Danville mayor apologizes to Boyle tourism director: ‘I inadvertently failed as a role model.’

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Danville Mayor Mike Perros sent a letter to the editor this morning apologizing for his role in an incident during yesterday’s Boyle County Fiscal Court meeting, when Magistrate Phil Simmons made a comment about tourism director Jennifer Kirchner’s legs.

Perros said he “inadvertently failed as a role model” and wanted to state publicly that Kirchner “was right to stand up for her self and her professionalism. I was wrong to respond to a previous comment made to me in a public meeting.”

During Tuesday’s public meeting, Sammons made fun of Perros, who was in the audience, for wearing shoes without socks. Later in the meeting, when Kirchner was addressing the fiscal court about the local transient room tax, Perros pointed out to Sammons that Kirchner was also not wearing socks. Sammons mumbled a response, then restated his response for the room: “I said, ‘If he had legs like that, he wouldn’t have to wear socks,’” Sammons said at the time.

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Multiple people on the court and in the audience laughed at Sammons’ comment, but Kirchner pushed back.

“Listen — I’m a professional woman up here talking about tax rates, not to be objectified about my legs,” she said.

The full text of Perros’ letter, which will also be published on Thursday’s opinion page in The Advocate-Messenger, follows:

“As mayor of Danville, it is my responsibility to be a role model and leader regarding the type of behavior that is to be demonstrated in our community. At the most recent fiscal court meeting, I inadvertently failed as a role model. My participation in jocular back-and-forth comments with Magistrate Phil Sammons initiated inappropriate comments.

“I am issuing this response to state publicly that tourism director Jennifer Kirchner was right to stand up for her self and her professionalism. I was wrong to respond to a previous comment made to me in a public meeting. Thank you, Ms. Kirchner, for making me aware of what is not only needed — but is required — regarding male behavior in all instances.

“Please know that as the father of three well-educated and successful daughters, I completely support the role of women being equals in any endeavor. I admire and respect Ms. Kirchner standing up for herself, as I would expect my daughters to react  in a similar situation.

“We are past the days of what might seem demeaning to others — men and women. We are equal. We should be treated equally and with respect from each other.

“I appreciate Ms. Kirchner’s courage in making all of us aware, as we needed to be, and should be.

“As mayor, I apologize for any embarrassment to Ms. Kirchner, our community and our city. The Danville City Commission planned, several weeks ago in fact, a seminar to advocate for a workshop regarding sensitivity in the workplace for all city officials in the near future. I will be there. The city commissioners will be there. I will also extend an invitation to the Fiscal Court.”