In this era of cynicism about business people, politicians and public office holders, the loss of Julian Beard this week is all the more poignant.
Beard, who died at home Tuesday at the age of 78, was remarkable and refreshing during his four terms on the Urban County Council. Never afraid to question or challenge, he also never grandstanded an issue. He maintained a low-key, sometimes wry, civility in every debate.
Services for Beard will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Woodland Christian Church.
Serving as 4th District councilman was Beard’s third career. A native of Lexington, he began his career in banking while still a student at Transylvania but went on over three decades to join the executive ranks and to found a bank.
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Despite his success, when he retired from banking it wasn’t to a golf course or other protected haven. Instead, he joined the administration of former Mayor Teresa Isaac as economic development director. “He wanted to participate in Lexington’s continued growth and success,” Jeff Beard said of his father this week. “He had a true love for Lexington.”
Beard didn’t have a soft entry into electoral politics when, in 2006, he ran to represent the council district that stretches generally from Nicholasville Road to Tates Creek Road and from Alumni Drive to New Circle Road. His opponent questioned some of the signatures Beard had obtained on his petition to run. The challenge was thrown out in court.
Beard, typically, didn’t crow about the court victory, he just wanted to get on with the race. “All I ever wanted to do was run for office and see if I could win it and have the opportunity to talk the issues and discuss them in an open forum with my opponent,” he said. “Let the public decide who shall be the council person.”
As a member of the council, Beard often led the way in analyzing and questioning expenditures and budgets. But, he saw through the spreadsheets to the benefits of public spending. Early in his tenure he advocated for keeping the public and money-losing Meadowbrook Golf Course open, saying it “fills a specific need that none of our other courses can fill for seniors, for ladies leagues and for youth who are learning to play.”
Beard valued integrity in political and fiscal operations. When a scandal arose surrounding expenditures and management at Blue Grass Airport, he dismissed the suggestion that the spending was troubling at a time of belt-tightening elsewhere. “In the best of times, this would not be proper,” Beard said.
Former Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who served on the council with Beard throughout his terms, offered a fitting summary of Beard’s approach to his work and to life. “He was a good person who wanted to do the right thing.”