my family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. After I graduated I joined them. Just starting my professional life, I worked for several companies while in Jacksonville including AT&T and Enterprise Leasing Company. My first big opportunity to advance my career was as the business development director with a small local company called SmartStream IT Solutions. I worked very hard to help this business grow, and as a result, in 2002 I received city wide recognition when SmartStream was named the fastest growing company in Jacksonville, Florida. I started my consulting practice later that year. I worked as a consultant until I took the position as CEO of The National Quilt Museum in 2011.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

I'm running for city commission because I have the experience and expertise to be an effective in this position. For the last five years I've been working as the CEO of The National Quilt Museum. In this time the museum has grown by 27 percent bringing thousands of visitors to Paducah. Before I took on this responsibility, I worked as a management consultant. I have had extensive experience working in both for profit and nonprofit organizations in many different areas of business. I've also had experience working in economic development which has afforded me a unique perspective on how the most successful communities achieve growth and create opportunities. In 2007, I wrote a leadership book titled "The Breathing Organization" and conducted a number of lectures and workshops in addition to my consulting work. I conducted workshops at companies throughout the United States including Microsoft Corporation and Harvard University. Through these experiences I have dealt first hand with organizations that were attempting to make major changes and ultimately achieve new short and long term goals. These experiences working with many different types of businesses on all types of projects make me uniquely qualified for the job of city commissioner.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

I don't want to focus on a specific issue because choosing a city leader is not about any single issue. We need to look at the whole picture. Over the next few years we need to have meaningful conversations about new business growth, helping currently businesses survive and thrive, expanding educational opportunities, transportation concerns such as access to public transportation and becoming a more bike and walk friendly community, affordable housing, costs of basic services like power and cable television, and much more. This is not an election about individual issues; this is an election about how we are going to improve the quality of life in Paducah.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

Obviously, one of our most important issues is economic growth. A lot of this comes down to business friendly policies and practices. There are many different things that come into play in recruiting new businesses including potential employee base, ordinances, power costs, location and facilities, inspection processes, and much more. Cities that are highly successful at recruiting new businesses understand that growth is job one.

I'm also concerned about how our tax dollars are currently being spent. As a community, we have limited financial resources and we have to make the most of each dollar. I'm making a commitment to each taxpayer that I will treat their money just as carefully as I treat the money in my own pocket. In addition, the city should make every effort to buy local. We should go out of our way to use local contractors and buy from local companies.

Lastly, I'm concerned about community engagement. We cannot afford to have citizens that feel like they are ignored and their concerns don't matter. In a community our size everyone has to be involved. If we are going to grow and achieve our goals as a community every voice has to matter.

Annie Gwinn

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

After graduating from Paducah Tilghman in 1967, I attended Duke University and the University of Kentucky for my undergraduate studies. I received my law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. When my husband and returned Paducah in 1978, I joined Whitlow, Roberts, Houston & Russell, eventually becoming a partner in the firm. Most recently, I have founded and grown my own business at The Grand Lodge on Fifth. I have amassed a long record of civic service and leadership in our community over the past six decades.

I value faith, family, personal accountability, fiscal responsibility, honest communication, interpersonal respect, and hard work. My parents and grandparents called Paducah "home" - as do my siblings and our children and grandchildren. So I bring a unique intergenerational connectedness to this community that I love and have a long-term interest in ensuring its vitality and quality of life.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

My early advocacy for using historic preservation as an economic and neighborhood redevelopment tool has been validated in Lower Town, downtown, and now in the Fountain Avenue district. Strong neighborhoods are essential to combatting population decline.

Expanding higher education opportunities has also been one of my passions. I chaired an early Leadership Paducah committee that championed 2+2 as a solution for Paducah's underserved higher education opportunities. I worked with the late Fred Paxton and others to establish the UK College of Engineering on our local college campus in the early 1990s. As vice-chair and later chair of the PJC Board, I also advocated for developing the Paducah School of Art and Design's Lower Town campus around the old Kitchen's building to capstone Lower Town's reputation as an arts district.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

I would like to see a citizen task force appointed to tackle the issue of Paducah's reputed "business unfriendliness." Paducah needs to understand and change policies and ordinances that contribute to that negative perception. We cannot ascribe our lack of business friendliness to state regulations when our sister communities such as Owensboro, Elizabethtown, and Bowling Green are thriving under the same regulation by the state.

Concurrently, Paducah needs to create the infrastructure in which not only neighborhoods, but also commerce can thrive. Our Riverport's recent Foreign Trade Zone designation is a huge economic opportunity; but it will require special land use planning and financial incentives to entice distribution centers and import/export businesses to relocate here. We need to get ahead of that curve -- not chase it by the tail.

Our infusion of artistic culture also offers us an opportunity to capitalize on Kentucky's tax credits to entice the film industry to grow in Paducah. How many Paducah residents know that Maiden Alley Cinema has the longest running international film festival in Kentucky?

We have seen the impact of the Quilt show on Paducah.

I believe that film could be our next artistic enterprise driver.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

Long-term infrastructure issues concern me the most. As chairwoman of Paducah-McCracken County Growth Inc., I led the fight to dissuade the current city commission to abandon the notion of replacing City Hall (with its $22+ million price tag) in favor of adopting a financially sound, nuanced plan for renovating the existing, architecturally-signficant structure, using tax credit to help pay for the improvements.

The city owns a lot of real estate, but lacks a rudimentary plan for maintenance of those structures. Issues such as population decline, poverty, redevelopment of vacant lots throughout the city, bike and walking trail linkages, and recycling, are all areas which deserve to be on the table for discussion.

Again, I stress that recognizing that there is a problem is the first step to solving it. Our community has great talent and experience to draw from; we just need effective political leadership to find solutions for the challenges we face.

Raynarldo Henderson

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

I have been married to the former Cherri Adams for 28 years and we have three adult children: Raiona, Adam, and Lauren. All of our children matriculated in the Paducah Public School system.

Since June 1992 I have been serving as the senor servant of the Historic Washington Street Missionary Baptist Church, and since 2005 I have served as the founder and president of the Washington Street Community Development Corporation. I have served this community in many capacities, from the foster care review board, site base councils (McNabb and Paducah Middle), Lourdes ethics board and the Paducah Housing Authority, to name a few.

My service and commitment to the Paducah Housing Authority Board was for 17 years, 16 as chairman of the board. As chairman I was the overseer of $78 million in spending operating and capital grant funding. I was graciously honored for my service by the dedication and renaming of the Blackburn Community Center to the Rev. Raynarldo Henderson Center.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

I have been enthusiastically involved and interested in the forward movement of Paducah for quite some time. My service to the Paducah community predates my running for public office.

I am aware of the needs and challenges of our citizens. Almost every day my calling and my profession places me in the lives of people who are sometimes just struggling with life. My vision for Paducah is that of a government of inclusion, lucrative employment, an atmosphere for growth, and educational opportunities. When worked enthusiastically this is a vision of progress for all of Paducah!

I am also an independent thinker. My profession and community leadership has taught me how to listen to others thoughts and opinions, as well as how to cooperate and compromise so everyone can win. However, my meekness should never be confused with weakness and I will never be cajoled or controlled to make a decision that will not benefit all of Paducah.

Lastly, I am diligent. I will be conscientious in my work as a city commissioner. Every deliberation, every city commission meeting and every vote that I will cast will be motivated by what will be the best for all of Paducah.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

As I have walked door to door I have met citizens who do not always feel included or important in the decision making process. So, the priority would be an easy fix. My proposal is that the city commission partner with churches and local businesses and host town hall meetings. The commission would leave city hall and meet on the people's turf. Everybody is not going to attend a meeting at city hall, but they will attend a meeting at their church or local business, or where they feel comfortable. When people are comfortable they will tell you what they are thinking and how they feel. The commission will then bring the current issues to the community in a language that is easily understood. We would listen to the vision and ideas of the people and we would ultimately make decisions that reflect the will of the people.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

