The reason I write this newsletter is twofold: to combat misinformation and to give the people (often women) of Anderson County a voice. We should be able to rely on our local newspaper for this. Sadly, we cannot.
This past fall, when I asked Democrats and Republicans why they would not even consider running for office in this election year, I heard a common refrain: “I don’t want to deal with the newspaper.” When I asked why, they responded with some version of, “I don’t need that in my life.”
This fear is not only unfortunate, it is unhealthy and a disservice to our community. The people of Anderson County deserve better.
The newspaper editor is the most powerful person in the county. He determines what makes the news and what does not; he decides what is urgent / breaking news; he directs public discourse toward this and away from that; he can discourage citizens who fear him from participating in civic life or running for office.
The 3 women in today’s newsletter (including me) are running for local office, and I am reminded of a Katie Couric quote: “A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are built for.”
ON THE RACE FOR COUNTY ATTORNEY
When Tiffany Azzinaro filed to run for Anderson County Attorney, the editor of The Anderson News asked if she would like to submit a statement for inclusion in the following week’s newspaper. This is the statement she sent him on January 5:
The past year has been a humbling, eye opening experience for me. The old saying, “everything happens for a reason” is true, as much as I did not want to hear those words in November 2020.
I have been blessed to experience the other side of the aisle, so to speak, in my private law practice, and while I have amazing clients, I miss public service.
While considering whether to run for County Attorney, I asked my son, Dylan, for his thoughts. “Mom, you and Dad have always said if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” he said. “It was never work to you at the County Attorney’s office. You love helping people. So yes.”
I have filed to run for Anderson County Attorney in the May 2022 Primary because I have a calling to serve my community. I have the support of Philip, Dylan, Carson, and my sweet mom. I believe I am the most qualified candidate for the job, and I am ready to talk with all of you about how we can make Anderson County a safe place for families and children to grow and prosper.
This is what the editor printed on January 12:
She will challenge incumbent County Attorney Robert Wiedo, who defeated her in the November 2020 special election when Azzinaro ran as a Democrat.
In a statement released last week, Azzinaro called the defeat a “humbling” experience and says she misses public service.
“I believe I am the most qualified candidate for the job, and I am ready to talk with all of you about how we can make Anderson County a safe place for families and children to grow and prosper,” said Azzinaro, who held the position on an interim basis following her predecessor’s two retirements.
I have questions:
- The editor states she held the position on an interim basis, which is technically true but egregiously misleading. Azzinaro served as Assistant County Attorney for 17 years. Is her almost-two decades of experience—as a public servant in the same office for which she is running—irrelevant?
- What does her predecessor’s retirement have to do with her candidacy?
- Azzinaro did not say that her 2020 defeat was a “humbling” experience. She said, “The past year has been a humbling, eye opening experience for me.” These are not the same thing. Why the misquote?
- Azzinaro sent the editor a 200 word statement. He printed 1/5 of it. If space was limited, why did he not specify, ‘Can you send me a 40 word statement?’ as is common practice?
ON THE BARN AT MCCALL SPRINGS
On January 21, Anderson County Building Inspector Lee White sent an email to Melissa Hanks, owner of The Barn at McCall Springs, at the corner of Hwy 127 and the Blue Grass Parkway. His email reads:
I am contacting you today regarding information that has been brought to my attention.
There has been a Facebook post made from your business page (The Barn at McCall Springs Wedding and Event Venue) on December 26, 2021 stating that a second wedding barn venue is being added Summer 2022 and that you are currently booking for weddings at said venue which prompts my following questions.
Where will this second venue be located? What work is to be completed to erect a structure or is there intent to retro-fit an existing structure as took place at 2160 Harrodsburg Road? Has work already started on any structure for this use?
Be advised that no permits that would be required have been pulled with the KY Department of Housing, Buildings & Construction for any structure to be constructed/renovated, no local building/zoning location permits that will be required have been obtained, no required application for conditional use through the Board of Zoning Adjustments of said use has been obtained nor has any type of development plan been submitted for required review through the Joint planning Commission.
Once I receive your responding email regarding this subject, I can then forward you any required applications so that we can make sure to take care of the required steps to ensure compliance. Be advised if any construction has begun, all work must cease immediately until all required permits have been obtained and approvals given for the intended use.
