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Paris mayor Kiser, 72, dies

Paris Mayor Don Kiser died early Thursday after suffering a heart attack while working at City Hall, a city official said.

He collapsed about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and was taken to Bourbon Community Hospital, police chief Tim Gray said. Mr. Kiser was later transferred to Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, where he died about 6:30 a.m. Thursday after being taken off life support.

Mr. Kiser was 72.

He had a history of heart problems and bypass surgeries, Gray said. But Gray said he saw Mr. Kiser Wednesday morning and he appeared to be in good health.

"We're all shocked and saddened," Gray said.

Retired from IBM, Mr. Kiser was a city commissioner for about five years, then became mayor. He was elected mayor in 2002.

Mr. Kiser was an advocate for growth and prosperity in Paris. In 2003, after the new Paris Pike opened, he told the Herald-Leader that he hoped to see Paris grow without sacrificing its cultural or historical integrity. In 2004, he pushed for a Wal-Mart Supercenter that would bring jobs and increased tax revenues.

In a 2007 Herald-Leader story about new businesses and growth in the Paris area, Mr. Kiser remarked, "If you told me four years ago Paris would get a Starbucks, I'd say you were out of your mind."

Main Street had been revitalized then with restaurants and antique and gift shops.

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said it was evident that Mr. Kiser loved Paris and his work.

"He loved and worked to preserve the graceful, peaceful way of life in Paris," Newberry said in a written statement. "He and his ever-present smile will be sorely missed by all who knew him."

Gray said it was not required that Mr. Kiser work full-time; the city manager runs the city. But Mr. Kiser was the first mayor in a long time who wanted to work 40 hours a week or more to help the community.

"Politically, he used his savvy locally, regionally, statewide and nationally to try to get Paris grants and funding and every possible thing he could to better the community," Gray said.

When he wasn't working, Mr. Kiser relaxed outdoors, hunting and fishing, Gray said.

The city commission has 30 days to appoint a mayor. Next Tuesday's city commission meeting was canceled because of Mr. Kiser's death.

"To know him was to love him," Gray said. "Those who knew him feel like they've lost a father or grandfather."

City manager Michael Nagy has served the city about three weeks.

"It's pretty solemn here," Nagy said. "I only knew the man for a few weeks, but he was a good guy."

Kiser's wife, Bonnie Herrington Kiser, died unexpectedly in January 2003 at her home. Survivors included five children, Don Kiser Jr., Krystal McCarty, George Kiser, Kelly Kiser and Shawn Kiser.

Visitation for Mr. Kiser will be 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Paris, 916 Main Street.

The funeral will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church.

Hinton-Turner Funeral Home in Paris is handling arrangements.

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