Ghent leaders hope to reduce conflict

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Officials in Ghent are ready to move forward, now that the 2012 election of its city commissioners is over.

This year’s mid-term ballot on Nov. 6 fielded nine candidates for four open spots on the five-member City Commission, which includes Mayor William Mumphrey. The mayor’s term is four years, and Mumphrey’s term ends in 2014. Commissioners serve two-year terms.

The top vote-getters were incumbent James Lewellyn, who garnered 77 votes; newcomer Sandy Beall, who took 73 votes; and newcomer Lonnie Mefford and past commissioner David R. Hendren, who tied at 58 votes each.

The rest of the field included John Dolby, 39 votes; Carol Duncan, 38; Judy Smith, 44; Isaac Reisner, 43; and Cheryl Nohner, 16.

Hoping to end a tumultuous two years that saw the commission, the mayor and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission embroiled in a lawsuit filed by Nohner and her husband, Gary, Mumphrey said he is encouraging his new commission to seek out as much education as possible regarding the legalities of running a city.

“I’m approaching this board a little differently,” Mumphrey said Monday, adding that he and three commission members already are signed up for a three-hour class Dec. 5 sponsored by the Kentucky League of Cities. He said Beall won’t be able to attend that class due to a scheduling conflict.

In fact, to save the city money, Mumphrey is looking to hire a van so that the group can travel to the meeting in Lexington together. Legally, this does not constitute a quorum under the state’s open meetings law, as the new commissioners won’t be sworn in until Jan. 1, and therefore aren’t official members.

The mayor said he is hoping taking the class will encourage the new commissioners to want to continue educating themselves about governing “and doing the job legally.”

Mumphrey said he will distribute copies of the KLC’s Code of Ethics at the January meeting for commissioners to study.

have that ethics part down pat, to avoid violations,” he said.

And to avoid future lawsuits. The Nohner lawsuit, settled in September, included a litany of items that their attorney, Michael Tigue, claimed to be against state laws and, in some cases, against Ghent’s own ordinances.

Mumphrey said he also hopes that the commissioners will attend the KLC annual convention in 2013, which is to be held in Covington. Mumphrey attends the convention every year and said he tries to bring information from each meeting back to the commissioners. He said he hopes the commissioners will take advantage of the convention being fairly nearby.

Mainly, Mumphrey said he wants to promote teamwork. “I’m trying to get across that I don’t want them to think one person can get on the [commission] and that they can do it all themselves,” he said. “I want us to work as a team, follow the rules and regulations as a team. The city will benefit from this.”

Mefford, who has never been elected to office before, said he is excited about his new job and also wants the commission to work as a team. “I really want us to get back to doing what is best for Ghent.”

Mefford has attended several commission meetings during the past year, and said he feels teamwork is essential.

“People need to work together more than they have. I think we fell short on that. ... I don’t think the other [commission] members did a bad job; they just didn’t seem to want to work together.”

He said he looks forward to the educational opportunities “and knowing what’s expected [of commissioners] legally.”

He compares the commission to “a baseball team. No one is a hero; it takes everybody to win.”

Incumbent Lewellyn said he is looking forward to serving his second full term. He wouldn’t say if he thought the new commission would be able to work together better, but said he is optimistic.

His goals remain the same – he wants to continue supervising the city streets and mowing, and will keep working to get new sidewalks installed throughout the city.

Hendren said Tuesday that he is “very, very excited” about being back on the commission. He first was appointed to the commission to fill an unexpired term for Mumphrey, who took over as Ghent’s mayor when Bob Sundermeyer resigned in November 2006. He was elected to a full term in 2008 but lost his bid for a second term in 2010 by seven votes.

“I’m glad the people had enough confidence in me to put me back in there, and those are the people I’ll be working for,” he said. “We’re gonna do what we said we were going to do. We’re going to move forward with a brand-new Ghent.”

Hendren’s goal also is to get the sidewalk project finished, and to encourage people to sell or lease empty storefronts in town to draw in more business. And, he expects improved cooperation between the city commission and the P&Z, which he has been serving on for the past two years. That position expires Dec. 31, and a new member will be needed to fill the vacancy.

“I think we’re on the right track. ... We’re gonna be strong. We’re gonna be real strong.”

Beall, who is a newcomer to the commission but has experience with city government, also is optimistic.

“I’m excited and happy with the people who got elected with me,” particularly Lewellyn, she said, “because he physically gets out and does things in the community.”

Beall, who works at the Carroll County Water District office in Ghent, said she wants residents to know they can come to her with issues they feel are important.

“I don’t know if we can solve them, but we’ll try,” she said.

She also hopes the commission will be more transparent than it has been in the past, by being more open about the city’s budget and how it’s money is being spent. She is also hoping to move the stalled community center project forward again.

“I want to see some positive things happen here, and I want the commissioners to get more involved and work like a board,” she said.

She also assures residents that, even though her husband Joe Beall Jr. is now a member of the P&Z, both of them will work ethically as commissioners and work for the best interests of the community.

“I don’t want anybody to think there’s anything going on there,” she said.