By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
BEREA — Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling the 13 candidates for the Berea City Council race. The council is comprised of eight seats.
Virgil Burnside, 61
After serving as a Berea City Council member for the past 15 years, Virgil Burnside wishes to seek another term. 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.”
Burnside said he wanted voters to know that “I am level-headed, fair and consistent and will represent all the citizens of Berea.”
Diane Kerby, 60
Her first year has been spent “learning the ropes,” according to council member Diane Kerby.
“I’m getting up to speed, but I decided to run again because I want to continue the work we've started with financial planning and I want to continue serving the citizens,” said Kerby, who retired from Berea College.
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.”
Some challenges now for the council include finding funding for a federally mandated storm water system upgrade for the city and continuing to fund the county’s joint E-911 system.
“The system is aging and needs to be replaced,” she said. “A few years down the road when the CSEPP (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program at the Blue Grass Army Depot) goes, I think we have some decisions to make as to how we want to work.”
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.”
Brandon Rutherford, 35
As a firefighter for the Blue Grass Army Depot and an EMT, Brandon Rutherford works each day to be of service to the community.
This is the second time Rutherford has rallied for a spot on the Berea City Council.
“I decided it was time that the city council put the citizens first before Berea College,” he said. “And, the fiscal responsibility of the city is not in a good state. I foresee problems in the future.”
Finding a way to fund the pension system for city employees should be a great concern for those elected to serve on the council, he said.
“It’s going to take more and more of the budget,” Rutherford said. Real estate values going down is going to reduce the income coming into the city. You have to have a sound budget and still grow the city at the same time, try to attract some more small businesses into Berea and try to see if we can get a Kroger and Lowe’s back into town.”
There are certain services that a city is required to and expected to provide for its citizens, he said.
“We have the utilities so we have to make sure we provide water, electricity and sewer,” Rutherford said. “Anything on top of that is not a necessity. We need to get back to smaller government.”
Taking a stand on the proposed “Fairness Ordinance” is something that the council needs to bring to a conclusion.
“Either include gay rights or don’t include them,” he said. “To me, that’s divided the city in half and they’ve just kept putting it off hoping it will go away, and it’s still there. I’m against the fairness ordinance. I don’t believe that any one particular group should have special protections.”
However, having council members with opposing opinions is healthy for a governmental body, he said.
“To me, a good city council is eight people with eight different opinions who can come up with the solution that’s best for Berea,” Rutherford said.
Billy Wagers, 66
The retired owner and former pharmacist for Berea Drug Billy Wagers is seeking his third term on the Berea City Council.
“I waited until I retired to run,” said Wagers, who owned and worked at the pharmacy from 1969 to February 2010. “When in business, I didn’t believe in discussing politics or religion.”
It is the gratitude he feels toward Berea that has encouraged his participation in local government.
“Berea has been good to me and I wanted to give back to my community as best as I can with absolutely no personal agenda,” he said.
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 city 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.
In reference to “politicking” ― “I, by nature, am not a very good self promoter,” he said. “I would rather simply do what is necessary to do the job at hand. That is what I have done all my life, and that is what I will continue to do. If someone ‘Tends to Their Knitting,’ ‘Paddles Their Own Canoe’ and ‘Treats Everyone as a Neighbor,’ then one should not worry about asking for votes. Their records, deeds and concerns should speak for themselves.”
Ronica Shannon can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6608.