Versailles mayor resigns

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 1, 2013 

Fred Siegelman

JANET WORNE | 2004 STAFF FILE PHOTO — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Fred Siegelman, the mayor of Versailles since 1999, resigned Monday to take a job with the state.

Siegelman, 48, wrote in a resignation letter, "I would like to personally thank the city council and other city officers and employees for the dedication you have shown to me personally and to the office of mayor. ... I know that I am leaving the welfare of the city in good hands."

Siegelman said he would oversee Kentucky Correctional Industries, the arm of the Department of Corrections in which inmates make furniture, clothing and other products. Siegelman said he had expressed interest in the job to Gov. Steve Beshear some time ago.

"I thought it was a great opportunity," Siegelman said. "It was an opportunity to serve our governor and to broaden my horizons."

Siegelman, a Republican, said "it is not true" that he received the state job in exchange for his support of Democrat Jim Kay in his race for Central Kentucky's 56th House District seat. Kay won last week's special election over independent John-Mark Hack and Republican Lyen Crews.

"I've never heard of such crazy nonsense," Siegelman said.

He said he had supported Democrats in the past, including former state Rep. Joe Barrows. And he said that Kay was the nephew of Versailles City Clerk/Treasurer Allison White.

The Versailles City Council has 30 days to fill the mayoral vacancy. If it is not filled in 30 days, the next mayor would be appointed by the governor.

The council could name a successor as early as its next meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Council member Brian Traugott, who turns 34 on Saturday, said that he was interested in becoming mayor.

"I am, indeed," Traugott said. "I'm going to try to get the votes. I think I'm uniquely qualified with government experience. I think I've got high energy and a good finger on the pulse of the citizens on what they want."

Traugott, a former member of the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission, works in House Speaker Greg Stumbo's office as a senior policy advisor. He was elected to the Versailles council last year.

If named mayor, Traugott said, he would "switch over to part-time" in the speaker's office. The mayor's job is a part-time position in Versailles.

Council member Ken Kerkhoff's name also has been mentioned as a possible successor to Siegelman. But Kerkhoff, 60, a retiree from IBM/Lexmark who has been on the council since 2011, would not say Monday whether he was interested.

"I'll have to wait and see," Kerkhoff said. "I'm going to wait and have some conversations before the meeting on Tuesday."

If the council names a council member as mayor, the council has 30 days to fill that new vacancy, after which the governor would fill it. In the past, the six-member council has named the person who placed seventh on the ballot in the previous general election.

In the 2012 election, that person was Ronald Durbin, who was on the council from 2011-12 but lost a re-election bid.

The city of Versailles has a $9 million general-fund budget and a $7.4 million enterprise budget that covers operations of the water and sewer systems.

During the next few years, the city will be faced with a significant upgrade of its sewer system.

Siegelman, who became mayor at age 34, said Monday that the biggest triumph of his 131/2 years in office was to put the headquarters of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System into the former Texas Instruments building. The factory, where 500 people worked, closed in 2001, and KCTCS moved into the space in 2004.

Siegelman said his biggest disappointment was the languishing of the former Versailles Center property on the city's east side. During the past decade, as stores left the center, the property became a source of embarrassment to city officials. There were plans to turn the strip mall into a development with multistory, mixed-use buildings that would offer both shopping and residential spaces.

Siegelman expressed optimism Monday that the property eventually will see new businesses pop up.

Being in a small-town spotlight took a toll in other ways. Last year, Siegelman pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and possession of an open alcohol container the day after he was arrested by Versailles police.

His daughter, Rachel, 19, was sentenced in March to two years' probation after pleading guilty to reduced drug-trafficking charges in Fayette County.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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