Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bert May, October 15, 2002

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

BIRDWHISTELL: It's, uh, October 15 2002. We're here in the League of Cities offices, and, uh -- do people still call you mayor?

MAY: A few do --(both laugh)-- and I always tell them that that's not necessary. That's old news. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, you know --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- when people have titles like that, they sort of follow them --

MAY: (laughs) Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- the rest of their lives. Mayor Burton May is what you go by sometimes, I guess, and, uh -- I appreciate you doing this, this morning. Um, as I said before I turned on the tape recorder -- by the way, this is very informal, very conversational, if you need to stop. MAY: Alright.

BIRDWHISTELL: We can, we can just talk here. Um, what I'm trying to do in interviewing mayors, uh, around the state is to -- and this is the first time I've interviewed a mayor not in their town.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Since you're now, uh, with the League of Cities, uh, and we're here today at, at the offices. But tell me about your family's roots in Mount Sterling. I know, uh, obviously your father was a business person here, but how far back do your, uh, do your roots go?


MAY: Well --(clears throat)-- actually, my, um, father's father bought a farm in Clark County, uh, back in the early twenties. And, of course, uh, it's right on -- close to the Montgomery County line, so Mount Sterling is where they came to do most of their trading. And, um, then my, um, my father's mother, um, her father actually moved to Mount Sterling in, uh, 1912. In f-- in fact, he was a medical doctor and moved from Morgan County to Mount Sterling and, uh, bought the house that I live in today.

BIRDWHISTELL: What was his name?

MAY: His name was John Lockhart, Dr. John Lockhart.

BIRDWHISTELL: Where did he get his, uh, medical training?

MAY: (sighs) You know, I don't honestly know.


MAY: I really don't and I should know that. But, uh, I do not, but he, uh, like I say, he moved from the Morgan County, actually in the Ezel 00:02:00area. And, uh, um, came in, in 1912. Actually bought the house that I live in and, uh, lived upstairs and had a, uh, a medical practice on the ground floor.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. Is that right downtown?

MAY: It is. It is. And we really don't know how old the house is because Deed Book One burnt with the courthouse during the Civil War --


MAY: -- and the first listing of the house, uh, it was in -- that we have is in Deed Book Two --(clears throat)-- in 1870 and at that time -- of course, I'm a block away from the courthouse.


MAY: And, uh -- one block -- I'm on the corner of High and Howard, and that's, uh, one block, uh, north of Main Street and, uh, one block, uh, west of Maysville Street, which is just --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- really, you know, one block away from the very center of town.

BIRDWHISTELL: How about that?

MAY: And, uh, but in 1870, the house was a, uh, house and farm, a thirty-five acre farm, by the way, uh --


MAY: -- on the old Paris dirt road, which is now High Street. But that 00:03:00was the way to Paris and it was a dirt road at that time.


MAY: So. And it had been used for a school several times. It tur-- it changed hands several times. Of course, some of the property was sold off, and --


MAY: Now it's just a very small lot with it, but.


MAY: Um, that was, um -- actually the, the fellow that started KMI [editor's note: Kentucky Military Institute], at one time had a, uh, school there in that house.


MAY: Yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, those academies and schools were just everywhere and we don't know enough about those --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: --places. They were so important. Um, so, your, uh, mother's father came to Mount Sterling probably looking to expand his practice, right?

MAY: Well, this actually -- this was my father's, um, grandfather.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mother's -- okay.

MAY: My father's mother's father.

BIRDWHISTELL: All right. Thank you.

MAY: Okay.

BIRDWHISTELL: I knew I didn't have that right --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and I didn't write it down. And, uh, so he came looking to expand probably his practice.

MAY: I suppose so.


MAY: Had one of the first automobiles in the county.


MAY: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Huh. Yeah, I was looking at, uh, some historical articles 00:04:00on Mount Sterling, and they were talking about the cars coming to town, and, uh --

MAY: Uh-huh. And of course, that's right up my alley. My father was a new car dealer. (clears throat)

BIRDWHISTELL: How did he get into that?

MAY: Um, actually, he got back from World War II and had always been interested in cars and a, um, a fellow put him and another fellow together, and uh, -- actually my father got in the service station business originally.


MAY: And a --(clears throat)-- another fellow, which was the uncle of his partner, put the two of them together and actually, in, uh -- I guess in '48, they became the Kaiser-Frazer dealer.


MAY: And of course, Kaiser-Frazer has evolved into American Motors, and it came -- well, actually Willys, uh -- came into Kaiser-Frazer and, then, it evolved into American Motors and eventually, uh, Chrysler bought them. But, uh, then, uh, but they weren't a Kaiser-Frazer dealer too long and they got a GMC truck franchise in '49 and they got 00:05:00Plymouth and DeSoto in '50.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. So, how did they get the capital to do that? Where does all that come from?

MAY: It didn't take much capital in those days. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Just took a little willing?

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm always curious when people get into business, you know, uh, some people never get into business and other people get in --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and are always successful. And I'm always -- and it's like -- I've learned to ask how that happened --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- sometimes there's, uh, capital in the family, sometimes it's borrowed, sometimes it just doesn't take much.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, um, so, you're, you're born in Mount Sterling? In --

MAY: That's right. I was born in Mount Sterling in 1953.

BIRDWHISTELL: Nineteen fifty-three?

MAY: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, why does your family all hang around Mount Sterling? You know, in Kentucky, a lot of times during this post-World War II period, it's just a fact, that a generation comes along, either your father's generation or your generation and leaves Mount Sterling. What is it about your family that, uh, keeps you all there?


MAY: Well, I don't know. Uh, of course, you know, it's different. Like, I've got a sister that's three years older than I am, and of course she graduated from Mount Sterling High School and then four years later when she graduated from UK, she stayed in Lexington.


MAY: And of course, moved, uh, moved to Memphis one time, but now she's back in Lexington. And, uh, you know, it's funny with her three years older, there's a, a lot of people -- especially when I ran for mayor the first time, you know, with her being gone as long as she had, there was a lot of new people who didn't even know I had a sister.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. Well, I have, uh, two brothers, who stayed in Lawrenceburg for a long time, and I left in '68 for college and never went back and they, they assumed they only had two sons.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) I know that feeling. (both laugh) But, uh, what was it like, uh, growing up in Mount Sterling? Tell me what your memories are. You are so close to the heart of the city. Your father, uh, a business person there. I assume your mother very active in the 00:07:00community.

