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The race for Danville City Commission: A Q&A with candidates

As of Friday, Oct. 16, Election Day is just 18 days away, and early voting is already underway. The Advocate-Messenger asked Danville City Commission candidates a series of questions. Their answers were provided over email. Their answers have been edited only for stylistic reasons, so nothing has been omitted from their answers. They are featured below in alphabetical order by last name. Visit govoteky.com to view polling locations, check the status of your absentee ballot, or learn more about voting this election year.

 

James (J.H.) Atkins, incumbent candidate

J.H. Atkins, assistant vice president and associate professor of education, poses for a portrait on April 9, 2015 during the Board of Trustees dinner. Atkins is retiring at the end of the 2015 academic year.

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

James “J.H.” Atkins

Born: Fredericksburg, Virginia. Raised in: Lexington, Kentucky.

Lived in Danville for most of my adult life, over 40 years.

Life-long educator: Bate Middle School Teacher, …, Toliver Elementary Principal, Director of Elementary Schools (Fayette County), Professor/Director of Diversity (Centre College).

College Educated: Kentucky State University,

Austin Peay State University, Eastern Kentucky University

Community Experiences: Served on most local community boards. One of the founders and leaders of Citizens Concerned for Humans Relations for over 25 years, planned and implemented 15 community-wide Heritage Festivals. Graduated from Leadership Danville, finishing up 10 successful years on city commission and currently a member of the Citizens Police Academy class.

Family: Happy married to Artie T. Atkins. Sons: Nathan and Justin. Assisting with the raising of  eight grandchildren.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

First of all, I am a public servant,  not a politician.

I desire your vote to be re-elected because I still feel the need to participate and to serve our community. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I will always do the work necessary to identify what’s best for the entire community. And yes, I am Black, and yes, I am always working for what I believe is best for my people, the Black and the marginalized members of this, our community.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

  1. Review and implement our compensation policy — better pay and benefits for all city employees that can be felt in their paychecks with a continuing focus on increasing diversity in all city departments, but at the same time we need to highlight the success stories of our community, and we need to put more money into employee paychecks.
  2. Help downtown Danville return as the local hub/business area for our community, begin implementation of our Downtown Master Plan.
  3. Start and complete construction of our central fire station.
  4. Complete the hiring of key employees: city manager, fire chief, parks and recreation director, city engineer, and work to resolve the issues causing high employee turnover in some of our departments.
  5. Identify direction of economic development for our community — continue with the Economic Development Partnership or adopt a new format — let’s take the time to get this right.
  6. To provide more activities for our youth provided by our recreation department, our schools and other groups throughout our community.
  7. Continue to work with our community to provide more employment opportunities for Black and other marginalized members of our community. Let’s do a better job of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce for City Hall and all of our community.

 

Cheryl Burton, write-in candidate

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

Cheryl Burton, licensed practical nurse at Centre College, 1993 graduate of Danville High School, 2016 graduate Bluegrass Community and Technical College Danville. I have never been in public office. I am married with one child, two grandkids. Native of Danville.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

To give back to my community by being a voice for what is fair to all people.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

 Systemic racism issues within our city government that have played a role in the Black community. This has affected Blacks and other marginalized people in the Danville community.

Police pay, fire department pay, city government pay.

To be a voice for our youth. To have our recreation department to provide programming for our youth.

 

Kevin Caudill, incumbent candidate

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

Kevin Caudill, 58 years young. I am self-employed as a real estate appraiser and have run my small business in Danville for 30 years.

I graduated from Danville High School in 1980 and Eastern Kentucky University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

I have been a city commissioner since 2004. In 2002 I filled out the remaining seven months of my mother Nancy Caudill’s term when she passed away. That’s when the public service bug hit.

I am blessed with three daughters: Emily, 33, Jessica, 32, and Grace, 25. My wife Elaine Wilson-Reddy and I both work from home and have managed to stay married in the process. I was an assistant football coach at Bate Middle School for 20 years. I enjoy all sports, dogs and playing guitar. I also love volunteering locally in a variety of ways for a variety of organizations.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

I simply want to serve because of my love of this community. I have no hidden agenda or single issue. My desire is to just help keep Danville the great city it is while making it attractive and competitive as demands, preferences, and demographics may change. And accomplishing this while being a good steward of the people’s money.

