Jon Larson campaigned in 2010 for Fayette County judge-executive saying he wanted to abolish what he saw as an unnecessary office.
Once Larson, a Lexington attorney, was elected, he lobbied hard for an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution four years in a row but never got a hearing before a legislative committee.
Republican John Roberts, an attorney who shares Larson's law office, is running for judge-executive on the same platform as Larson.
"It's an unnecessary position," said Roberts, a former Lexington police sergeant.
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If such a measure were approved, it could take at least two years to eliminate the office, Roberts, 68, said.
Roberts faces Alayne White, a Democrat who served as Urban County Social Services Commissioner and was the former director of the Institute on Women and Substance Abuse at the University of Kentucky.
"It is an office and the job does need to be done well," White said. "There have been many attempts and discussions over the years to do away with the office and more than likely that is just not going to happen. If it's not going to happen then it needs to be done at a high level."
Both candidates acknowledge that the job is a part-time position.
In most counties in Kentucky, the county judge executive typically has most of the authority in local government. But in 1974, when Lexington and Fayette County merged, that left the Fayette County judge-executive a constitutional office with little power.
The judge-executive chairs the fiscal court, which receives state money and maintains the rural roads in Fayette County. Roberts thinks the mayor and the Urban County Council could do the job more efficiently. There are several committees of the Urban County Council that have responsibilities for streets and roads in Fayette County, he said. The state also maintains some roads in Fayette County.
Commissioners and the judge-executive make up the Fayette County Fiscal Court, which votes each year on a county road budget. In 2014, that was more than $1 million, Larson said. The money comes from Frankfort as Fayette County's share of the state gasoline tax. The road work is managed by the Urban County Government.
As judge-executive, Larson said he makes about $9,000 annually. His job duties include swearing in deputies and airport police, authorizing the sheriff's department to go out of state to pick up fugitives, appointing one member of the board of assessment appeals, and appointing replacements when certain officials vacate an office.
In 2015, Roberts said he hopes the General Assembly will consider a bill to amend the Constitution, or a bill to eliminate the duties of the job by statute.
"I think Fayette County wants it," he said.
White, meanwhile, said, if elected, she would have a specific phone number for the county judge executive office, which is not the case now and a website including information about the office and meeting minutes.
White, 60, said county road funds should be better coordinated through the city and through the state department of transportation "to maximize what goes on in Fayette County."
"What we do choose to do with it certainly ought to be made public," she said. "I am such a believer in being an excellent steward of money."
White said she is excited to help Fayette high school students as she carries out one of the office's duties — to manage the $1,000 Robert Henry Hughes Scholarship Fund which has a storied background. The scholarship is given equally to black and white students.
According to Herald-Leader archives, Hughes died in 1935 and left $100,000 in his will to fund the scholarship. Hughes inherited his wealth from his mother, Ellen Davis, who had been a slave, and his father John T. Hughes, a wealthy horseman and landowner. Ellen Davis was bought as a slave by John Hughes' mother. Davis gave birth to Hughes in 1862, when she was about 18.
The fund is in a Texas bank, but Roberts wants to bring it back to Fayette County and let the Bluegrass Community Foundation manage it.