The neighborhoods surrounding the Versailles Road corridor will elect a new Lexington council woman for the first time in a decade on Nov. 6.
Councilwoman Peggy Henson, who was first appointed to serve the 11th Council District in 2008, is not seeking re-election this year. Hers is the only open seat among the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council’s 12 districts.
The race pits former council member Sandy Shafer, who represented the neighboring 10th District from 1994 to 2006, against Jennifer Reynolds, a first-time candidate and outreach director for the Bluegrass Youth Ballet.
Shafer finished first in the district’s crowded five-way May 22 primary with 1,310 votes. Reynolds received 1,008 votes.
The race is non-partisan and the position is part-time, paying $31,606 a year.
The 11th District includes neighborhoods on either side of the Versailles Road corridor, such as Cardinal Valley, Picadome, Lane Allen and Garden Springs. Shafer, a retired small business owner, was redistricted into the district in 2011. She has not moved.
Jennifer Reynolds: ‘A bridge builder’
Reynolds is fluent in Spanish after living four years in Mexico and is a certified medical interpreter. She said her language and outreach skills set her apart in a district where some estimate more than one fourth of residents speak Spanish.
Reynolds said she has already used her skills as a translator to set up meetings with residents and the Lexington Police Department.
“I see myself as a bridge builder for our diverse district,” Reynolds said. “My career in outreach and my language skills help our residents understand each other.”
The district also has a sizable African refugee population, which has its own unique needs.
“If we leave them out of the conversation at city hall then we’ll have a lot of issues, like crime, that will get worse because people feel they can’t talk to the police,” Reynolds said.
Then there are older, more established-neighborhoods, such as Garden Springs and Picadome. Development and re-development in the commercial corridors has already started, but the district still has some of the more affordable housing in the city, Reynolds said.
“I have been working with the Greater Gardenside Association to bring new life in those areas,” Reynolds said. “We want to have positive impacts without pricing people out of the area.”
Reynolds said she’s the better candidate because “I am the person that has been working in the 11th district. The 10th district is very different than the 11th District. We need to bring the district into the future intead of looking to the past”
Sandy Shafer: ‘13 years of experience’
Shafer said she will focus on revitalizing the commercial corridor along Versailles Road.
There are small-area plans that lay out a vision for Oxford Circle, Cardinal Valley and Versailles Road, but those plans need to be “taken off the shelves” and implemented, she said.
She also would like to work with the Lexington Public Library to find an adequate space for the bustling Village Branch Library, which is in rented space in a commercial strip mall off Versailles Road.
As a council member in the 10th District, Shafer said she helped steer and reinvigorate the Southland Drive commercial corridor. She wants to duplicate that in the 11th District.
“We have lost so many of our commercial anchors,” Shafer said.
Shafer said the city must do a better job planning for the future.
The council has approved a new process to determine when and where to expand the Urban Service Boundary, which determines where neighborhoods and businesses can be built.
The city should carefully develop a transparent set of metrics to determine when expansion is needed, and that process should include transportation planning, she said. Providing adequate transportation infrastructure is not something the city always done well when it plans for new development, she said.
More emphasis on public transportation, including Lextran and bike and pedestrian-friendly streets, is central to long-term planning, she said.
Shafer has long been a champion of the city’s parks and was an early supporter of its trail system, including creation of the Town Branch Trail.
Shafer said she would set up an office and work with students from the University of Kentucky to help her communicate effectively with the district’s Spanish-speaking residents and other refugee populations.
Shafer said she’s the better candidates because she had “13 years of experience on the council — that’s the equivalent of K-12.”
While on the council in 1999, Shafer was one of three members who voted against the Fairness Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Lexington was the first city in Kentucky to pass such an ordinance.
Shafer said she would support the ordinance now.
“I’m against bullying of all kinds,” Shafer said. “I apologize” for voting against the ordinance in 1999.