I also believe I have displayed the ability and desire to take each issue on its own merits and to seek out the public’s opinions and thoughts. I know some people will vote for me and some will not, but I have and will continue to represent them all equally and I appreciate all input.

Lastly, in this instance particularly, I believe experience is important. We are in the process of hiring a new parks and recreation director and transitioning the department to part of the city’s organization. Ultimately to begin implementing the new parks master plan. We are also discussing the future shape of our economic development efforts. These factors along with other projects such as the new wastewater treatment plant will, in my opinion, make experience important.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

Economic Development — not only industrial and commercial business recruitment and retention but also:

 

  1. An educated and prepared workforce: While on the Commission we have financially supported the expansion of BCTC.
  2. Addiction & recovery issues: Otherwise capable people are unemployable due to the inability to pass drug tests or because of addiction issues. As the 2020-2021 chair of the Danville/Boyle County ASAP (Agency for Substance Abuse Policy) group, I am part of a great contingent who strive to educate the public on addiction, abuse and recovery. Also supporting those seeking treatment or related assistance.

 

Parks and Recreation —The city of Danville has taken the parks and recreation department under its umbrella with the support of the Boyle Fiscal Court. We need to hire a director and begin implementing the new Parks Master Plan. I was chosen to be one of two commissioners on the steering committee for that plan.

Hiring & retention of first responders — The primary job of a city government is the protection of its citizens. Quite frankly we have lost many of those engaged in that vital job because of pay issues. Some transferred to other cities and some have retired as soon as possible. We must make sure our benefits package is currently competitive. This actually pertains to most city employees.

 

Jenette (Jennie) Hollon, candidate

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

Hi, I’m Jennie (Meyer) Hollon, and I just celebrated my sixth “forever 39 birthday.” I’ll let you do the math. I have lived in Danville for nearly 30 years and love this community. As a parent of children ranging from elementary school through college, I will provide an involved family perspective, when it comes to the decisions of local government.

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, our family expanded Nutrition Center throughout four locations in Kentucky. Currently, my husband Tim is soon opening a LINE-X in Danville, so we are active in the community on a daily basis.

I have not run for public office before and am not a politician.  I just want to continue to serve the community. I have experience managing large budgets as District Manager of Nutrition Centers, Kentucky. I also had three years of experience in a joint City-County Planning department, which provided invaluable experience, to understand how various city and county departments can work well together to meet the needs of citizens.

My education includes a bachelor’s of science degree from Eastern Kentucky University in health education, exercise science. I also attended Cedarville University for two and a half years and ended up with a minor in business administration/accounting. I used this background to grow our businesses, with the greater goal of enhancing community health and wellness. Currently, I am managing the Danville Nutrition Center, which has served the community for over 20 years. I also enjoy teaching group fitness classes at the McDowell Wellness Center and spending time with family at our local parks and trails.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

To represent and be a voice for the citizen and to represent the taxpayer. Citizens always need to be respected, communicated with, and involved in decisions. I have the utmost respect for the current sitting commissioners, but it’s time for new blood.

A common-sense business approach to government makes sense to me. Citizens live within a budget and government can too. Government must answer to the taxpayer, as a business would to a shareholder, by providing efficient management of funds and by meeting the needs its citizens.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

  1. To work on being a more transparent and accessible group of commissioners. Transparency with decision making and spending can always be improved upon. Expensive consultants, at $10,000 to $60,000 per outside service, are not always needed to make every decision. What about reallocating a small portion of consulting funds to a nonprofit or valuable community organization? Commissioners must also be easily accessible so community members can easily communicate their needs.

 

2) Continue to invest in Community and Wellness for all ages, through continuing to grow parks and recreation, by working with BCTC (which is a huge asset to students and industry), by seeking grants for additional trail connections, by continuing to make downtown shopping & walking safe, and by supporting local business events and cooperation for all local businesses, not just ones downtown.  We are blessed to have so many citizen volunteers that give back to the community so that growth in these areas is possible on a budget.

 

3) First responder pay and retention is a priority. Commissioners that have been in office over 10 years have shown by their actions that first responders are at the bottom of the priority list since their wages are in the bottom 25% for a city with similar demographics. Training new recruits fully at a cost of $30,000-$40,000 each, only to have many leave after a few years is a poor return on investment. Additionally, retention is a necessary ingredient for better long term community relations with the Danville Police Department. We can do better in this area and we will.