MAY: Yes. And actually, of course, my mother was not a Mount Sterling native. She, um, when -- actually when my father was, uh -- went into, uh, the Army during World War II, he was sent to the University of Nebraska, uh, to take some classes. And, uh, actually that's where he met my mother. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is she from Nebraska?

MAY: She's from -- is from Lincoln.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. As they say, she's not from around here. (laughs)

MAY: No, she's not from around here. (laughs) But, you know, that's a funny thing. It takes people a long time to become accepted, I think. And so, she's been here, uh, I guess, uh, well, nearly sixty years now, so she's beginning to be accepted, I guess. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: You know that joke where a woman moves as a child to this community, she lives there, she dies at ninety-eight, she's been active in the community. At the funeral they get up and say, "Well she wasn't one of us, but she was--"

MAY: Yeah. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: "-- the next best thing." (both laugh)

MAY: That's kind of the way it is sometimes. But I don't know, I've, uh, just, uh, have always enjoyed the community and had a lot of close 00:08:00ties, and, you know, when I graduated from high school, there was, uh, in '71, there was seventy-four in our class and we were really a close class.

BIRDWHISTELL: Seventy-four in '71.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's, that's, and -- was that in Montgomery County?

MAY: No, that was Mount Sterling. They were still an independent school.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, that was still Mount Sterling High School.

MAY: Yeah.


MAY: Yeah. I think it was '74 or five when the schools consolidated.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's pretty small.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: For that time period.

MAY: Yeah, well, of course, my sister graduated from high school in '68 and there was sixty-eight of them. (both laugh) So that's something that really needed to happen.

BIRDWHISTELL: I didn't realize the old Mount Sterling High School went that --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- went that long. So as a kid growing up, is this kind of like Mayberry to you? Can you just walk down the street and -------- --(??) --?

MAY: Oh, yeah. I mean, it's, um -- usually we'd get a ride or, um, a mother or a, um, a neighbor would, uh, alternate taking us to school. But usually we'd walk home from school.


MAY: And, uh, you know, it's just -- you'd just walk anywhere you wanted 00:09:00to go.


MAY: We had -- actually had stores downtown, we had a couple of ten-cent stores --


MAY: -- drugstores with a fountain.

BIRDWHISTELL: You said they had theaters downtown at that point?

MAY: Not downtown.


MAY: We had --

BIRDWHISTELL: Most of those would probably be gone by then.

MAY: Yeah. Yeah, long gone.

BIRDWHISTELL: But it's a great place to, to grow up.

MAY: Oh, I really -- it really was.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, I assume your father prospered in his business there. That was a --

MAY: He, he, uh, made a decent living for us. (both laugh) We were by far -- far from wealthy, but, uh, were comfortable.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. I didn't -- I didn't mean get rich.

MAY: Yeah, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: But it was a good place to have a business, have a ------- ---(??) --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- have a family.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was there anything in your memory from your childhood that stands out about Mount Sterling? Any events or sort of out-of-the- ordinary things that come to mind?

MAY: Well, Court Day is always a big attraction.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, that's right.

MAY: And that's been--

BIRDWHISTELL: And as a kid, that must have been a --


MAY: And that's actually probably the oldest, continuous festival --


MAY: -- maybe in the country.


MAY: Because, uh, you know, in 1796, the legislature said that their -- each county seat must hold court --


MAY: -- uh, one day a month. And of course, the third Monday in the month was the, the day that court was held --(clears throat)-- in Montgomery County. Of course, Mount Sterling is the county seat, so that's where it was. And, of course, the October court always generated the largest crowds because that's the, the time that the farmers had their crops harvested --


MAY: -- and their, uh -- then any kind of crafts, if they made brooms or any kind of tools or whatever things they might produce, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: And the politicians showed up.

MAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Elections. (laughs)

MAY: And elections coming up, oh yeah. But they would bring their items, their -- what they had, their produce, and whatever they had to town --


MAY: -- to sell it or to trade it for supplies that they needed for the winter. Of course, you know, back then they may not come back to town until spring.



MAY: So, you know, of course, the counties -- the hundred and twenty counties that we have in Kentucky, actually the third highest number in the nation.


MAY: But they were started under the theory that nobody should be more than one day's horseback ride, uh, away from doing their business at the courthouse and getting home.


MAY: So, uh --(clears throat)-- you know, these people may not come back to town till spring --


MAY: -- and they needed to get in there all the supplies that they needed. And of course, then they get to see the trials and if there were any hangings, they got to see them too, so. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you hang around the courthouse much as a kid? Did you, or ----------(??) in the public --?

MAY: Uh, well, not a, not a great deal. Of course, I would, a lot of times, I would go, uh, to, uh, transfer vehicles for my father. You know, I'd would hang around the garage a lot when I was a kid.


MAY: The automobiles really got in my blood.


MAY: Of course, I --


MAY: -- actually bought my first car when I was twelve years old.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that --(May clears throat)-- a 1949 Willys Overland Jeepster.

MAY: That's right. (Birdwhistell laughs) That's right. You've done 00:12:00some research. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: And do you still own it? (both laugh)

MAY: I do. (clears throat) I fixed it up. Of course, you know, my father -- I had talked about, uh, a car. My father had said, "Well, why don't we get you an old one, so you can learn something about them?" And, you know, I -- actually I saw this thing advertised in the Lexington paper one day. I was twelve years old, a few months short of being thirteen, and I saw it in the Lexington paper. My father had to go to Lexington that day and I said, "Go by and look at this car," --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- "and if it looks like it is worth the money, write a check." On me. by him. And of course that was the days of counter checks, you know.


MAY: He just got a counter check, and, uh, took one that I had a bank account in, wrote it and signed it -- my name by him. (Birdwhistell laughs) And I --(clears throat)-- spent $178.50 that day. (Birdwhistell laughs) Got home from school and it was in the backyard.


MAY: Yeah.


MAY: So --

BIRDWHISTELL: How did you make the money?

MAY: Oh, mowing yards and, uh, working in the pro shop at the country club, and just -- I did all kinds of things, too. (Birdwhistell 00:13:00laughs) I always worked to make money.

