By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
There will be two new faces on the Berea City Council for the next two years. Former council member Chester Powell and newcomer Chad Hembree will join Diane Kerby, Billy Wagers, Violet “Vi” Farmer, Ronnie Terrill, Virgil Burnside and Jerry Little to sit on the council which governs all who live within Berea’s city limits.
From a field of 13 candidates, voters selected eight to serve on the council.
The top eight vote-getters are: Kerby with 2,807 votes, Wagers with 2,745 votes, Farmer with 2,665 votes, Powell with 2,581 votes, Terrill with 2,540 votes, Hembree with 2,520 votes, Burnside with 2,487 votes and Little with 2,481 votes. Incumbent Richard Bellando was not re-elected, finishing in 10th place with 2,193 votes.
Meet the council
Diane Kerby, 60
Her first year as a council member was spent “learning the ropes,” Kerby said.
The issue of long-term financial planning is one of the largest tasks before the council, she said.
“We’re in good financial shape, but I think we need to do some contingency planning in regards to revenue services to diversify our revenue strand,” Kerby said. “A large part of our revenue comes from the occupational license tax.”
Addressing the community’s drug issue also is on Kerby’s agenda.
“I know a lot of those things (incorporated in addressing the issue of substance abuse) is beyond the control of a city council, but we should help the people who are trying to address them.”
When it comes to the proposal to add protection to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community into the city’s existing human rights ordinance, “I think we need to address the issues of human rights and the inclusiveness within the community. We need to work with the Human Rights Commission and their outreach efforts.”
Billy Wagers, 66
This will mark the third council term for Wagers, who is the former owner and pharmacist for Berea Drug.
Economic development, transportation and maintaining a professional work force of the city through retirements and attrition are “huge” issues for Wagers.
When it comes to making traveling through the city as pleasant and efficient as possible, special attention needs to be paid to Menelaus Road, US 25 N, the Berea Bypass and Scaffold Cane Road, he said.
Maintaining a healthy work force for the city should be given serious thought because “we’re going to lose many employees that have been here for 20-plus years, and it is time to consider the replacement of many employees from top to bottom,” Wagers said.
During her 30 years on the Berea City Council, Farmer said she has witnessed some milestone accomplishments for the city.
Seeing the city’s first industrial park come to fruition was a major development involving three new industries that “literally provided hundreds of jobs for Berea which we desperately needed,” she said.
“One of the first projects I worked on was retirement for city employees,” Farmer said. “When I first started the council, there was no retirement.”
Another milestone was closing the city’s landfill “without having to increase taxes or borrow any money, which we were told we would have to do.”
The expansion of city parks is something that Farmers holds dear, she said.
The Berea College graduate said she works for the betterment of Berea and wants to see Berea be everything it can be. “I realize the importance of the college to the city.”
Economic development remains at the forefront of major struggles for cities and counties across the U.S., and that includes Berea, she said.
Chester Powell, 64
A 12-year veteran of the Berea City Council and owner of Powell’s Towing and Truck Service, Powell sought another council term because “they can’t seem to figure out how to work together to get the job done,” he said. “I believe with my experience with knowing city government and 43 years of being in business and having to meet a payroll and balance a budget, that I’m well qualified. I want to try and get people to work together and get Berea back on the right track.”
One of the biggest issues facing Berea at the moment is the drug-abuse epidemic, he said.
“Every family has been touched by drugs,” he said. “There’s just not enough we can do.”
Aside from the drug issues, others include growth on the Berea Bypass and storm-water drainage problems, according to Powell.
Exploring the possibility of building a convention/conference center in Berea also should be a priority for council members, he said.
“I think we have the money to do that and that should be well on its way now,” Powell said. “I don’t know what we did with that money. That’s something I’d really like to look into.”
Ronnie Terrill, 65
Running a cow and calf operation on his grandfather’s farm and serving as a council member for three years has kept Terrill very busy.
After retiring from IBM /LexMark, Terrill serves on the council “because the citizens of Berea need a voice, and I think I try to speak up for them,” he said.
One of the city’s most important issues at hand is the federally mandated storm-drainage project, Terrill said.
“We don’t know what kind of money we’re going to have to spend on it,” he said.
Because Berea reached a population of more than 10,000 on the most recent census, the city is required to do the storm-water upgrades.
Chad Hembree, 37
Already serving in a community service capacity, becoming a member of the council is a way to expand his commitment to Berea, Hembree said.
Hembree, who serves as co-chair for the Berea Human Rights Commission, is the information technology manager for Hospice Care Plus. He also has served as youth minister for Berea United Methodist Church.
The top three issues facing the city council at the moment include obtaining financial stability in an unstable economy, Hembree said.
The city? finances and tax base also is something council members should take very seriously, he said.
“The restaurant tax, insurance tax, hotel tax, property tax and payroll tax all need to be revisited to ensure the citizens of Berea are getting their money’s worth out of this government or if they are paying too much,” he said.
Virgil Burnside, 61
Burnside has served on the Berea City Council for the past 15 years. The Berea College Administrator said it is the role of serving that keeps him coming back into the political arena.
“I believe in service to one’s community,” Burnside said. “I care deeply for my community of Berea.”
While Berea continues to grow, there should be an importance placed on maintaining the city’s uniqueness, he said.
“Also, I want and wish to maintain its small-town charm while progressing, so our young people will find opportunities if they choose to live here,” Burnside said.
Preparing for the city’s future growth is one of the biggest issues facing the council at the moment, he said.
“Currently, the city is doing well,” Burnside said. “But, in the future, it is important that it develops a strong and diversified economy to provide a high quality of life for its citizen or at the very least to maintain the city's current level of services.”
Jerry Little, 66
Little already has served two terms on the Berea City Council.
“Berea’s been pretty good to me and I have extra time now,” he said. “I thought I might have something to offer. I have all kinds of experience. My work experience and values are very important.”
Some crucial duties of the Berea City Council is to keep expenditures in line with revenue, he said.
“We need to do that and try to keep the costs down for our citizens and have a good city government — good police, good fire (protection), good streets and good parks,” he said.
An upcoming challenge for the city government is to find a way to fund a federally mandated storm water upgrade system.
The project is geared to collect storm water from places where it might cause trouble and move the water into waterways that will guide it to a proper collecting point.
Berea residents can look to Little’s accomplishments to assure they made the right decision, he said.
“Look what I’ve stood for during the past two years,” he said. “You can see who I am and how I’ve voted.”
Ronica Shannon can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6608.
Diane Kerby — 2,807
Billy Wagers — 2,745
Violet “Vi” Farmer — 2,665
Chester Powell — 2,581
Ronnie Terrill — 2,540
Chad Hembree — 2,520
Virgil Burnside — 2,487
Jerry Little — 2,481