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On 'night out,' Lexington mayor meets the public

Kevin Cole, president of Speigle Heights Neighborhood Association, showed up to complain to Mayor Jim Newberry about sanitary sewers overflowing into yards and basements on Anderson Street when it rains.

Julia Sparks, 11, just wanted to meet the mayor.

The occasion Monday night was the Mayor's Night Out, an event Newberry does every other month. He's available to listen to whatever those who show up want to talk about.

Newberry spent two hours at First Baptist Church Bracktown listening to about 15 people. Most hoped that the mayor could help find a solution to a neighborhood problem.

He arranged for Cole to talk to Cheryl Taylor, commissioner of environmental quality about sewage problems.

With Julia Sparks, Newberry asked how school was going so far this year, and whether she likes her teachers. Sparks is a student at Bryan Station Middle School.

After chatting for about 10 minutes, city contract photographer Ed Roller took a photo of Newberry, Sparks and her father, Edward. The mayor thanked them for coming.

Newberry started the Mayor's Night Out his first year in office. He also hosts Mayor's Night In, when citizens are invited to come to his office.

"Sometimes we can't help, but even then it lets people vent their frustrations and be heard," said Shaye Rabold, the mayor's chief of staff.

The mayor never knows who's showing up or what they want to talk about. Monday night was "one of the more diverse" sessions, said Marianne Blodgett, director of community relations.

Topics included garbage collection, bumpy roads, code enforcement issues and business licenses. One man wanted the mayor's help in getting a job with the sanitation department.

"It's not the big, citywide issues that people want to talk about," Rabold said. "It's very neighborhood specific. It's what's happened in their front yard."