I am concerned about the issue of race in Paducah. Paducah is making some major strides in this area of race. However, we still have a ways to go. I am suggesting that it is time to get the right people together on a regular basis and talk candidly about struggles, understand and become sympathetic to other's stories. It is time to annihilate wrong thoughts and erroneous perceptions that we have of each other. Until we come together and kill this kind of thinking, we will never rise to our greatest level as a city. Until employers, board members and people of influence return to the chambers with a new and more compassionate understanding of struggles and stories, we will continue to make decisions based upon perceptions rather than truth and qualifications. Thus, our young people will leave and never return to Paducah upon graduation. If this is true then is safe to say that some will return and leave when they discover that they nor will their children have the opportunity to be the boss, the CEO, the CFO or the business owner.

Sarah Stewart Holland

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

I'm a fifth-generation Paducah native. I graduated from Heath in 1999 and attended Transylvania University where I met my husband Nicholas. We lived in Washington, D.C., after we got married where I got a law degree from American University and worked on Capitol Hill.

When it came time to start a family, I couldn't imagine raising my children anywhere but Paducah, so we moved back in 2009. I'm now the mother of three boys: Griffin, Amos, and Felix.

As we grew our family, I quickly realized I needed flexible work. I taught Business Law at WKCTC and, in 2011, I started a parenting blog. That really helped me find my career in social media. I help many local businesses in our community, including Michelson Jewelers and Italian Grill on Broadway, and I manage all the social media for Barbecue on the River. I also co-host a national political podcast called Pantsuit Politics.

I'm a member of Grace Episcopal Church and the Charity League of Paducah. I have served on the boards of the Yeiser Art Center and the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club.

I'm passionate. I'm energetic. I'm completely devoted to this community.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

First and foremost, as a business owner and a mom and a volunteer, I've spent the past seven years developing strong relationships with people across this community, which has given me a deep and complex understanding of the challenges facing Paducah.

I've also spent the past three months knocking on over 5,000 doors across this community.

I've listened as people have shared their frustrations and concerns with me. The people of Paducah are not demanding a lot. They want their streets kept clean. They want help with dilapidated properties driving down their home values. They have growing concerns with increased flooding and the lack of after-school programs for their children.

They want to feel like every neighborhood is being represented and that the next generation will have opportunities to succeed in Paducah.

They are not asking the city government for miracles but they are asking for someone who will listen. I have spent the last several months showing that I will do just that.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

My answer hasn't change much from the primary. My top priority is still addressing the loss of trust between the city government and its constituents. Just like any relationship, trust issues can be the main obstacle to healthy growth, and the more I look the more I see they're at the heart of every concern I hear from Paducah citizens. The anger over misuse of taxpayer dollars, the frustration over the Riverfront Development project, the concerns about our slowed population growth -- they're all about trust.

Until we have leaders who are transparent about their decision-making and who communicate instead of just talking, I'm afraid nothing is going to get any better. We need a strategy to keep Paducah moving forward, but people aren't going to invest in that plan if they don't trust the people proposing it. I can promise the moon, but I'd rather promise people my honesty, both about myself as a person and my ideas for Paducah. I refuse to tell people what they want to hear just to get elected. I can't promise effective solutions without first being honest about the problem.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

I share the same concerns as everyone else in Paducah. I'm concerned about slowed population growth. I'm concerned about economic development and bringing new businesses and jobs to this community. I'm concerned that taxpayer dollars aren't being spent responsibly. I'm concerned about the future of Paducah Power and the rates we all could pay in the future. I'm concerned that businesses aren't given the resources they need to succeed. I'm concerned that so many feel left out by neighborhood developments like Fountain Avenue and Lower Town.

In other words, I'm concerned as we all are that city government isn't doing enough to make sure Paducah is growing and thriving 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.

This is my home. This is where I grew up and it's where I'm raising my children. One day I hope my children choose to raise their own families here. We don't want our kids to be forced to look elsewhere to make the lives they want to live. We want them to have it here in Paducah.

