Mayoral candidates ready to lead

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Three interested council members say they will follow Walker's wishes if chosen to finish his term

By Marty Finley

No matter who is named mayor of Elizabethtown Monday to close out the final 18 months of Tim Walker’s term, the three candidates eligible for the position say they will run the city through his eyes.

Councilwoman Edna Berger and Councilmen Bill Bennett and Tony Bishop are the three candidates for the vacant position, which will be filled by Elizabethtown City Council after a week of public input.

All three said the position and issues facing the mayor should be funneled through the lens of what Walker envisioned for the job.

Bennett, 50, said he has the leadership experience needed to take the reins of Hardin County’s largest city if called upon. A microbiologist at the University of Kentucky for 12 years, Bennett went on to teach science at the high school level, recently resigning from Nelson County Schools. He now teaches on the side while serving as a chemical engineering consultant for FET Engineering in Bardstown.

Bennett said he would like to continue his teaching career locally if not selected to replace Walker. Beyond his role as an educator, he has served as director of a space science academy in Nelson County and was appointed to the board of directors for the Kentucky Science Teachers Association, where he lobbied the state legislature for improvements to science curriculum.

After running for public office several times, he was elected to Elizabethtown City Council last year.

Bennett said he would tackle the items left on Walker’s agenda known to the council and work to create jobs and better educational opportunities. He wants to see the city take a more proactive stance on college and career readiness and an investment in high-tech industry.

Bennett also would focus on downtown redevelopment and improving services while keeping costs down and taxes low, he said.

Berger, 68, moved to Elizabethtown from Louisville in the mid 1970s, working at Bale Tire and Big O Tires before she purchased OK Tires with her husband, which she retired from in 2006 and turned over to her family. She also spent several years as a chamber of commerce ambassador and board member.

She first joined the council in 1998, exiting on her own volition in 2006. She re-entered the public arena and received the highest number of votes in 2010 after two terms passed without a female council representative. Whether or not she is named mayor Monday, she plans to retire once her term ends next year.

“I want to finish his term the way Tim would have wanted his term to be finished,” she said.

Berger said she never harbored any desire to run for mayor, but when Councilmen Marty Fulkerson, Kenny Lewis and Ron Thomas indicated they were not available to fulfill the full-time commitment to replace Walker, she stepped up because of her managerial experience.

Bishop, 54, has worked for Kroger for 37 years and was appointed to the council in 1995, where he served until he lost the seat in 2008. He returned to the legislative body in 2010 after narrowly edging Bennett. He has been a resident of Elizabethtown for more than 40 years.

If chosen, Bishop said he will faithfully tackle what remains of Walker’s agenda, such as the extension of Towne Drive to Veterans Way and the creation of a dog park.

“I’d like to carry that out,” he said.

Concerning downtown revitalization, Bishop said he has an interest in soliciting proposals from a range of developers on what could be done with the existing buildings downtown.

Both Bennett and Bishop said they likely would look for a return to the council in 2014 should they be selected, but said they ultimately would make that decision when it comes.

“At this point, I haven’t given any thought to it,” Bishop said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsent