Lexington Mayoral Candidate Gorton: “If Farms are Gone, Then the Industry Goes”

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By T. D. Thornton

Linda Gorton and Ronnie Bastin are the two Lexington mayoral candidates squaring off in the Nov. 6 election. The race is non-partisan, meaning that the candidate’s political affiliations are not listed on the ballot. However, it is well known that Gorton is a Republican while Bastin is a Democrat. The TDN profiled Bastin last week. Now it’s Gorton’s turn.

Gorton graduated from the University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing in 1971. In addition to working as a nurse and serving on numerous community boards over the decades, she served 16 years on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council: Four terms representing the 4th District, one as a council member at-large and one as vice mayor.

The TDN spoke with Gorton via phone on Wednesday. An edited transcript follows.

TDN: You grew up in grew up in the heart of farm country in central Ohio. Do you have a background or interest in horses?

LG: I of course have an interest. My growing up was cattle, sheep, hogs, orchards–those were my grandparents’ farms. The only horses they had were work horses who were really important to their farm operations.

TDN: In Lexington, major decisions that affect the Thoroughbred industry usually happen at the state level. How can the next mayor of Lexington shape or contribute to positive outcomes?

LG: Here in Lexington we have a tight Urban Service Boundary [USB]. All of our farm land and equine land is outside the boundary. When I was a council member, I supported the rural land management plan that actually delineates how the rural area can be used and what kind of development can go on there. So I’ve been working on policy locally for 20 years to support our equine industry. That’s an important fact here because we’re really different from other places with our tight urban growth boundary.

I also was a proponent and a leader in passing our Purchase of Development Rights [PDR] program where a farm can apply for development rights purchase. What that means is, for example, if a Thoroughbred farm applies for the money for development rights, they give up their right to develop forever. And so this protects the farm and equine industries. It’s a voluntary program. And [if you apply] your farm is rated and ranked. It’s based on the soils and the historic amenities and viewsheds. [Criteria] are not about the person who owns it or anything about them–it’s about the land. So we are protecting these industries on the local level through the PDR program. And then at the state level, what the mayor can do is work with the state for things like incentives, [because] from what I understand, a lot of other places have some incentives in place that might be to their advantage.

TDN: As you’ve been campaigning, what are you hearing from people in the horse community that are important issues they’d like addressed?

LG: Many people in the horse industry, they’re very supportive of maintaining policy here in Fayette County that will uplift and support the Thoroughbred industry. Because if the farms are gone, then the industry goes. I’m quite proud of my work on that here in terms of local policy. A lot of places, [elected officials] don’t feel they can do local policy that has an effect, but we are doing it here. So I just think that the mayor has got to be a person like myself who is strong on collaboration. Locally, I would of course be a partner with the Thoroughbred associations and the different groups here that are supportive of the Thoroughbred industry.

TDN: If we were having a debate right now strictly in front of an audience of Lexington’s equine community, what specific question would you ask of your competitor, Ronnie Bastin?

LG: I can tell you exactly what that question would be: Mr. Bastin, in February you told our local TV station anchor, Bill Bryant, that you support our USB, but we need to “identify farms that can be developed.” That is a quote. What did you mean by that? Because everybody here who cares about the horse industry, the Thoroughbred industry, the farmland, wants to know the answer. We all know no one’s making any more land, and once it’s developed, we can’t get it back for farm or equine land. So that’s my question, because he was on the record as saying that.

TDN: You get the last word. Anything that we didn’t cover that you’d like to add?

LG: I have a long history of working with the equine industry here. I know many of the horse farm owners and managers. I understand their concerns. And you layer on top of that my broad, long-term leadership in our community, and I get this. Fayette County, our signature industry is the equine industry. It’s why people come here to visit, to see these wonderful Thoroughbreds. So we cannot ignore this industry that is so important, not only in our county, but worldwide. That’s important for me, to have people understand that I have worked with this industry for many, many years, and have great experience in doing that.

 

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