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Paducah Mayor Calls 2018 ‘The Year of Growth and Iteration’

Nicole Erwin, WKMS

  The state of the City of Paducah and McCracken County is one of resilience. That theme emerged in an address given by local officials to members of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Mayor Brandi Harless and County Judge Executive Bob Leeper anticipate challenges surrounding state pensions in the new year.
But Harless said through a “growth mindset” the community can thrive through challenges. She asked that the city look toward 2018 as a “year of growth and iteration.”

The new mayor has just completed her first year in office. She campaigned on notions supported by Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. The tipping point has been described as that “magic moment” when an idea crosses a threshold and spreads. Combining this ideal with Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s book Mindset will turn the challenges that Paducah faces into opportunities, explained Harless.

Credit Nicole Erwin, WKMS

  “I’m here to say that I’m 100 percent confident that we have everything we need to push our city over the ‘tipping point,” said Harless.

She referenced the city of New Orleans’ approach to rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. She said instead of a city that sought to build “bright new shiny things,” the city decided to take what it had and add value to it.

Harless said Paducah has everything it needs to grow and outlined a series of ‘firsts’ in 2017... her first year in office, hiring the city’s first female SWAT operator and the first citizen’s academy. She noted the city’s launch of a curbside recycling program and a new stormwater master plan. She has also created a calendar online where groups can invite her to have discussions about the city’s strategic plan.

“As you know we have been embarking on a strategic plan in the city, for the next two months I want to have a conversation with you about the strategic plan. Book me to come to one of your events to come and have this conversation.”

She said in the new year, Paducah will continue to address ‘hard’ issues with dignity and respect.

“We talked about race issues and confederate flags and confederate statues. We have a conversation right now in front of us, the question of who deserves protection from our human rights ordinance--and the same thing I know will be true, that we will have this conversation in our community with dignity, respect and compassion for one another.” Harless said.  

County Judge Executive Bob Leeper reiterated the need for compassion given the fiscal challenges that lie ahead, including the pension crisis.

“I want to brag on the Fiscal Court, because as the Mayor pointed out we have a very tough budget session coming up. Our legislators here and in Frankfort, if you have a praying soul about you, you will pray for everyone of them.” Leeper took a moment to gather his emotions.

He asked the audience to remember the stress that leaders in the community face and for people to be kind when airing grievances.


“You can not believe the emails and texts that legislators get.” He said. In developing the last three budgets he said county and city legislators have had the pension crisis in mind.  

“We are going to weather the storm no matter what the legislator does. We have positioned ourselves to do that.”

Leeper said all officials are searching for grants and means to fund projects without taking extra tax dollars.

“We are getting ready to spend $600 thousand on a jail. But understand that everything we do in county government this next year will be hampered by the financial constraints,” He said.

Leeper asked that going forward, each person take five seconds from their day to show gratitude to others in the community. “Tell someone that you don’t know, thank you. Tell them, you are doing a good job or you make this place better.” He said. “I’m asking you for that, but you know what I'm going to give back to you? One of the best years of your life.”


Nicole Erwin is a Murray native and started working at WKMS during her time at Murray State University as a Psychology undergraduate student. Nicole left her job as a PTL dispatcher to join the newsroom after she was hired by former News Director Bryan Bartlett. Since, Nicole has completed a Masters in Sustainable Development from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she lived for 2 1/2 years.
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