LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton wasn't going to allow this day to pass without addressing its significance head-on.
"March the 8th, 2020, our first case in Lexington," Mayor Gorton said of the anniversary of Lexington’s battle against coronavirus. "That was a person with a name, who had a family," she continued.
Before her political career took off, Gorton was employed as a nurse. When you listen to her talk about the pandemic in apolitical terms, you feel as if you're getting an important lesson.
"We're taught to plan, not panic," the mayor said of her experience working with patients. She said her office was in the planning stages for how the city would tackle the challenges presented by a pandemic in the days, and weeks before the virus arrived.
**Watch the full interview below**
Despite facing a 36 million dollar budget shortfall due to all that would be lost because of lockdowns and other drastic measures taken to protect citizens, the city has weathered the storm, for the most part. There were no interruptions to essential services, and programs that didn't materialize in 2020 due to financial hardship, the mayor says, will be back in the budget in 2021, or beyond. For a time the city suspended parking fees to assist small business owners offering curbside pick-up so that certainly put a dent into the city's finances. And there were personnel decisions that had to be made as well.
"Our government has been working with 47-48 fewer employees, yet providing the same services, so it's been tough," Mayor Gorton said of these last 12 months.
Thanks to a different budget from a different branch of local government, the mayor was able to go ahead with a Fourth of July fireworks display in 2020. Seems trivial, but it wasn't to her or to those around the city who not only enjoy that celebration but felt it was important for a sense of normalcy in our lives.
Gorton's position requires bipartisanship, but her ability to carry that out has been an eye-opener at a time when many state and federal officials can’t seem to agree that 2+2 does equal 4. Gorton, (Republican) hasn't, at least not publicly, resisted the executive orders that have come from Frankfort, and Democratic Governor Andy Beshear.
"That's my nature. And I don't like partisan politics. Nurses are trained to approach people no matter their viewpoints, their positions in life, or their personality. All of them are patients," she stated.
Gorton didn't know exactly how many Lexington businesses were lost due to the pandemic, but there have been many. She did, however, know the exact number of lives that were lost, (237 as of this writing).
Mrs. Gorton said she might've done a few things differently over the last 365 days, but not much.
"I have no regrets," she said confidently.
The mayor knows the power of being vaccinated and believes there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the city can celebrate the day we kick coronavirus to the curb.
"What do we when we reach this community immunity to celebrate our citizens, to thank our citizens, to say, 'hooray, we're back!' So we will do something," she said of a city-wide celebration she’s hoping to stage once the time is right.
Gorton discussed what's it's been like leading a city through such a challenging time, and never wavered when reminded that this wasn’t necessarily a part of the job description.
"I love my job," she said without hesitation. "And people who know me understand I like a good challenge."