BIRDWHISTELL: An entrepreneur from the start.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you had this car.

MAY: So, I fixed it up, took my driver's test in it and still have it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. Now of course it made news, I guess, back when you were mayor. You would, uh, put part of a holiday display, right?

MAY: Oh, for the last ten or twelve years I've, uh, put it in the front yard at Christmas time, and put a Santa Claus behind the steering wheel. And I made some -- uh, eight reindeer out of rebar, number nine wire, outlined them in white lights and --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- put them in front of it, with red ribbon tied to the front bumper, like the reindeer are pulling the Jeepster.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, that's great, that's great.

MAY: So. Yeah, Dick Burdett did a story on that.


MAY: That's where you found your research, I guess. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Yes. Now, when you were growing up in Mount Sterling, uh, today, people, uh -- well, as a matter of fact, you used to say when you were mayor that, uh, the drive between Lexington and Mount Sterling is not too bad. And then when you left the mayor's office, you said you wouldn't touch that now, but. (May laughs) When you were growing 00:14:00up, was Lexington what you gravitated to? Was that a place that you thought about much?

MAY: It really was. I mean, we had some nice clothing stores downtown, a couple of men's stores -- or actually, at one time, three men's stores and -- in addition to the Belk's and the J.C. Penney's, you know, that, uh, that also had men's clothing, so we had a lot of things. But, there were still a number of things you had to come to Lexington for, and in fact I can remember when I was fourteen or fifteen years old, uh, sometimes a group of us would, uh, ride the train over on a Saturday morning.

BIRDWHISTELL: Really? You still did that?

MAY: Oh yeah. We'd ride --

BIRDWHISTELL: That would have been about--

MAY: Well, it -- the last train service was in nineteen -- the last passenger service was 1971.


MAY: Yeah, uh-huh. I remember --

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm learning everything. I mean, that, that, that, that really surprises me.

MAY: Well, the reason I remember that is because I was a senior in high school in seventy-- like January or February of '71, and, uh, I rode the train to Washington, D.C. to a presidential classroom for young Americans.

BIRDWHISTELL: You don't forget that.

MAY: Yeah, and just a few months later they con-- discontinued passenger 00:15:00service. Now, freight service didn't go out until about '85 or six.


MAY: And that's when they started taking the tracks up.

BIRDWHISTELL: I was surprised when I read the profile of the city that the closest, um, rail service was in Clark County.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's -- I mean, I was shocked.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) It just never occurred to me that a place like Mount Sterling didn't have a --

MAY: Yeah, afraid so.

BIRDWHISTELL: Why would they take tracks up?

MAY: Well, I don't know. That was a nightmare. Of course, that was about the -- that was happening right before I came in office.

BIRDWHISTELL: And things were really depressed at that time, weren't they?

MAY: Well, and they got worse.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because of Whirlpool?

MAY: Yeah, and Whirlpool went out in '90.

BIRDWHISTELL: We'll get to all of that. But, it just surprised me, because I think of Mount Sterling as a, as a works place. I mean, a place where people are busy.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, where things are happening. I mean, passenger service is one thing, but freight rail service, that's a -- but I guess the interstate changed the community --

MAY: Oh, it did. That's why rail service has declined everywhere, you 00:16:00know, everybody with their just-in-time delivery, you know, they've got to have there on a timely -- in a timely fashion. And it takes trucks to do that.


MAY: You know, it can't be sitting in a rail yar-- rail yard somewhere waiting on a switch to go another direction.

BIRDWHISTELL: I think they made a huge mistake.

MAY: Oh, I do too. (Birdwhistell laughs) And I really was born -- and of course with my love of antique cars, and -- I think I was born a hundred years too late. (Birdwhistell laughs) You know, I, I'd like to have been around in the days and, of course, I wouldn't have been able to afford it, but -- in the days of the private rail cars.


MAY: You know, I mean, that would be the way to travel to me.

BIRDWHISTELL: That would be. (May laughs) That would be. I think Ned Breathitt was the last guy to have one. (laughs)

MAY: Oh, yeah? (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, that's interesting that you would, uh, remember taking the train over. That's --

MAY: Well, what we'd do, and it was really great, uh, the train was really great for people that worked in Lexington and lived in Mount Sterling, because it left at, hell, I don't know, a little after seven 00:17:00in the morning --


MAY: -- and, uh, would get home at a little after six at night. So we had a lot of people that commuted to Lexington by train --


MAY: -- to work. But what we would do, we'd come over. There would be four or five or six of us that would ride the train over in the morning, and we'd go see a movie and --


MAY: -- fool around downtown. And then we would ride the bus home and get home in the middle of the afternoon.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. That's not bad.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's not bad. Um, was your father or mother involved in public affairs, public life in, uh, Mount Sterling?

MAY: Uh, my father was very active in the Lions Club and was -- has held all the offices of the local Lions Club up to President and, uh, several years ago was given, actually a lifetime membership in Lions Club, which is done very few people.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, what's his name?

MAY: Jack May.

BIRDWHISTELL: My father will know him.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: My father is a big Lions --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- Club man. (laughs)

MAY: So, uh, and, uh -- but, you know, it's funny, of course, I was, uh -- I have run for office, let's see, three times for council, four 00:18:00times for mayor, so I've been on the ballot seven times and my father has never contributed to a campaign other than he has to mine, and the latest ones when, uh, they got a little heated, but -- (laughs)


MAY: Uh, but has never worked for a campaign, never -- you know, has basically been apolitical. But he always votes.

BIRDWHISTELL: You think that's just because of his business, uh, situation?

MAY: Well, probably, but I don't know. He just, uh, he, he never really would take a stand publically on anything political like that, and that probably was for business reasons.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. What about your mother?

MAY: Um, probably about the same way, you know, they were, they're not -- they're just not very active. But they never miss voting.


MAY: You know, they always vote. But they just don't take an active role in the campaign.


MAY: And it kind of, I've kind of wondered where, um, where I got it, because I've, you know, been very interested in politics.


MAY: And, uh, uh, then come to find out maybe ten years ago that, uh, my 00:19:00great-great-grandfather, David May, um, was, actually -- of course he was from Pike County. The -- that branch --


MAY: -- came here from Pike County. But, uh --(clears throat)-- he actually served in the Kentucky House.