 

Rick Serres, incumbent candidate

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

Rick Serres, owner of Bluegrass Biomedical and IT Services, graduate of Western Wisconsin Technical College. Danville city commissioner 2015-2020.  Wife Audrey of 43 years and three children raised in Danville: Amber, Adam, and Andrew.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

I am in my third term as a city commissioner for Danville.  I have enjoyed my tenure thus far with my fellow commissioners and the mayor and I wish to continue giving back to my community in that manner.  We are currently in the midst of hiring a new city manager, city engineer, fire chief, and parks and recreation director of which I feel will need our experienced support.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

Five key issues to focus on if re-elected:

  1. Implementation of employee wage adjustments per results of a recent study.
  2. Executing initial phases of a recently completed Downtown Master Plan, that may include a Main Street Streetscape.
  3. Building our new Fire Station.
  4. Supporting the new City Department of Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation which in addition to providing organized programs will also focus on recreational opportunities at revamped parks and building additional trails.
  5. Economic Development, Heart of Danville and Tourism — what to do to improve and/or support?

 

Denise Terry, incumbent candidate

Tell us about yourself: Name, age (optional), occupation, education, experience in public office, family information (spouse, children, etc. — optional).

 

My name is Denise Terry, married to Matt Cochran and mother of two daughters ages 16 and 20; I am 44; a Danville/Boyle native; former small business owner, and currently a real estate agent with ShowCase Real Estate Group (still a small business); I am currently seeking a fourth term as city commissioner.

 

Why do you want to serve as a member of the commission?

 

My philosophy is: Tradition. Vision. Progress.  I have a vision of balancing tradition and progress for Danville.

I believe Danville is on the cusp of becoming a true leader and driving force in this state. We have all the tools. We just need to work together as a community and put the pieces together. Our location makes us a perfect state and regional hub for many good things to come here. We are already well respected among other cities across the entire commonwealth. We can capitalize on that by putting key people in the correct places.

I originally ran as a city commissioner because my generation was not very well represented in local government. I attended city commission meetings as a citizen for about two years before running for office, as well as served on Heart of Danville and a few committees for the city. I want to engage my generation and younger generations to become involved in local leadership so they can step up and begin to take the reins.  I also want to show my children how to give back to their community. Your community is as good as what you contribute. I want Danville and Boyle County to be the best it can be.

 

What are three key issues in the community you would like to focus on if elected? Please limit your response to 200 words.

 

I have had three major issues on my list since elected: planning and zoning, parks and recreation and economic development.  P&Z has really taken off since our new director came on board.  I think P&Z needs to be involved with the planning perspective in decisions that we make, particularly with the Downtown Master Plan that we just received a first draft.

Parks and recreation is now a city department but continues to be a joint endeavor with the county. We will also be hiring a new director soon.  The job description has been changed to clarify the duties of the director so that we can focus on programming and outreach to fill the programs with children of all ages.  P&R has not been strong in outreach in the past. Our facilities need to be upgraded and we need a new master plan for the overall vision of what we want recreation and quality of life to look like here. We are reviving our neighborhood parks and will look at expanding Millennium Park in the next few years.  We need to hire a strong, qualified director to lead that plan and take us in the direction we want to go.  I would like to see some fun adult programs too, such as co-ed flag football, whiffle ball tournaments, etc. My bigger vision for parks and recreation is that every event, whether it is a 5K or a festival, will be coordinated and assisted by P&R staff.  That is the structure of most (larger) cities.

Economic development in its current structure is not working for local government.  I have served as the representative of the city commission on the Economic Development Partnership Board for about four years now. Prior to that, the city only had one or two voting seats on the board but I have attended those meetings since becoming a commissioner. I recently recommended to my fellow commissioners that the city should redirect our tax dollars to form a separate entity away from the current EDP structure.  I believe the current structure has not been beneficial to the city or county citizens.  We will be discussing this issue as a commission very soon and will make a decision and a plan accordingly based on facts and examples of other cities and counties.  The county is invited to join us in this endeavor.  I believe a different structure will allow us to better implement the Downtown Master Plan as well as recruit businesses of all sizes.  I also believe we will be led to develop a plan for other parts of the city and county.  We have done well without a real plan to this point and if we work our plan, the sky is the limit.