Paducah's future is our future. It's my family's future, it's all of our futures, and I want it to be a bright one.

Eddie Jones

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

I am a 51-year-old father, military veteran and small business owner. My education experience includes an undergraduate degree in public administration and a law degree from the University of Kentucky.

After my service in the United States Army JAG Corps, I practiced law in Western Kentucky for over 25 years. For the past 14 years, I have worked at the law firm of Boehl Stopher & Graves located at 410 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky. I am a partner with the law firm.

In 2010, Rick Walter (our senior partner and my boss) and I completed the renovation of the downtown offices which house the Paducah office Boehl Stopher and Graves Law Firm. The offices include two historic buildings on Broadway and one historic building on 5th Street. I mention this only because I believe it is sometimes helpful to have city commissioners who have "real time" experience in maintaining historic buildings.

My most important job is that of father to a sweet, kind, fun and sassy 15-year-old daughter. Allison attended Clark Elementary, Paducah Middle School and is now a freshman at Paducah Tilghman.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

For most of my professional life, I have been hired by various clients to analyze problems, search for solutions and help ask good questions. I believe the city of Paducah needs a city commission that will both individually and collectively exercise diligence to study and analyze the city's present day challenges and plan for the future. I believe my past experience has prepared me to be a city commissioner.

Paducah needs a city commission with the courage to think progressively to create a type of city in which people from all parts of our nation would prefer to live. That passion for improvement must be tempered with "common sense" to ensure the city stays financially responsible. I believe your city commissioners also need to be proven collaborators, in that they have demonstrated the ability to express their ideas and work with others to bring about improvement. I believe I have real life experiences which demonstrate that: 1. I do exercise diligence, 2. I can ask the hard questions and maintain respect, 3. I look for solutions and 4. I can collaborate with others to make the solution a reality.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

The first issue is financial responsibility and particularly financial responsibility with regard to decisions related to City Hall. I believe we should fix the canopy. Once the city has accomplished fixing of the canopy, then we should select the "next right" maintenance project for City Hall. Rather than incur huge debt, we should progressively maintain and improve City Hall over time.

My next priority will be the creation of a relationship between the Paducah City Commission and the Paducah Power Board that ensures both organizations feel a shared responsibility to analyze and search for solutions to the present day power problems. I will actively engage the other commissioners and the mayor in discussions as to who should be appointed to the power board. I firmly believe that the present power board is working hard to analyze and search for potential solutions. However, I believe that the city commission should foster a relationship with the Paducah Power Board that continually engages the public in a discussion about the status of the company and the status of the continued analyses of potential. I believe that we owe this diligence and transparency to both the rate payers and the employees of Paducah Power.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

I believe the city commission has to be an active and helpful partner in the city/county/private partnership of Paducah Economic Development (PED). Economic development is a team sport but the city commission represents the taxpayers in this partnership. The community needs to understand the mission along with the strengths and weaknesses of our community in the competition for new economic growth.

Paducah is a unique, wonderful, small city. Paducah has affordable housing, good schools, an energized and skilled labor force, low crime, great restaurants and diverse culture. I believe as we look toward the future we should embrace the bikeable walkable culture which is a characteristic of many of the nation's fastest growing cities. As I look 20 years down the road, I envision a "campus like" city which has expanded the Greenway Trail to include other urban trails which connect all parts of the city to cultural spaces such as Noble Park, Midtown, Lower Town and the Riverfront. I believe we should strive to create areas around our five public schools, WKCTC and Murray State University (Paducah Campus) that champion the "safe routes to schools" movement.

Allan Rhodes

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

Graduate of Paducah Tilghman. Graduate of Southern Methodist University with degree in business administration. Family-owned car dealership for Ford, Chrysler, Honda, BMW and Hyundai. Boy Scout Troop 1 Scoutmaster. Worked 10 years at Paducah Tilghman High School. Family-owned Etcetera Coffeehouses. Served two terms as city commissioner.