BIRDWHISTELL: Really, from?

MAY: From Pike County. Uh, but was, uh, expelled for giving speeches sympathetic to the Southern movement. (both laugh) And he, uh, he then joined the Confederate forces and was actually killed in the Battle of Cynthiana.


MAY: During the Civil War.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, are you related to Bill May?

MAY: We could probably track it, yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Bill's pretty good.

MAY: Well. (both laugh) And of course, distantly related to the Andrew Jackson May, that, uh, was a U.S., uh, representative, uh, from the Prestonsburg area.


BIRDWHISTELL: Because I saw your name involved in a name reunion.

MAY: Yeah, uh-huh, yeah. Yeah, there's a -- of course, the lodge at Jenny Wiley is the, the May Lodge, and that was after Andrew Jackson May, which is --


MAY: -- um, a distant cousin. But, uh --


MAY: And of course, he was, uh, quite the politician and I think he was, uh, he actually even did a little time. (both laugh) He had -- it seems like, seems that he was, uh, I think the chair of the Ways and Means committee and, uh, it seems maybe the War Department did a little business with some companies that he might have had an interest in.


MAY: Yeah. Andrew Jackson May.

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. Sure, I know about him. The Jackson was throwing me.

MAY: Yeah. So that's, that's distant.

BIRDWHISTELL: I re-- remember that. I didn't make the connection.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm. In Kentucky, if you just pay attention it all comes together. (both laugh) But you got to pay attention. Um, so when you 00:21:00were growing up, you, you were interested in public affairs?

MAY: Well, I was interested in things in high school. I mean, I was, uh, on the student council. I was president of the high Y (??) --


MAY: -- uh, my senior year, and, uh -- active in a lot of things like that. But, uh --


MAY: And then, of course I was interested in the, I got interested in the Governor's race in '71, the one Wendell Ford won.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Um-hm. You got interested in the primary?

MAY: Uh, yeah. Actually I did.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, who were you for in the primaries?

MAY: For Ford. Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: You were? How did that happen?

MAY: Uh, I don't know. I just, uh, just liked him, and --

BIRDWHISTELL: That was a tough race. Bert Combs --

MAY: Um-hm. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and Wendell Ford.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: And he was the underdog.

MAY: Yeah, but evidently there was a lot of us in the end -- (Birdwhistell laughs)-- because he sh--(both laugh)-- did well. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Boy, that's interesting --

MAY: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- that you got involved in it. And, that's that's -- as you were, uh, looking to finish high school, what kind of plans did you 00:22:00have? What were you thinking about?

MAY: I knew I was going to be in the car business the rest of my life.


MAY: And so, here I am, you know. (both laugh) How things change.

BIRDWHISTELL: So what were you going to do to prepare to get into the car business? Have you felt like you prepared your whole life for that?

MAY: Well, pretty much. Uh, of course, uh, I went to UK -- I just -- actually, I just went two years. One thing I really reget-- regret now.


MAY: But I knew what I was going to do, what I wanted to do the rest of my life. Then, uh, then, uh --(clears throat)-- after two years at UK, I went to, uh, the Chrysler Corporation School in Detroit on Leadership Management.


MAY: Yeah.


MAY: And, uh, came back from that and went to work.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's hard at that age when you have something right out in front of you and then you know that's what you want to do, to stay another two years in college.

MAY: Yeah, and it -- you know, I just didn't really see -- and like I say, I regret that now, because I do not have a degree.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. You know, it's --(both laugh)-- I, I think -- I 00:23:00don't think those things are hard to understand.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, a lot of people go to college to find their way, and you knew what --

MAY: And the school I went to in Detroit where I got more practical knowledge about what I knew I was going to do the rest of my life, than, you know, than I would have had with a graduate degree, probably.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you enjoy your two years at U.K.?

MAY: Oh, I did. I had a good time. Yeah, I really had a good time.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. And what did your parents think when you said that you're not going back to college?

MAY: Well, I don't think they were pleased, but, uh, they respected my wishes. And I think my, I think my father was probably pleased that I wanted to come into the business.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Was it just you and your sister?

MAY: Yeah. Um-hm. Yeah, and of course by this time, she was, she was gone. (clears throat) I mean, away from Mount Sterling.


MAY: Uh, and she didn't want any, any part of the business, and of course, what really turned on the business was, uh, that my father had a fifty-fifty partnership. Even if he'd given me what eventually would have been my share, I would have still had three-fourths of the 00:24:00business to have bought.


MAY: And of course, by this time it was the, the early eighties and, uh, we were a Chrysler dealer and we were going through the loan guarantees, which was really a tremendous deal for the government. I mean there were -- a lot of people badmouth it --


MAY: -- but the real estate was worth more than the government loan.


MAY: And, uh, plus if they had put all those people out of work, the welfare rolls would have skyrocketed, so -- and the government made a fortune when Chrysler turned around, on their guarantees.

BIRDWHISTELL: Let's talk about that for a minute. You've reminded me of what an interesting situation that was. You got -- uh, had finished your two years in college. You go and get your dealership training and you come back and you're, I guess, you're an employee of the company.

MAY: That's correct. I was just an employee at that time.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. And you're -- you had to do ev-- probably had to do everything they --(laughs)-- needed to have done at that point. You know --

MAY: Very small dealership --


MAY: -- and we did, basically any of us did about anything.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now you would sell cars yourself?

MAY: I did. That was --

BIRDWHISTELL: And manage your service department?

MAY: Whatever was necessary.


BIRDWHISTELL: The administrative part of it. You were just making -- you helped your dad.

MAY: Well, and, and if need be and if somebody was in a real hurry to do something and everybody else was busy, I was known to turn a wrench too.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you could fix a car, too?

MAY: Oh yeah. And still can. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: That doesn't surprise me. I admire you for that. I can't. (both laugh) It's funny, I come in here today telling you I just dropped my car off --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- to have it repaired. (both laugh) There is some irony there. Uh, but here you are, you made a decision not to finish college. You made a decision to get into this car business at maybe the -- one of the most difficult times since the Depression, I would assume. In a post-World War world, this might be the worst time to be involved in a Chrysler, uh, dealership. How did you handle that in terms of, uh, thinking about your livelihood and your future?