I have questions:
- Is it protocol for the county Building Inspector to send detailed instruction letters like this to business owners based on a social media post someone else said they saw?
- Mr. White’s letter assumes that Ms. Hanks is in the process of erecting a building without having submitted the necessary permits, applications, or plans. Why the assumption? Why not stop by to see for himself, or call her?
- The Facebook post in question (see below) is ambiguous, at best. Why the assumption that the new venue is being built on their existing property? Or even in Anderson County?
I have never been to an event at The Barn and, while I often see her at public meetings, I do not know Melissa Hanks personally. I spoke with Ms. Hanks on February 7 because I was curious as to why she received the above letter, a letter which seemed, frankly, odd. Below are the questions I asked Ms. Hanks, along with her answers:
Are you in the process of building a second wedding venue on your existing property? “No,” she replied, “We have not confirmed nor decided on a 2nd location at this time. We have just been in discussion. We are not sure if our 2nd location will even be in Anderson County.”
Why did you post this on your Facebook page on December 26? “We wanted to see what kind of response we would receive in regard to adding another venue,” she replied, “especially during this time of uncertainty.”
You replied to Mr. White’s email, stating that you and your husband “discussed after the first of the year to scale back and “wait out” the pandemic and rising construction prices. No construction, nor weddings have been booked at this time.” Did you receive a response from Mr. White? “Correct.” she said, “After the rise of construction costs and a rise again with the pandemic numbers we decided that it would be much smarter to wait it out and revisit it at a later date. I did not receive a response back from Mr. White.
Why do you believe you received this email vs. a phone call asking you about the Facebook post? “I am unsure as to why I even received any correspondence from the County Judge’s office regarding something on my Facebook page,” she wrote. “The truth is, I feel that I am being targeted because I am standing up against local County officials for allowing another business to come in and devastate my business and properties in the area. It is simply disheartening to think that they would not protect all businesses and property owners in this community.”
ON RUNNING FOR COUNTY MAGISTRATE
The day after I filed to run for Anderson County Magistrate, 6th District — yes, me, an outspoken Democrat registered as a Republican — two Anderson County friends called. One said, “Have you fallen and hit your head?” The other said, “You know everybody’s going to look at your paperwork to see who signed for you, right?”
First, I did not fall and hit my head, but it sure felt like it a month earlier when I attended a December 18 town hall led by elected Republicans Rep. James Tipton and Sen. Adrienne Southworth. For an hour and a half, I listened to Anderson Countians make shocking, conspiracy-theory-laden statements, none of which were pushed back on by the two elected leaders in the room. Statements like (and I’m paraphrasing):
Don’t go to the hospital if you have covid! The hospital is a black hole where you end up on a ventilator and die.
I wouldn’t go to the hospital with a broken leg right now.
Doctors are controlled by corporations and are not able to make their own medical decisions.
If you get covid, you don’t need a doctor. Just go to abcxyz.com website and you can get the drugs you want for $30.
What are you all doing in Frankfort to make sure we have our freedom!
I left this meeting thinking, “Dear God, normal people need to be running for office,” and then thought, “Hey, I’m normal.” Thanks to Rep. Tipton and Sen. Southworth for encouraging me to run.
I picked up the papers from the County Clerk’s office before I left for our January vacation. I would be back home the day before the filing deadline. I had time to think about it.
Which brings me to question number two above: Who signed for me?
On January 24, after traveling for about 14 hours overnight, I texted two Republican friends whom I’ve barely seen since March 2020 (thanks Covid-19) who said they’d be happy to sign for me. Then I called the clerk’s office to make sure they were in my district. I got home from the airport about 3 pm, grabbed the filing papers, and drove to my friends’ office with a notary public.
There is no more significance to who signed my paperwork than that, except that they are extraordinarily nice people and I am thankful to call them friends. Not very dramatic, I know, and no tea leaves to read. Sorry.
What is notable?
- I am taking zero campaign contributions. I do not want to owe anyone a favor.
- If I win, I will donate my entire salary each year (after taxes) to local charities.
- I intend to write about this race — the outspoken liberal woman running for a local Republican seat — for the Lexington Herald-Leader and other news outlets. I might even do some TV. Stay tuned.