2023 will bring Lexington's most diverse council yet

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Nov 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 09:59:57-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When the New Year hits and a fresh Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government takes over, it will overwhelmingly be the most diverse group of councilmembers yet.

The percentage of people of color in the group, not including the mayor, will go from 6.7% to 40%.

Dan Wu, Vice-Mayor 

Dan Wu

The top vote-getter in Tuesday's election will be the city's first Asian American Vice Mayor and councilmember.

"I believe in the saying 'it's hard to be in when you can't see it and for so long.' Those of us in marginalized communities only were able to see ourselves in certain arenas or certain parts of society," said Vice Mayor-elect Dan Wu.

Wu came to the United States from China as a kid. His dad's job brought him to Lexington where he started a family, launched his career as a restaurateur, and even made headlines on the international cooking show MasterChef.

For him, his heritage and his culture are his biggest reasons why.

"Being in politics or being in government was never like a life goal of mine or anything. As a small business owner here in Lexington. I've just been wanting to stay connected to the community in terms of advocacy, activism, fundraising, things like that. But at some point, you know, my — my sort of thinking shifted into what is the best, most impactful way I can make positive change and let's see, and so we'll see if this is it," said Wu.

Denise Gray, 6th District 

Denise Gray

Culture and where she came from is also what newly elected 6th district councilmember Denise Gray says was the driving force behind her campaign.

"I grew up in the sixth district. I attended middle school, elementary, middle school and high school in the sixth district. So I don't take it lightly," said Gray." I recall the thought process was anything from the north side wasn't good. Anyone that came from Bryan Station wouldn't be able to accomplish anything, but boy can I tell you, Bryan Station High School Graduates have been changing our community and nation in so many different ways."

Gray went to Bryan Station, was a co-founder of the University of Louisville's cheer team, and after a short stint away, went back to Fayette County Public Schools as an educator. She says she is taking those same students with her to City Hall. She's received many messages from past students congratulating her and thanking her for her inspiration in their lives.

"My students are the reason that I actually got involved in politics," said Gray. "My former students and just young people, in general, are watching. They're watching. They're watching. They're watching."

As the entire city watches in January, they will witness the first time there have been four African American councilmembers, an Asian-American councilmember, a Latina on the council, the first African American at-large councilmember, and the most women running the city.

"Every racial demographic, aside from White, actually grew over the past 10 years according to the most recent census data. And so, you're seeing that representation start to be more reflected on council," said Richard Young, Executive Director of Civic Lex.

Civic Lex is a non-profit, non-partisan local government educational organization. It's a free resource for people to learn about the people and the issues around them.

Young says the reason why that diversity matters is what they'll bring to policy matters.

"I think what will be interesting is to see a little bit how policy shifts but also how that policymaking process shifts right," said Young. "How are more people brought into the process, are more people engaged in the sort of decisions that council makes on a daily basis."

Tayna Fogle, 1st District 

Tayna Fogle

That is exactly what community organizer and activist Tayna Fogle says their group represents.

"Government should be proud of the people and the people should be proud of the government. And that's only going to happen if we start to work together and that everybody is represented at the table," said Fogle. "The diversity that is on the council now is the way government should look. I am sad that it took so long for this part of the representation to show but I'm glad it's here."

Fogle says growing up and raising kids as a single mother on Lexington's east and west sides wasn't easy. She says it's those experiences that have allowed her to be so neighborly-focused. Diversity for her goes beyond skin color.

"The diversity I think about is impacted people. It's low-income people. It's working-class people. It's people who have generational wealth, and generation of poverty. And so, those are diverse. I am a single mom. I am a proud black woman. And we have been just not heard, not seen and that's harmful," said Fogle.

She's asking for representatives of every neighborhood association in the first district to be a part of a task force.

"I am not the conventional person that would run for office. I am not even a politician. What I am is I'm a representative of our community. I'm a representative of Lexington. I'm a native of Lexington," said Fogle.