A Lexington council member with a long history in social services got a step closer toward being confirmed Tuesday as the city's new social services commissioner.
The Urban County Council voted unanimously after a short confirmation hearing to put Mayor Jim Gray's appointment of Chris Ford on the council's agenda. Ford, who previously worked in grant management and affordable housing, will head the city's aging, family and youth services programs.
Ford, 39, has served as First District councilman since 2011. He was re-elected in 2014 with no opposition. Ford replaces Beth Mills who retired earlier this year.
A final vote will not be taken for several more weeks.
During Tuesday's confirmation hearing, council members praised Ford for his service on the council, noting that he has been a vocal advocate to establish the city's first affordable housing fund and has worked hard to make improvements in the First District, which includes much of the city's East Side.
"We will miss you and hope your replacement will be as energetic and as thoughtful as you," said Council member Shevawn Akers, who worked closely with Ford on several issues.
Gray will appoint someone to fill Ford's seat. A timeline to name Ford's successor on the council has not been set.
The city's First District is a key council district. The area has its challenges — there are pockets of unemployment on the East Side that top 20 percent.
But it is also attracting more investment. A new tax increment financing district — a state-run economic development tool — has been proposed for an area around Midland Avenue. The city has also made key investments there including improvements at Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden.
Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, has said several people have expressed interest in the seat.
Christian Torp, a lawyer who has been active with the local NAACP and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, confirmed Monday he is interested. Torp said he considered running for the position before but did not want to challenge Ford, who he felt represented the area well.
"He has done a great job," Torp said. "I would like to continue his work and keep his open-door policy of hearing concerns of the neighborhood."
Whoever is appointed to the position will have to run for election in November and again in November 2016.
Ford said after Tuesday's confirmation hearing that his longtime aide, Tiffany Tatum, has agreed to stay on as aide to whoever is appointed to serve the First District.
"There will be continuity," Ford said. Ford said he, too, wants to ensure that the First District continues to have good representation. "I live there and will continue to live there," Ford said.
"It was not an easy decision," Ford said of taking the position of social services commissioner. Still, he felt that he could make a greater impact on the city's population as a whole in his new position, he said.