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Candidates make their primary pitches at forum

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PVA race gets heated

Several county offices may not headline the ballot this May primary, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be interesting races to follow, if speeches given at a candidate forum on Tuesday are any indication. Candidates for several countywide offices, plus for county magistrate positions spoke at a forum held by the Oldham Chamber and Economic Development and the Oldham Era. Candidates were given three minutes to speak and no rebuttals were allowed after a candidate spoke, leaving some candidates an easy avenue to raise doubts about their opponents. That was the case for property value administrator candidates Barbara Winters and Albert Harrison. Speaking first, Winters touted her eight years as current chief deputy PVA and nine total years in the PVA office. During that time, Winters said, the office has created a new website, increased the amount of public terminals accessible in the office and recovered more than $50,000 in back taxes from individuals who had avoided paying property taxes.

“I know how to do the job,” Winters said. “I’m not going to ask someone else to do the job.”

But when Harrison, who spoke second after winning a coin flip to determine speaking order, took the podium, he cast doubt on Winter’s time in the PVA office.

“What kind of person do you want in that office,” Harrison said. Noting the PVA affects people in the county the most, since property taxes are used as a baseline for other taxes, Harrison called into question the assessment on the house Winters currently lives in, located in Skylight.

Using public documents on the assessment, Harrison questioned why Winters residence was valued at $45 per square foot, when most homes in the county are assessed at roughly $80 per square foot, including Harrison’s home.

“It’s 13 years newer than my home,” Harrison said. “I’m not sure how those numbers are done. Is it fair? I’m not sure. Is it legal? I’m not sure. Is it honest? I don’t think so.”

According to records provided by Harrison, the home went down in value starting in 2011.

After the forum, Winters said Harrison did not compare “apples to apples” with his approach to valuing her residence. The home receives a farming exemption on its property taxes, since current homeowner John Detherage currently maintains a nursery on the property. If Harrison compared the full cash value on the home instead of the agricultural value, it would show it’s valued correctly, Winters said.

“Plus, I’m not the PVA right now and the PVA approved it,” Winters said.

In an interview after the forum, Detherage, who is running for constable said he bought the home at a discount because of necessary repairs the property needed before he moved in.

“My house, being 30 years old and needing repairs, was valued correctly,” he said. “The house does need an enormous amount of work.”

Candidates for other offices often focused on their own candidates when speaking.

Oldham County Sheriff Steve Sparrow, who’s running for re-election, focused on turning the office into a 24/7 operation from a part-time office, as well as his relationships fostered on a state and federal level. He also promoted the accreditation of the office, the fifth sheriff’s office in the state to get awarded the honor, Sparrow said.

His opponent, Ricky Simmons, promoted the idea of sending deputies into the county’s schools on a daily basis, from elementary to high schools, as well as helping alleviate traffic around the schools. He also advocated for opening the sheriff’s office on Saturday’s for half a day.

“I’m well qualified to lead the sheriff’s office,” Simmons said. “Give me four years to see what I can do.”

Buford Cobb, a candidate for coroner, promoted his business and funeral home experience as qualifications for running. He also said he planned to stay in Oldham County and have assistants who also lived in the county, should he be elected, while accusing the incumbent coroner, Brett Donner, of slow response times because of his ties to Louisville. Donner did not attend the forum.

Magistrate races

Several contesting races for magistrate were also featured at the forum. A three-way race for Magistrate District 2 led off that portion of the forum.

Debbie Neal Pate, one of two challengers for the seat, said her experience with the county GOP women’s club and involvement with local issues qualified her to be magistrate.

“I think it’s good people run against each other and have a choice,” she said. “My daddy said I’ll never make a good politician and I promise I never will.”

Neil Pierce, also a candidate for District 2, advocated for more openness from Fiscal Court.

“Fiscal Court has done a good job managing the county, but where I think we have an opportunity to improve is by engaging our citizens. We need to get our citizens more informed, more engaged.”

Current Magistrate Wayne Theiss, who is representing areas of the county he previously didn’t thanks for redistricting, said his experience on the court qualified him for re-election.

“As chairman of the finance committee, all of our budgets have been balanced,” Theiss said. “And we’ve reduced debt by $8 million. All this has been done without a tax increase. Of that I’m extremely proud, as I’m sure all magistrates are.”

The other three-person primary for a magistrate seat, in District 3, also featured two challengers running against incumbent Bob Leslie.

Jon Bednarski, a candidate for District 3, cited his experience as a businessman and his civic involvement in agriculture and with the Oldham Chamber as his qualifications as a magistrate.

“If elected I will bring the knowledge of environmental conservation to Oldham County’s resources,” he said. “I also understand the agricultural community in this county.”

Shari Broeckner, another challenger in District 3, said her experience as small business owner and civic involvement in the Republican Women’s Club helped her as experience to be magistrate.

“I have conservative values, I’m a wife and a mother,” she said. “Plus, I feel like we need a female perspective on the court.”

The last contested race at the forum was between Iva Davis, a former District 5 magistrate and current magistrate for the district, JD Sparks.

Davis touted her private business experience and work as a magistrate from 2004 to 2010 as reasons to elect her back to the position.

“I believe my work in the private sector and community service make me most qualified.”

Sparks touted his recent endorsement by the National Rifle Association, a rarity for a local election he said, plus his conservative values.

“I love working for you every single day,” Sparks said. “I don’t wait for problems to come to me, I search for problems. I think I have made a difference and I’ve helped pave a lot of roads in my district that haven’t been paved in decades.”

The entirety of the speeches will be broadcast at a later date on Time Warner’s Channel 25.

Email us about this story at editor@oldhamera.com.