Mondays With The Mayors- Gippy Graham, Frankfort
LEXINGTON, Ky. This week on Mondays With The Mayors we speak with Frankfort Mayor Gippy Graham. The top administrator of the Capital City discusses strengthening the city's ties with Kentucky State University, getting the town back on solid fiscal footing, and balancing growth and progress, with historic preservation.
Q: How long have you been mayor of Frankfort?
About 3 and a half years. Before that I represented Franklin County in the General Assembly for 8 years...this area has been my home and it is very dear to me and I am very appreciative for the opportunity to be the mayor.
Q: So describe the view from the mayor's chair.
One of the first thing I wanted to do was to incorporate Kentucky State University with the city. They of course are a land grant university and I am happy to report we've been able to do that. We worked out a deal with the university to purchase our old federal building on the river and they are now in the process of fixing it up. Ultimately they will have classes, a lab and a boat at that location and I think that will draw more development and interest to the riverfront. In fact, we have a riverfront development task force focusing on revitalizing that entire area.
Q: How are you weathering the tough economy?
First and foremost we are heavily affected by state government. We of course are the capital city and we get occupational taxes from state employees, but when the economy went south in 2007, for the first time the occupational taxes we received from government was actually less than the private sector. And when I first came in, there had been four straight years of spending about 1 to 2 million dollars more than we were taking in because revenue was flat. So, we always tried to have the city government to have a reserve of at least 25% of our budget. Well that number had shrunk to around 7%. With our budget at the time being around $30 M, we made the tough decision that we were not going to spend any more than we were taking in. So obviously we had to make some adjustments. For the first time ever, we charged a garbage fee, and that was not too popular but people came to accept that. Then, too we had to take other measures pertaining to employee raises, but we did not have to have furloughs or lay off anyone and I am proud of that. So right now, we are back on target.
Q: How do you preserve what Frankfort has been and also attract new businesses to what the city could be?
We take great pride in being a historical town...we have one of the best museums in the state with the Kentucky History Center, and we have an entire historic district, so we fully embrace our heritage...but we are also trying to encourage downtown development with new loft apartments, we have an actively involved Downtown Frankfort Incorporated which is instrumental in showcasing the best of old and new through a variety of events throughout the year, with music down on the old Capital Grounds, and I might add the renovated Grand Theater on St. Clair Street has been a real boost to downtown activity. We are very mindful that Frankfort is and always should be a hub of activity.
Mondays With The Mayors airs on WUKY each Monday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.