Georgetown and Danville elect first Black mayors

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-09 18:24:21-05

(LEX 18) — Mayor-elect Burney Jenkins of Georgetown and Mayor-elect James Atkins of Danville both made history last night as the cities' first elected Black mayors.

This was Jenkins's first political campaign. He has a long background in education. He says he wanted to run to continue his history of service in the area.

Burney Jenkins
Burney Jenkins

Jenkins says, "What drove me the most was having people be able to take part in government. I think that's something that's lost. For the people, by the people — is something that you don't hear much of anymore, and people need to have a say-so in how we do business here."

This is James Atkins's seventh election in Danville. He also has a long background in education — and served as a city commissioner for six terms. He also served as mayor pro tem. Atkins calls himself "the people’s mayor" because he plans to continue focusing on community input.

James Atkins
James J. H. Atkins

Atkins says, "I have two ears and so I have an opportunity to listen to people and take their thoughts and digest them and when I do vote, the vote's based on what I think the majority of the citizens have directed me how to vote.

Although both of these mayors are making history, they each say that they don't want to focus on being first but rather listening to the communities needs and getting people more involved in the political system.

James Atkins
James J. H. Atkins

"When people say, 'wow, you're the first Black mayor in the history of Danville, Kentucky,' I look at that and I feel real good about that because I think people of color, especially young people of color need to have a positive role model. But, more importantly, I’m James J. H. Atkins, I’m a highly qualified person educationally and who also has experience with city government,” says Atkins.

As mayor, Atkins plans to continue to host sessions with the community to hear their thoughts and ideas. Jenkins says he wants to bring transparency to the role and engage with people in the community. Jenkins says, as the first Black mayor, he doesn't want to be a symbol, but instead be a role model for young people.

Burney Jenkins

"People know me because of the fact that I’ve been here for almost 50 years, and they know that, being in the school system, like I said, being around kids, and raising kids, and the kids I had in class now they are voting and everything. So, when they come back and say, you know, I really appreciate the fact that you was a good role model for us — and that's, that's what I wanted to be,” says Jenkins.

Both men are looking forward to continuing their service in these communities. The incoming mayors will be sworn into office in the coming weeks.