MAY: Well, I was very optimistic, and --


MAY: Oh, yeah. And of course we were also a GMC truck dealer, and, you know --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, that kind of gave you a little --

MAY: Well --(clears throat)-- I really believed in the product and I thought we'd, we'd do fine. Of course, really I got started in a 00:26:00little bit before the really bad times.


MAY: But --(clears throat)-- you know, I was, uh, like I say, but it was a very small dealership, and everybody did a little bit of everything, and um, you know, and I really tried to do things a lot differently and, and got pretty good support, you know. I would go, um, up to, uh, up into the Cleveland area, buying Chrysler leasing cars --


MAY: -- about twice a month and, and, uh, bring them home by the truckload and start selling them, and, of course we were on an allocation system with GMC trucks, and you only get what you sell, basically. And, so I started, uh, ordering a locator, and if somebody came in wanting a truck, and I'd find them what they want and I'd go get it.


MAY: To generate that allocation, you know.

BIRDWHISTELL: You'd get it.

MAY: So, we -- I did a lot of traveling around this state and neighboring states, you know, picking up vehicles --


MAY: -- just to, to sell to get the allocation built up, just we could -- when we ordered something, we'd get it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was your dad proud of what you were doing?

MAY: Oh, I think so. I think so. (clears throat) But then it got to 00:27:00the point when I realized that maybe the new car business wasn't such a great idea. And, of course, by that time I had started my own leasing company.

BIRDWHISTELL: How did you come about doing that? Is that --(May clears throat)-- weren't you ahead of the curve on that?

MAY: Well, uh, yeah. Really I was.

BIRDWHISTELL: I saw that -- I kind of thought, wow, a leasing company.

MAY: Um, I'd, uh -- actually it was 1976 and I was in the Jaycees, and, um, fellow from here in Lexington was, uh, running for president of the Kentucky Jaycees and won. And, uh, I had gotten to know him pretty well and he knew I was in the car business, and he said, "I'm gonna need a new car and I want to lease one." I said, "Well, I'll lease you one." Of course, I, you know, was pretty fresh out of school, and --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- knowing a little bit about it. So I just, uh, figured up the car he wanted, what it was going to cost, and figured up how long he wanted it and what the interest rates were, and what I thought it would be worth when it came in off lease and I put the numbers together. And of course, my father was pretty agreeable with whatever I said, so I took the figures to his partner and said, 00:28:00"I've got a lease deal here, if you want to get into it," and showed him what I had and he didn't really seem at all interested in it and I thought, "Well, I've already told the guy I'm going to do it." I went ahead and ordered the car, and when it came in and I went to the bank and borrowed the money --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and said, "Here's your car." And so he started paying me every month. (both laugh) And it just kind of mushroomed from there.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's an interesting story. Based on one car lease.

MAY: Uh-huh, yeah.


MAY: So, uh, and then of course I have -- had started that, and I actually left, uh, their business, to work in my own leasing business and my -- and the used car business. And got into the car wash business on the side.


MAY: The car wash business.


MAY: I bought a car wash.


MAY: Yeah.


MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you were looking at opportunities, uh --

MAY: Well, the car wash business was going to be my retirement.


MAY: And then about, uh, I guess, eight years ago or so I was, uh -- of course, by then I was mayor, and was active with League of Cities --



MAY: -- and had been on the board since the first month I was in office and I was about to become president of the League at that time. And a fellow came in, and of course I did all my own repair work. I fixed the hoses and the pumps and whatever it needed. When, uh, um, I had a fellow come in and asked me to price it. And I knew how much traveling I was going to be doing for the League that year as president, and I put a price on it and he said okay.

BIRDWHISTELL: He bought it. (both laugh) Is the dealership, car dealership still in business?

MAY: No, they sold out in '87.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So you never were, uh, owner --?

MAY: Never was owner of the new car dealership, no.

BIRDWHISTELL: I thought that might be the case.

MAY: I did have a -- did have my own dealer's license --


MAY: -- but that was for the used cars and, and leasing business.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Was that a sad day when you sold, when your family sold the --?

MAY: No, not really. Um, you know, uh, that was in April of '87, so my father would have been sixty-six, and he, uh, retired and his, his 00:30:00health still good. He's doing well.


MAY: So, uh, you know, I mean that was a, really a --


MAY: I was kind of glad to see it, to tell you the truth.

BIRDWHISTELL: But you weren't in the situation to want to buy the dealership at that point?

MAY: No. I just decided that I didn't want the new car business. I kind of liked what I was doing. And, uh, then, uh, of course, uh, I did buy every used vehicle they had, including the '50 model GMC wrecker that they put in service new.


MAY: Still have that too by the way. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you know Mike Tewell?

MAY: Toll?


MAY: Tool.

BIRDWHISTELL: He was with Glenn and now he's with Glenn Toyota.

MAY: No, I don't know him.

BIRDWHISTELL: I thought you might. You all are about the same age and I, uh, bought a car from him in, like, 1974. It may have been the first car he ever sold. (both laugh) He's been so nice to me since --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- I'm pretty sure it was probably the first car he sold. (both laugh) But, I, I figured maybe your all's paths had crossed.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's an aside. ----------(??)

MAY: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, so you're, you're in Mount Sterling. You're developing 00:31:00your reputation as a business person. You're active in the Jaycees, uh -- it's hard not to get into public life if you're in the Jaycees --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- seems to me.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh, tell me about getting active in public affairs in Mount Sterling.

MAY: Well, I can tell you the exact date. Um, it was -- I was working for my father and his partner and, uh, it was Hunt & May Motor Company, and --


MAY: -- uh, phone rang and it was for me one day. And it was, uh, March 25 1977. And it was the Chevrolet dealer down the street --


MAY: -- uh, Dallas Clean. And, uh, he said, "Uh, we've got, uh, two doctors that are on the city council, uh, Dr. McKenna and Dr. Salsbury that are not going to run again and you need to run." (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh, so I, you know, like you say, coming out of the -- being in the Jaycees and being active in a lot of things, I 00:32:00thought that was probably a pretty good idea. So we got to talking and figuring, and of course the filing deadline was, uh, it was different then. The filing deadline is in January now, but it was in April in those days. So many days before the April primary. And, um --(clears throat)-- it turned out I was leaving that afternoon to go to Ashland for my rehearsal dinner; I was getting married on the twenty-sixth. (Birdwhistell laughs) So we realized that if I was going to file, the filing deadline was going to expire while I was on my honeymoon. We realized if I was going to file -- of course the filing date was going to expire while I was on my honeymoon, and so --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- we realized if I was going to file, I was going to do it that day or it wasn't going to happen for another two years. So--


MAY: -- and, so, I did. And I, I filed that day. I told my wife at the rehearsal dinner, "Oh, by the way, I filed for city council today." (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: And she said, "Anything else you need to tell me?" (both laugh)

MAY: Yeah. So, uh, anyway, I filed and, uh, and there were, I think, like seventeen of us that ran for eight spots.



