Mayor appoints Joe Smith to fill 2nd District vacancy after meeting several candidates

Joe Smith sworn in by Judge Pamela Goodwine.

Posted online May 26, 2017

Smith was Chairman of Lexington Catholic Board during lynch threat scandal

By Patrice K. Muhammad

Mayor Jim Gray appointed local realtor Joe Smith to city council, noting Smith’s wide range of experience in business and community service as contributing factors to his selection to represent the 2nd District.

“Joe is well prepared to be a Councilmember. He has been active in his neighborhood, in public service and is a Lexington native who cares about his hometown,” Gray said. “He brings energy and experience to the Second District seat.”

Smith has worked as a Realtor for 30 years in Lexington, and spent 10 years in banking.

A graduate of Lexington Catholic High School, Smith was a chairman of the school’s board of directors during the lynch threat scandal, and has never spoken publicly about the incident.

In 2016, a Black student was threatened with lynching by his Lexington Catholic High School football teammate. The story, first reported in The Key Newsjournal, broke the day before a warrant was issued for the arrest of the student issuing the threat.

The Catholic Diocese of Lexington and many prominent Catholics publicly denounced the actions of the student, some went as far as to condemn that actions of the administrators who were proven to have been aware of the threats for months before the story was made public.

However, Smith has remained silent on the issue even after leaving the board. When asked whether he spoke to any of the affected families or made a public statement denouncing anything related to the case Smith only said, that it was be “inappropriate to comment’’ due to the still pending litigation against the school.

Smith has served as a member of the City’s Planning Commission and on the Lyric Task Force Committee.

“I am excited and looking forward to the opportunity to work with and represent the people of the 2nd District,” Smith said and confirmed his intent to seek reelection in 2018.

Smith replaces Sasha Love Higgins, who voluntarily resigned April 27 after being arraigned on felony charges of identity theft, forgery, and theft by deception.

Several 2nd district residents were considered for the position including former 2nd district councilman Jacques
Wigginton, NAACP President Adrian Wallace and Assistant Director of Lexington’s Fair Housing Council Shayla Johnson.

Danny Murphy, Assistant Dean of Community Engagement and Diversity in the Univ. of Kentucky College of Law was also rumored to be a finalist. Murphy said that he was not interviewed for position and withdrew his name for consideration.

“I believe the mayor made an excellent choice in appointing Joe Smith,’’ said Murphy who does not plan to seek election in 2018.

Public defense attorney Daniel Whitley also withdrew his name from consideration before interviewing but does intend to challenge Smith for the seat in the next election.

Shayla Johnson remains interested in politics. “Upon my graduation from Emerge I do plan to run for a public office,’’ she said. Emerge is a training program for women in the Democratic Party who plan to seek election.

Former 2nd District Councilman Jacques Wigginton, is now a full-time pastor and parent and says that he is undecided on a future run.

Council had 15 days to overturn the Mayor’s appointment of Smith. There was no public comment during Council meetings of dissatisfaction with the choice. Several councilmembers attended Smith’s swearing in.

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