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

The best candidate is the candidate who can listen to and represent all the citizens of Paducah. I think as a coffeehouse owner I have the unique opportunity to be the available person. The coffeehouse is open seven days a week with no appointment necessary.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

My number one priority will be what it has always been: ask why. Why do we spend our money for the things we do? Are we getting value for our tax dollars? In my family business when I need to buy something the only money I have is my money. I treat it carefully. My number one priority is to treat your tax dollars just as carefully.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

My concern for Paducah is how do we, as elected officials, make prudent financial decisions for the long term? We do not have unlimited resources. An example would be the poor decision-making process in the riverfront project. How did prior administrations and this administration make plans for a $40,000,000 riverfront and not change those plans when Paducah was to receive only $10,000,000? I failed three times to get anyone to pause the spending and re-evaluate the project. Again, we have finite resources, and there are long-term consequences to the decisions we make. If you're interested in details on this one, it is all in my blog, allanrhodesjr.blogspot.com

Sandra Wilson

1. Tell us about you (including but not limited to personal, educational, and professional information):

While working at the Wickliffe paper mill for 26 years as public affairs manager, I had the opportunity to work with local organizations in multiple counties and also on a state and federal level. In 2013 I left the mill to become the president of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. Other previous employment in this area included serving as the public affairs and alumni director for Paducah Community College (now West Kentucky Community and Technical College) and as marketing director for Kentucky Oaks Mall.

I grew up on a family owned dairy farm in Calloway County and am a graduate of Murray State University. I serve on the boards of the Carson Center, Market House Theatre, Paducah Economic Development and the Paducah-McCracken County Industrial Development Authority.

I have been a participant and graduate of both Leadership Kentucky and Leadership Paducah programs. On a statewide level, I was elected to serve as the chairman of the Kentucky Manufacturers Association and have served on the boards of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Kentucky. For more information, visit the website: www.sandrawilsonforpaducah.com

2. What makes you the best qualified candidate?

A passion to serve the community has always been a driving force for me and I have done so in a variety of roles. My background includes a broad spectrum of community development including the expansion of educational facilities, arts and culture organizations, and business and economic development.

When the MSU Board of Regents appointed a local Task Force to identify how they could better serve this community, I was glad to serve. At a committee meeting at the school's previous location, it was easy to see the school was outdated, out of parking and out of space for growth. It quickly became apparent it was time to do something.

Even though a new building in Paducah had been on the community's priority list for many years, it had not moved forward to receive state funding. I worked closely with others to develop a plan for the community to provide local assistance for funding of a new building. Today MSU has a new building and regional campus located close to WKCTC for easy access for students who have classes at both schools. The campus is continuing to grow with new programs and more students.

3. What issue will be your first priority if you are elected?

Our community has so many wonderful natural resources available. However, as a local government, we have limited funding for new programs and projects. These programs and projects are vital as a re-investment into the community and to add to our beauty, growth and success as well as to identify who we are and who we want to be. The safety and security of our citizens and their families and property always have to be at the top of our priority list to ensure they are provided with the equipment and technology needed to properly protect our citizens. Then we must determine how we can best use our resources to invest wisely in our community through our neighborhoods, economic development, new features, arts and culture and by taking care of our city so it can be a vibrant and growing community.

4. What long-term issues concern you the most?

The reported stagnant population growth for our community is a concern. When I read the numbers stating we have experienced a decline in our population, I find it hard to grasp. When you look around and see all of the new construction underway of businesses, homes and apartments, renovations of older homes and buildings, new businesses opening, a strong retail market here with boutiques and major chains all thriving, local Realtors telling you they are selling houses and looking for more to sell, our medical providers expanding with new buildings and adding new programs and providers, young people returning home, new citizens locating here, classrooms full at our schools, then you have to ask yourself how can we be declining when so many indicators would say we are growing. We need to have a clear understanding of why our population has not increased as expected and then take the necessary steps to grow our population. An improved economy with more jobs available is a critical factor to recruiting more people to move to our community. We want to see our local companies grow and expand and also assist with the recruitment of new companies to locate here.

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