Politics & Government

Three newcomers vying to represent northwest Lexington on city council

Three political newcomers say their community activism and personal experiences have prepared them to best represent the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council's diverse 2nd District.

Councilman Tom Blues, who has represented the northwest section of Lexington since 2007, is not seeking re-election.

Shevawn Akers, Brannon Dunn and Lisa Sanden are running in the May 22 primary election. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.

Akers, 38, said she will attempt to represent all areas of the varied district, which includes a portion of downtown, areas with high poverty and suburban developments.

"The needs of the district are as diverse as its people and its neighborhoods," said Akers, a program manager at a Volunteers of America Transitional Living program for young homeless mothers in Frankfort.

Dunn, 31, said there is much work to be done in the district's "neglected urban areas." Parts of the district are "stricken by poverty, youth violence, lack of education" and a lack of economic development, said Dunn, a maintenance technician at an apartment complex.

Sanden, 32, said she became interested in running for council after advocating for historic cemetery preservation as founder and president of the Fayette County Cemetery Trust.

The district's most pressing issues include "safety, planning and zoning, water quality and crime," said Sanden, a stay-at-home mom.

All three candidates said they would closely monitor the widening of Leestown Road between New Circle Road and Masterson Station Park, a major highway project in the district.

Akers holds a clear fund-raising advantage, according to election finance records filed earlier this month. She reported raising $6,360 and having $1,795 cash on hand. Dunn reported raising $100. Sanden had not reported raising any money.

Shevawn Akers

Akers said she has always wanted to run for political office, but was intimidated by politicians. After undergoing successful treatment for breast cancer in 2011, Akers said, "there's not much that scares me anymore."

If elected, she said a top priority would be monitoring the settlement between the city and the federal Environmental Protection Agency that requires the city to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to overhaul the city's sewer system over the next decade.

She also plans to focus on economic development and helping revitalize Lexington's Distillery District on Manchester Street.

"I hope to see the Town Branch waterway brought into public view and access, with the renovation of Rupp Arena, to promote a stronger connection with our environment and our waterways," Akers said.

Akers was formerly vice chairwoman of ProgressLex, a civic group that gained attention in 2010 when members pushed for a more urban design of a CVS pharmacy that was planned for a high-profile spot downtown. She also has served on committees for Lexington's Planned Parenthood.

In 1999, Akers was convicted in Fayette District Court of a cold check charge involving an amount less than $300, according to court records. She paid $125.80, which included a $50 fine and court costs. Akers said the incident occurred when she was in college and she didn't receive notice that there was a problem with the check before charges were filed.

Brannon Dunn

Dunn said his experience living in inner-city Lexington as a child before his family moved to suburban Masterson Station gives him a better understanding of the district's problems.

"You have people making policies and laws about a life they know nothing about," he said.

Dunn said he was shot while selling drugs at the age of 22. Not long after, in 2003, he was convicted of possession of marijuana and charges related to carrying a concealed gun. He paid a $300 fine, according to Fayette District Court records.

Dunn said he was out with friends and got caught with a joint in his car ashtray and a handgun in the console of the car. He said he stopped any kind of criminal activity that year, when he got married, had a child and got a job.

"Everything I went through in my life, I feel like it made me the person I am today," he said.

In 2011, he received the Greater Lexington Apartment Association's Maintenance Technician of the Year Award.

Dunn said he is particularly concerned about the lack of economic development and the need for recreational activities and crime prevention.

If elected, Dunn said, he would look for ways to guide more people in the district toward self-sufficiency, by encouraging participation in neighborhood associations, trying to create more mentoring programs and parenting classes and helping create community gardens and farmers markets.

Dunn said he founded an organization called Community Organizers of Lexington and was on an advisory council that helped save the Charles Young Community Center from being permanently closed.

Lisa Sanden

Sanden said she gained experience that will help her as a council member when she served on the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Newtown Pike Campus Advisory Council, which helped develop a master plan for BCTC's new campus.

And as former vice president of the PTA at Sanders ville Elementary School, Sanden said she understands the necessity for partnerships between schools and city government.

If elected, Sanden, whose husband is a retired police officer, said she would work to get more fire and police resources in expanding neighborhoods.

"I would like to see more community-oriented policing," in which police build relationships with residents, she said.

Sanden said noise from industry is a problem in the district. She would like to resurrect an anti-noise ordinance previously rejected by the council "so that a collaborative effort between residents and businesses can create a peaceful yet thriving community."

She also pledged to focus on educating residents about how water quality affects them and would encourage private and public partnerships to continue improving water quality.

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