It’s Kentucky straight to Lexington Town Hall

The mayor of Lexington isn’t the only one in town with purist ideals of non-partisan politics. Gorton was elected in 2018 after her opponent, a former Lexington police chief and public safety commissioner, sent letters to voters bragging about being “the only Democrat running for mayor.”

But the mailer, who also pointed out Gorton’s “Republican roots”, backfired. It “angered” voters, said Gorton, who won the race handily and is considering a re-election run next year.

Over the course of a recent afternoon, Gorton spoke about how she got through the pandemic, faced racial calculation after the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in nearby Louisville, and juggled the development of ‘a medium-sized town surrounded by agriculture.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

As a registered nurse, you used to put hand sanitizer on conference room tables before people even talked about Covid-19. How has your journey helped you manage the pandemic?

I knew what the science was saying about the spread. There were people who thought I was doing things too early. But in this case, there is never a “too soon”. I knew the question was not going to be, “Will we be safe from a pandemic.” It had already hit China and the west coast. It happened. And so you take all of these things into account and say what can we do next to do our best for our people here. And so we did.

Before our first case, I closed our senior center. Our senior center is where hundreds of seniors gather. It is a fairly new and popular day center. … We have also closed our prison to visitors. We didn’t want this population to spread immediately because it was always open. And we closed the retirement homes after the governor made his order.

… It’s a bit old-fashioned, but I saw the city as a big patient. There were signs of well-being and signs of things not going so well during the pandemic, and we had to move. The team was everything. It is the same with health care.

Was the application of the mask mandate difficult and how did you deal with the needs of your residents here in relation to what the governor was imposing?

We are a mid-sized city, a city of 325,000 inhabitants, and so my priorities became first of all to keep people safe and healthy, to keep basic general services operational – to make sure that Garbage is picked up, streetlights are on, potholes are filled, that sort of thing. We had all the basic services that we needed to continue to provide and we knew we had to add whatever needed to be done for the pandemic.

… There was reluctance, mainly from the late night bar crowd, young people who thought they were invincible and didn’t think it would affect them. There was a lot of coordination and a lot of gray areas over the distance we’re ready to go in a stare contest. Ultimately, the pushback was somewhat curbed, aided by companies that launched their own mask demands.

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