MAY: Yeah. And, uh --


MAY: Um, I actually got the, uh, the most votes of, of anybody that was not an incumbent.


MAY: And, uh, one fellow moved to Frankfort and resigned, so I was appointed early to fill his unexpired term since I had the most votes of, of the non-incumbents. And, that was really an interesting race that I like to talk about. Um, of course back then, you paid -- I don't remember how much it was, was it twenty dollars to file, but, you know. You didn't spend any money campaigning. You didn't even ask anybody to vote for you. You just ran.

BIRDWHISTELL: You didn't have any yard time between?

MAY: Oh, no, no, no -- didn't even have any cards.


MAY: No.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you just --

MAY: Put my name on the ballot.

BIRDWHISTELL: You were going to tell them ----------(??) --

MAY: I didn't even do much of that.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you just worked out around.

MAY: Yeah, and, and that's -- back in those days, there was not really much campaigning for, for those positions --


MAY: -- and -- at least not in Mount Sterling, anyway. The, uh, the funniest thing was that there was a fellow, I think he was a year younger than me that, that filed, whose father was a Ford dealer. 00:34:00(Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: With a dealership.

MAY: Of course, they got, uh -- he had seven brothers and sisters and they all got together and decided they were going to vote for Dan and nobody else. Of course, when you've got eight people running and if you vote for all eight, and you -- if you vote for all eight, that can really hurt one candidate that you really want. But the way this really shows up, the, the oldest brother in the Lane family and his wife did not get in on the conversation with the rest of the family. And, so of course, they voted for Dan, but they also voted for Roger Minick (??), who was the pharmacist that owned the Begley's franchise there. And when the votes came in, Roger Minick was the eighth vote-getter. Dan was the ninth and Roger had one more vote than Dan. (Birdwhistell laughs) So if Dan's older brother and his older brother's wife had just voted for Dan and not Roger, Dan would have been on the council and Roger would not have. (Birdwhistell laughs) So 00:35:00that shows you the importance of one vote sometimes.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) Those local elections, man, it's, uh --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- so interesting how, how often that happens really --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- with a small number of votes.

MAY: So I, of course, went on the council then and I served for three terms on the city council and basically thought I had done my civic duty and got off.

BIRDWHISTELL: You'd done -- yeah. What did you know about the city council before you went on there? That, uh --

MAY: Very little.

BIRDWHISTELL: Had you ever been to a meeting?

MAY: Um, maybe one.


MAY: Uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: It's not a trick question.

MAY: No, I --

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean there's no reason to go, unless --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- either you've got an issue, or --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and before local access cable where you might watch the council meetings or something like that.

MAY: But, uh, but that's, uh, I don't know. I just thought it was the right thing to do.


MAY: And, like I say, I served three terms, and thought I had done my civic duty and got off.

BIRDWHISTELL: What, what -- tell me about the type of government, I, I didn't really find that when I was looking this up. What, uh, what, uh, level city --

MAY: Well, we're a fourth-class city.

BIRDWHISTELL: Fourth-class.

MAY: We're the mayor-council form of government.


BIRDWHISTELL: Part-time mayor, right?

MAY: Well, it was. When I took office, it was part-time with -- especially with a part-time salary.

BIRDWHISTELL: But when you went on the council it was --

MAY: Oh, yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- part-time?

MAY: Yes, yeah. Um, actually, we had, uh, actually, when I went on the council, uh, Jack Miller, a former school superintendent of the Mount Sterling system was mayor. And, and I have to give him credit, he did an excellent job. I mean, he raised the insurance premium tax, um, put on the payroll tax. Did some things that weren't very popular.

BIRDWHISTELL: Payroll tax? Really?

MAY: Yeah, but he got Mount Sterling on a firm financial footing --


MAY: -- that really allowed me to do some really creative things. Err, not just me, but my -- the whole city to do some creative things. Put us --


MAY: -- in a financially secure position where we could, could do some things.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you were able to build on --

MAY: Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- what he did.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, when you went on the council, what types of issues -- were these the types of issues that were facing Mount Sterling? Like 00:37:00just a -- was it just in a transition phase as a community?

MAY: No, uh, we were, of course, we were kind of a regional center for a lot of things, but, uh, you know, a lot of the surrounding counties came to us. Of course now, even West Liberty, with -- a lot of people would come to Mount Sterling to shop.


MAY: Uh, of course, roads have taken care of that, and, uh, you know, uh, now, uh, Morehead is the trading center for West Liberty with the new road that's put up there.


MAY: And of course, that even the St. Clair Medical Center that's, that's done so well up there is, uh, you know, is, uh, evidence of that.

BIRDWHISTELL: In Mount Sterling? In, in --

MAY: In Morehead. Yeah. They, uh, you know, more, uh -- they get that area of trade now. Where 460 is, uh, such a curvy, little, two-lane road, that, uh, it is, you know, it's better to take the new road to Morehead than to just take 460 to Mount Sterling.


MAY: So we've kind of lost a lot of that, and, uh, you know, it's --

BIRDWHISTELL: I, I always thought of Mount Sterling, as, you know, Mount 00:38:00Sterling is historically, as you were describing earlier, uh, is sort of a gateway to the mountains, those types of things --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- a trading center. Um, but in a more modern era, it sort of gets caught between the expansion of Lexington, Winchester sort of in that, uh, sphere. And then you have Morehead, because of the university and the interstate, and different things that are going on up there, as you've just described, sort of expanding there. And Mount Sterling's kind of, you know, uh, caught in the middle of that.

MAY: It really was. Another issue, and that's alcohol. You know, Mount Sterling has been wet for quite a number of years --


MAY: -- with package stores. And for a long time, the only thing south that was wet was Richmond --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you were really --

MAY: -- and nothing east or southeast was wet.


