Politics & Government

“Let’s dream big Lexington.” In first speech Mayor Linda Gorton pledges to focus on jobs, opioids

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton encouraged the incoming Lexington council and the city’s citizens to “continue to dream big” and pledged to focus on jobs, economic development and to tackle the city’s opioid crisis.

“Big dreams have meant big progress in Lexington,” Gorton said during her inauguration speech Sunday at the University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center on UK’s campus. “Those big dreams will continue. It won’t all be easy. For the next few years, we are projecting that our city budgets will be tight.”

But Gorton said the city has always faced challenges and will continue to make key investments and changes that have made Lexington a great place to live and do business.

Gorton said an initiative to bring high-speed internet to Lexington and a land deal that will give the city 250 acres of land available for economic development in the area of the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Park will mean more job growth in Lexington.

“That’s a great first step,” Gorton said. But to become a technological hub the city needs new “aggressive economic development campaign to attract new high-tech campaigns and support high-tech agriculture.”

Gorton said the city must focus its job training and workforce development to meet local business needs. Gorton also said she will be naming soon a task force that will look at a broad-based approach to tackling the rise in opioid addiction in Lexington, a promise she made during the campaign.

“We know our city has long been in the business of making big dreams come true,” Gorton said. “Let’s dream big Lexington.”

Gorton, 70, is the third woman to be elected mayor of since the merged government began in 1974. She served four years as vice mayor and spent a total of 16 years on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council. She is the city’s longest-serving council member and is a registered nurse.

Gorton easily defeated Ronnie Bastin, a former Lexington police chief, in the November general election. She won all but four of Fayette County’s 286 precincts. Gorton decided to run after outgoing Mayor Jim Gray decided not to seek a third and final term.

Although the race is nonpartisan, Gorton is the first Republican to be elected mayor since 1974. Gorton announced last week several key members of her leadership team including chief administrative officer Sally Hamilton. Hamilton has served as the city’s top manager for years under Gray. Gorton said after Sunday’s inauguration that she will name top commissioners, who oversee various city departments, this week.

Also sworn in on Sunday were the 15 members of the council. Vice Mayor Steve Kay was re-elected in November to a second term as the city’s second-highest elected official.

“We look forward to working with Mayor Gorton, who continues in the tradition of generations of stable, thoughtful, creative leaders in and out of government who know how to work well together and whose focus has been on doing what is best four community,” Kay said.

New members of council sworn in Sunday include: Chuck Ellinger, Jennifer Reynolds and Josh McCurn. Returning members of council include: Richard Moloney, James Brown, Jake Gibbs, Susan Lamb, Bill Farmer Jr., Angela Evans, Preston Worley, Fred Brown, Jennifer Mossotti, Amanda Mays Bledsoe and Kathy Plomin.