Politics & Government

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announces he will seek re-election in 2014

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray spoke to about 200 supporters on Tuesday at Buster's. The mayor is half way through his first four-year term.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray spoke to about 200 supporters on Tuesday at Buster's. The mayor is half way through his first four-year term. Herald-Leader

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced Tuesday night that he plans to run for re-election in 2014.

The announcement was made to more than 200 supporters at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, a bar on Manchester Street.

"Even on a bad day, this is a great job. I love working for all of you, and I would like to stay on the job," Gray said, drawing applause from the group. "I know that two years is a long time away, but I want to ask you tonight for your help and your support in 2014."

Gray, 59, is about halfway through his first term as mayor. He made the announcement "to go ahead and get it done, and sort of avoid speculation that I might be interested in other jobs," he told reporters.

There was no word Tuesday on who might run against Gray. The mayor said he had not heard of any potential opposition.

Former Mayor Jim Newberry, who lost the office to Gray in 2010, said he had not made plans to run again.

"I don't have to make that decision for another year or so, so I haven't given it much thought," he said.

Likewise, others who have been rumored to be eyeing the mayor's seat have said they don't currently have plans to run.

"A couple people have suggested maybe I run, but it's not on my agenda," Urban County Councilman Ed Lane said, defusing persistent rumors that he would oppose Gray.

Gray iterated that Tuesday's gathering was not about the eventual race as much as it was about announcing his intentions and expressing thanks to those who supported him in the past.

The crowd at Buster's included campaign officials, volunteers, financial supporters and government officials. The attendees included Lexington businessman Alan Stein and Councilwoman-elect Shevawn Akers.

During his speech, Gray touted policies of fiscal responsibility and economic growth, as well as urban renewal projects that have taken root during his administration.

"A whole lot has changed in two years, but I always believed in one thing: When people feel better about their city, they will feel better about themselves. And we are doing just that. We are onto something," he said.

He restated his commitment to turning Lexington into "a great American city."

Urban renewal projects that have started under Gray's administration include a proposed revitalization of Rupp Arena to include an arts and entertainment district and a plan to bring Town Branch Creek, which flows underneath Lexington, to the surface.

Gray specifically mentioned the newly announced revitalization of the abandoned Pennington Place apartments on Richmond Road as a measure of success.

"It was slowly, over time, decaying. Lots of crime, lots of really distressing things were happening," he said.

Gray also reminded supporters that he faced budget deficits totaling $35 million when he took office.

His administration has overseen several changes to combat revenue shortfalls. They include negotiating money-saving concessions from the city's public safety unions, reducing rampant overtime costs in the Lexington fire department and asking city employees to shoulder more of the cost of their health insurance.

Gray acknowledged there is still work to do, but said he looks forward to the challenges.

"We all know that there's room for improvement, and that's what's so engaging and that's what's so exciting," he said.

Gray, on leave as an executive of the family-owned Gray Construction Co., is Lexington's first openly gay mayor and the first businessman to hold Lexington's top spot since the city and county governments merged in 1974.