MAY: And, uh, you know, I mean, I can remember being in the Jaycees going to uh, an area meeting in Ashland and some of the Jaycees up 00:39:00there calling me and saying, "What are you driving?" You know, "can you bring ten cases of beer up?" (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: Yeah. So, you know, and that, uh, we did things like that. And of course, every liquor store in town had a garage door --


MAY: -- you know, where vehicles would back in. You could go in the -- you could go in those back rooms of those liquor stores in the garage areas and you may see, uh, eight or ten spare tires there, you know. They could haul another three or four cases of beer if they left their spare tire with them. (both laugh) So it was, it was really a big business. And, uh, you know, of course, now you've got so many of the communities; Morehead, Ashland, um --


MAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, and, uh, there's just a number of them that have become wet, so.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, what effect did that have on the -- on your government in Mount Sterling? The, the liquor stores, the, uh, that whole kind of, uh, world, uh, and then, of course, I'll just add to that, you know, I 00:40:00guess in the eighties this, uh, uh, big case involving the bookmaking and that stuff. Was all this connected in some way or another?

MAY: Well, it seems that the ones that were charged with the, the bookmaking were also involved in the liquor business.

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm shocked. (both laugh) I knew it was a lucky guess on my part.

MAY: But, uh, you know, and that's one of the issues that we're dealing with in cities today --


MAY: -- that are -- talking about the liquor and the drink issues --


MAY: -- and, uh, the recent legislation that will allow that in some restaurants. And, uh, um, it's really surprising, but not when you think about it, that the -- a lot of the DUIs go down when an area goes wet. But you take, for instance, when Mount Sterling was, was wet and, uh, people would come from West Liberty, say.


MAY: They would come down maybe once a week and buy a trunk-load of beer.


MAY: Well, they'd usually get some cold and start drinking that on the way home.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Right.

MAY: So, by the time they got to West Liberty an hour or an hour and a 00:41:00half later --


MAY: -- they were dangerous.


MAY: Where, when you have it in the community and you have access to it and if you need s-- six beers that night, you can go and buy six beers --


MAY: -- and you can take it home.


MAY: And, you know, when you think of it that way, you don't have the problems when people have everyday access to it, that you do when it's a, a treat for them --


MAY: -- and -- or it's a real issue to go and get it.

BIRDWHISTELL: And that's an issue that you've spoken to as a -- in your role in Frankfort.

MAY: Well, that's true, that's true.

BIRDWHISTELL: And you know, and you know it firsthand.

MAY: That's right. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Because being from Mount Sterling, you have some insight into that. But it does change the nature of the community in a way.

MAY: It does.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean not to, not, not having liquor and then getting liquor changes it, but the fact that Mount Sterling was that sort of regional supplier of alcoholic beverages.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's what changes, it's what, what makes -- gives the city a personality.

MAY: In fact, the, uh -- there was one time when the city of Mount 00:42:00Sterling sold more beer than the city of Lexington.

BIRDWHISTELL: Golly. ----------(??)

MAY: So --

[Pause in recording.]

BIRDWHISTELL: So, when you get on the city council, um, what is, I think I asked, I asked this earlier, in terms of what are the main challenges facing you as a, as a member of the city council. I guess another way to ask this, is what was your biggest surprise? I mean what did you learn that you thought, wow, I didn't know that.

MAY: (sighs) Well, probably, the apathy of the people, to be honest with you, was the biggest surprise. You know, some -- so many people really don't care what happens unless it's affecting them directly.


MAY: And, of course, things -- that was twenty-five years ago, and things were a lot different then. I mean, we had a, a good, a good Main Street, you know, with, like I said, a lot of clothing stores and two ten-cent stores. And, uh, one of our biggest issues was parking.



MAY: Downtown. You know, and, uh, it was so hard. The people that owned the businesses wanted to park right in front of their own stores. You know, they were cutting their own throat --


MAY: -- and didn't realize it.


MAY: And, and that has been one of the greatest successes of the shopping centers. And of course, everything has changed in downtowns, with the coming of the automobile. The mobility of the people, the move to the suburbs, the, you know, the shopping centers, the strip centers, the malls --


MAY: -- that has really probably been, in my opinion, one of the major factors of the demise of so many downtowns.

BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, in our adult life, it's been the Wal- Martization of the country, right?

MAY: That's right. And, and, you know, we're -- Mount Sterling is typical, rural America, you know. We've got a by-pass and we've got a Wal-Mart and the downtown that practically dried up and blew away.


MAY: Which brings us to another project that we did. Now, we'll get into that later about the, the redevelopment of our downtown.


BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. I want -- I do want --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- want to get to that. Um, so in these three terms as a member of the council, did you feel like that you were able to work well with the councilmen and the mayors to get some things done?

MAY: Very well. Of course, um, Jack Miller was a tremendous administrator. In fact, the mayor's salary at that time was, uh, seventy-two hundred dollars a year. And as things progressed, and he, uh, he, uh, he told the council, he said, "You know, we're getting to the point where we need to hire a city administrator." And he said, "I propose we hire a city administrator and cut my salary in half."


MAY: And that's what we did. And so the salary became thirty-six hundred dollars a year for the mayor.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Where did you find an administrator?

MAY: Um, actually, we f-- the first one we hired was a retired military man that had moved back, that was originally from Mount Sterling and came back.


MAY: And, uh, then we had a, uh, -- then he resigned and we, uh, hired 00:45:00another fellow that, uh, that had been in the community, married a girl from the community and had been there for quite some time.

BIRDWHISTELL: So did that help?

MAY: It really did.

BIRDWHISTELL: They were able to be there every day

MAY: Yeah, of course, the mayor still put in a lot of time, but that really did help to have a --


MAY: -- another level of administration there that, uh, to take care of some of the problems.

BIRDWHISTELL: Were there, during the time you were on the council, were there zoning or annexation issues that, uh, heated up the place?

MAY: Uh, well, annexation, there was, uh, some pretty big annexation that happened about five years before I got on the council, that actually --

BIRDWHISTELL: Out towards the interstate?

MAY: Took us out toward the interstate and then out -- took us out toward another shopping center out to the, to the west of town. Out, uh, uh -- actually there was a Kroger store and a shopping center out there and that was annexed.


