Eric Patrick Marr says all of his friends moved to other cities for better jobs. On Wednesday, he talked with the candidates for mayor of Lexington about what the city could do to persuade them and other young people to come back.
For the most part, he got the talking points Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray have honed carefully on the campaign trail.
Gray talked about his business experience at Gray Construction and took credit for creating jobs by helping companies select sites to build factories.
"For too long, Lexington has been complacent about creating jobs," Gray said. "Having a business background brings special skill sets, especially for this critical issue at this critical time."
Newberry touted working with the University of Kentucky and Commerce Lexington to form the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership to create jobs during a recession.
"It's been remarkably successful, and it has been a major step forward," Newberry said. "As a result of that, we have national recognition now coming to Lexington."
Marr, 37, is the founder and president of a non-profit organization called The LeXenomics Group.
He was a candidate for mayor himself for a while, but he dropped out well before the May primary and threw his support to Gray.
With days to go until the Nov. 2 general election, Marr persuaded the candidates to sit down and talk about the economy for a forum that was streamed live on the Internet.
Marr sent the candidates a dozen questions in advance. He didn't have time to ask many of them, and, at times, the candidates ignored Marr to argue about things such as the South Limestone reconstruction project. Gray has run a television ad suggesting the Newberry administration did something shady in awarding the project; Newberry says the ad is "a gross misrepresentation" of what actually happened.
The candidates also managed to get in their licks about Kentucky American Water, its new treatment plant and the resulting rate hike.
One of the questions Marr did manage to get an answer to: "What can we do to make Lexington cool?"
Gray said that "we've got to take off the seriousness suit. We should take our jobs seriously but not ourselves, and I think that applies to leadership as well."
The city needs to embrace diversity and welcome different people and different cultures, he said.
Newberry mentioned the Creative Cities Summit that was held in Lexington in April, and events such as Thursday Night Live at Cheapside.
"Those are the kinds of things we need to do to make Lexington fun, a cool place for visitors as well as residents here," Newberry said.
Reach Andy Mead at (859) 231-3319 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3319.