Tom Eblen

Tom Eblen: There are changes in leadership all over town

The Finishing Touch, a local costume jewelry manufacturer, has made a copy of the pin actress Diane Lane wore in Secretariat.
The Finishing Touch, a local costume jewelry manufacturer, has made a copy of the pin actress Diane Lane wore in Secretariat.

As we enter this annual month of fresh starts, it is worth reflecting on just how much the landscape of leadership in Lexington is changing.

There were big changes at city hall, with Vice Mayor Jim Gray ousting incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry with a "fresh start" as his campaign theme.

Linda Gorton, a veteran Urban County Council member, was elected vice mayor. They take office alongside new council members Steve Kay and Chris Ford, as well as Bill Farmer, who returns after a four-year absence.

In addition to elected officials, Harold Tate plans to resign this spring after nearly a decade as president of the Downtown Development Authority. With downtown experiencing a renaissance, his successor could play a key role in the direction of future development.

Gray, a sharp critic of the CentrePointe fiasco, has made good downtown development a priority of his administration. He plans to take a more holistic approach by appointing a commissioner for preservation, planning and economic development.

Aside from government, Lexington has, or soon will have, many other fresh faces.

Charles Shearer retired last June after 27 years as president of Transylvania University and was succeeded by Owen Williams, who was an investment banker before entering academia.

Lee T. Todd Jr., who became president of the University of Kentucky nearly a decade ago after a successful career as a technology entrepreneur, will retire in June. A national search has begun for his successor.

The directions of UK and Transylvania will have a big impact on Lexington's future, both as the premier local institutions of higher learning and as major employers.

Among others:

■ Mike Ash took leadership of FifthThird Bank after Sam Barnes' untimely death.

■ David Lord will retire in March after 17 years as president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

■ John Steiner succeeded Sylvia Lovely as head of the Kentucky League of Cities. Lovely left in January 2010 after the state auditor issued a scathing report about inappropriate spending and conflicts of interest at the Lexington-based organization.

It is interesting that these changes are taking place as Lexington absorbs the lessons from successfully hosting last fall's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park, which now has enhanced facilities to become an even bigger economic engine for Central Kentucky.

The Games provided a boost in Lexington's civic confidence and showed what public and private institutions can do when they work together. WEG also showed how much potential Nicholasville-based Alltech has to become a major civic player in the years to come.

What will all of this mean? It is hard to say. But I suspect many decisions made over the next year will have major effects on Lexington and its economy for years to come.

The horse, the movie,the pin

The Finishing Touch of Kentucky has made more than 400 souvenir versions of the gold pin featured in the recently released Walt Disney movie about Secretariat.

The pin is modeled on one that Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery, inherited from her mother. Kentucky artist Salina Ramsay re-created the pin for actress Diane Lane to wear in the movie.

"It's my understanding that sales have been strong," said Mary Holman, owner of The Finishing Touch in Nicholasville. "The detail is exquisite. Usually, that much work isn't put into a costume-jewelry piece."

Copies of Ramsay's design, cast in pewter and plated with 18-karat gold, are being sold for $39.95 on

The movie about the Triple Crown winner, who was bred and retired to stud in Bourbon County, was filmed at Keeneland and nearby Woodford County.

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