Ann Luxon Durham, the first female mayor of Richmond, died Thursday at her home. She was 76.
"She was just a good businesswoman," current Mayor Jim Barnes said. "She left the city in good shape. ... She loved Richmond. I don't know anybody who loved it more than she did."
Former state Sen. Ed Worley, who was city manager under Durham, described her as a big thinker, business-minded and progressive.
"She was bold. She'd chase state and federal grants," Worley said. "At one time, I think Richmond had one thing of everything available. And we had projects to show for it, from industrial parks to recreation complexes ... to urban renewal projects. Everything starts with leadership, and she had that characteristic."
She was born Nov. 11, 1938, and politics was intertwined into her family's history. Her father, Chester Luxon, was mayor from 1962-66, and her grandfather, G.C. Cox, was mayor from 1949-50.
(Durham's daughter, Laura Durham King, ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year against Barnes, the incumbent.)
Worley said Durham often talked about her father and things that had happened during his term as mayor. "She probably learned the core of politics and government at home with her daddy," Worley said.
The Durham family had substantial holdings in the community, including tobacco warehouses, a beer distributorship, and commercial and rental properties, Barnes said.
Durham's run for mayor in 1989 was her first bid for public office. She was elected in November 1989 by defeating incumbent Mayor Earl B. Baker by an almost 3-1 ratio. She served in office for three consecutive terms from 1990 to 2002; term limits prohibited her from running for a fourth term. She was succeeded by Richmond's second female mayor, Connie Lawson.
During Durham's years in office, Richmond was one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. Between 1990 and 1996, the city's population grew 23.8 percent, faster than 32 other incorporated Kentucky cities with more than 10,000 residents, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in November 1997.
The growth was natural for Richmond because it was close to Interstate 75 and had the freedom to annex undeveloped county land. At the time of the Census report, from 1990 to 1997, Richmond had annexed about 3,000 acres for a combination of residential and commercial uses.
During Durham's administration, Lake Reba was restored as a recreation area. The lake had supplied water to city residents until the 1960s. It was drained in 1978 because its dam didn't meet safety standards.
In April 1990, the city negotiated an agreement with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to rebuild a retaining dam and restore the lake for fishing. In addition, the $3 million, 227-acre Gibson Bay Municipal Golf Course was built to improve the park near the lake.
The new golf course and the restored lake increased tourism by drawing golfers and fisherman from surrounding counties as well as Madison.
Also during her term, the former National City Bank building on Main Street was remodeled to become a city hall, and it remains in that use today.
Durham struggled with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system malfunctions and creates antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. Although anyone can get lupus, about 90 percent of sufferers are women.
"I've seen her worn out from being sick and just keep on going," Worley said. "You have to fight being tired all of the time. It just zaps you of your energy."
Worley said Durham "never let the disease debilitate her. It's something that she managed and dealt with, as long as I knew her."
Aside from her daughter, survivors include her husband, Rondall, and two sons, Ron and Chester.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Richmond, with Pastor David Evans and Glenn Birkett officiating. Burial will follow in Richmond Cemetery.
Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at First Christian Church.