Mayor Jim Gray on Thursday named a political newcomer and information technology small business owner to the open 12th District Urban County Council seat.
Russ Hensley, who owns Lexington-based Hensley/Elam, will fill the unexpired term of Ed Lane, who died in early August after a two-year bout with cancer. Hensley will serve the remaining 16 months of Lane's term.
Hensley, sworn in during a ceremony at city hall Thursday, said he would honor Lane's legacy. Lane served on the council from 2005 until his death.
"I will really want to respect the work that Ed has done in the past," Hensley said.
Hensley's company hosted the website for Lane's business magazine, The Lane Report, for years, Hensley said.
Gray said he choose Hensley in part because of his similarities to Lane.
"Since 2005, the voters of the 12th District have elected a businessman to represent them on the Urban County Council, and Russ, with his support of fiscal responsibility and his belief in the importance of seizing economic development opportunity and growing businesses organically, will continue in and build upon that role," Gray said.
Hensley has never run for office but said he would seek re-election in November 2016.
Hensley, 40, was one of several people who sought to represent the district, which includes all of the area outside of Fayette County's urban services boundary and several dozen neighborhoods.
His appointment comes at a key time. The council is grappling with several thorny political issues, including whether to raise the minimum wage in Fayette County and whether to change zoning ordinances to allow more business and recreation in the rural areas.
Hensley would not say whether he supported raising the minimum wage or if he would support allowing more recreation — such as zip lines and recreational outfitters — in certain rural areas of Fayette County.
"I'm still learning," he said.
"I'm taking a lot of input into that issue right now," Hensley said of proposed changes to the zoning laws.
Hensley, a native of London, moved to Lexington in 1995 to attend the University of Kentucky. He worked in information technology at the UK Chandler Medical Center before starting Hensley/Elam in 1998. He has ownership interests in other IT businesses including Shatterbox, a design and branding company, and asiGuardian, a data-backup service provider.
A pilot, Hensley has volunteered for the Air Force Auxiliary/Civil Air Patrol for search-and-rescue missions and for damage assessments during more than 30 major storms. He is married with three sons.
Urban County Council seats are nonpartisan. According to voter registration records, Hensley is a Republican.
Others who expressed interest in the appointment included two former council members: Gloria Martin, who previously represented the 12th District, and Andrea James, who was a 1st District council member and now lives in the 12th District. Kathy Plomin, who has run previously in the council at-large race, also expressed interest in the seat.
This is the second council appointment Gray has made in six months. In April, he appointed James Brown to the vacant 1st District seat.