Ann Ross, former city leader known for strong stances, dies at age 78

gkocher1@herald-leader.comAugust 4, 2013 

Ann Ross, a former Urban County Council member and Lexington vice mayor known for speaking her mind, died Saturday at Baptist Health Lexington. She was 78.

She was elected twice to the city council, serving 1978 to 1985. She was vice mayor from 1982 to 1984.

"Ann Ross always cared," Mayor Jim Gray said in a statement Sunday. "She cared passionately about family and friends and community. And she loved Lexington.

"And, of course, we all enjoyed her wit and good humor, which laced and graced her life in every way. We will miss her," he said.

Mrs. Ross had a reputation as a straight shooter. In 1983, commenting on a consultant's report about the Lexington division of police that she thought stated the obvious, Mrs. Ross said: "I got the feeling in some places that it was the old story of hiring a consultant and giving him your watch to tell you what time it is."

Mrs. Ross frequently lobbed barbs about the way the city was run. She repeatedly pushed for the hiring of a chief administrative officer who would be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the metro government.

"We claim we are a developing metropolitan area, but our management style is still that of a community of less than 5,000 people," Mrs. Ross said in 1989. "Lexington is not a one-horse town."

Mrs. Ross ran for Lexington mayor twice, but lost both times — first to Scotty Baesler in 1989, and then placing fourth in the May 2002 nonpartisan primary (Teresa Isaac went on to win the fall general election).

During the 1989 mayoral race, Mrs. Ross spoke about her public image: "I get too intense about things," she said. "I get very, very strong about right and wrong. When I see an injustice I try to correct it. I don't care what it is.

"So I get intense, and sometimes that's interpreted as harsh and cold and bitchy. I think some of it is couched in, if a woman states an opinion strongly, she's a bitch; if a man does it, he's aggressive, he's determined."

In addition to the mayoral races, Ross lost races for Kentucky secretary of state in 1983, for 79th District state representative in 1985, and for 6th District U.S. Representative in the 1996 Republican primary.

In 1985, she became director of the Kentucky Educational Foundation Inc., a nonprofit group created to develop innovative education programs statewide. She was also director of the Bluegrass Education-Work Council.

Mrs. Ross also served on the city's planning and ethics commissions and the Fayette Board of Health.

During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, she was appointed to the White House Conference on Aging.

From 1992 to 1996, at the invitation of Democratic Gov. Brereton Jones, she was deputy commissioner of community development in the state Cabinet for Economic Development.

She was a charter member of the Suburban Woman's Club. As a project of that club, Mrs. Ross formed Ask Us Inc., an information and referral service. Its volunteers were trained to listen to people's problems and steer them toward an agency that could help. After getting Ask Us started, she became its executive director. Ask Us later became FirstLink of the Bluegrass.

She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution-John Waller Chapter and the Women Republicans of Central Kentucky. Most recently, she had served as chair of the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission.

Ann Elizabeth Elliott was born in Whitesburg on March 2, 1935 — about an hour before her twin sister, Mary Frances Elliott (now Campeau). The family moved to Pikeville when the girls were 8.

Mrs. Ross came to Lexington in 1955 to attend the University of Kentucky. That's when she met a fellow student from Elliott County, Ed Ross, who would later become state controller. The couple married in 1959.

In addition to her husband, survivors include her daughter, Dawn Katz; sons Alan Ross and Tim Ross; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services for Mrs. Ross will be 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kerr Brothers-Harrodsburg Road. Burial will follow in Lexington Cemetery.

Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.

Contributions are suggested to the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission, 616 DeRoode Street, P.O. Box 31, Lexington, Ky. 40508.

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

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