MAY: And, of course, that also brought up another local option issue, 00:46:00uh, when I was in office. We were, uh, and I know we're jumping around a little bit, but that's, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Doesn't matter.

MAY: We, uh, in, let's see, I guess in '87, um, we got a Wal-Mart and, um, the, uh -- shortly after that we were getting a, uh -- I guess it was a few years after that, we got a, a Food Lion, and then we got a Winn-Dixie. And f-- Winn-Dixie had, uh, come in and said, "You know, we'd like to be able to sell beer like Kroger's does around the by- pass." (clears throat) Well, Food Lion had said that first, when they came in first and they actually tried to do a local-option election on their own. And the theory was, these two areas, two separate areas, but they were both annexed in 1972. In 1980, the Kentucky Legislature interpreted the law to say that any annexed area of a city, newly 00:47:00annexed area, took on the same local option as the area that it was adjacent to --


MAY: -- so the entire city limits of Mount Sterling were wet, which meant the newly annexed areas also became wet. Well, Pizza het-- Hut put in beer, um, service stations converted to food marts and put in beer. Uh, but the problem was the annexation on the north side of town that went to the interstate had, uh, the original Jerry's restaurant built in it before they moved out to the interstate. And that property backed up to a subdivision. And there was another subdivision across the street and behind it that was on Maysville Road. And they were concerned that somebody was going to put a beer joint, dance club or something in there that they didn't want in their neighborhood. So they got up a local option election to vote that precinct dry.

BIRDWHISTELL: Precinct dry. Oh.

MAY: And it passed. It went dry. (Birdwhistell laughs) So, you know, 00:48:00Food Lion came in and tried to have an election, which, didn't really ask for anybody's help, they came in and got the petition signed, they just let it happen. Once again, it was defeated. 2B [editor's note: the voting precinct] stayed dry. Well, and it was almost three years to the day later that Winn-Dixie came in and brought up the fairness issue, you know, "Kroger can sell beer around the by-pass, we can't. What can we do about it?" So, at this point we got involved, because we knew things were beginning to happen by then. And we knew that we needed some restaurants, you know, that -- some new restaurants, and, uh, so we got the chamber involved. And actually had an issues- gathering meeting and invited all the registered voters in 2B, and had them come out to the site where the Winn-Dixie was coming in, actually to the store front, the empty store front.


MAY: And we discussed it as an economic development issue, you know, why not let these people do what you can do right around the by-pass? And, 00:49:00uh, anyway, the petition was signed, and the election was held and they -- it went back wet. And about the same time, uh, we, of course, we had lost, uh, the Whirlpool plant, which unemployment was about 18 percent.

BIRDWHISTELL: Eighteen percent.

MAY: Um, we were basically a distressed county and, of course, a fourth- class city, already with a wet city. You know, we were a moist county, because the city was wet and the county was dry. But, uh, the council I proposed and the council passed a liquor-by-the-drink ordinance and, um, never had a call from a preacher, never had a negative call. Council passed it and boom, we had it. And of course, since then, uh, a number of restaurants have come. And, really the first one was, uh, the country club and we actually, uh, annexed about a mile of right-of- way, and made a left turn to annex them, so they could --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- they could get a liquor license. (both laugh)


BIRDWHISTELL: So they could be legal. (both laugh)

MAY: That's right. You said that, I didn't.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, what was I thinking? (laughs)

MAY: Yeah. Of course, the bad thing about legal is you can't sell on Sunday. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, that reminds me of the bootlegger in Anderson County. Some underage kids went out to buy some beer on, uh, Sunday. He carded them. (both laugh) He had some standards.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, again, this period while you were on the council, uh, uh, you know, you mentioned the fact that there's Mount Sterling and then there's Montgomery County. In Kentucky, these counties and county governments are oftentimes what we think about and dominate the landscape. What did you find about the relationship between the city and the county at the time while you were on the council? Did you -- anything about that surprise you?

MAY: Well, I mean it was all a learning experience, but historically, 00:51:00the city and the county were at odds.


MAY: And, uh, that's --

BIRDWHISTELL: There just seems to be no way around that.

MAY: No. And you know, that's really a problem the communities in Kentucky have today and I guess communities everywhere. You know, counties are constitutionally an arm of the state. They are something that the Constitution sets up --


MAY: -- to exist and they are basically an arm of the state. Cities are creatures that are permitted to exist by the will of the legislature, uh, with no constitutional, uh, background for them.

BIRDWHISTELL: They lead a statutory existence --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- in a sense.

MAY: But, however, the, the cities are the service providers, and they're the, the ones that really bring the things together for the county in most cases. And the, you know, historically, the mayors are part-time, they work another job somewhere. They --

BIRDWHISTELL: They don't get paid as much.


MAY: They don't get paid near as much. (Birdwhistell laughs) Uh, you know, a number of years ago, the county judges got a bill passed in the legislature that the county judge executive is the highest-paid county official. Now, the sheriff and the county clerk can make the same amount, but they can't make more. And then back in, I guess, '96 or '98, they even got a bill passed that set minimum salaries for them, uh, based on population, different population categories, and they're -- you know, that's a pretty good paying job now.


MAY: And the, the problem that we have today is dealing with the Legislature and getting the cities involved, because, you know, most of our mayors have to take a day off work to go talk to their senator and representative.


MAY: Where our county judge, that's like taking a paid vacation.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's what they do. (laughs)

MAY: Yeah. You know, they're on the job. They just get to go and, and get a little, you know, change of pace and get to see the sights and have a big time when they're in Frankfort.

BIRDWHISTELL: While they're down there in Frankfort.


MAY: Yeah. (Birdwhistell laughs) On the county's credit card, you know. But, uh, that is a serious problem for us today in, in raising the awareness of cities. And, you know, you mentioned annexation and annexation, unless it's a consent annexation, it's almost impossible for a city to do today.

BIRDWHISTELL: I learned that during these interviews.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) I was surprised --

MAY: You know, we have islands within cities, that, uh -- in fact, you know, this is why communities have to work together. Uh, there are so many areas, in -- even in Montgomery County, that are right outside the city limits that are truly urbanized areas. That -- of course the city police department does all the dispatching for the police department and the sheriff's department, but if it is two o'clock in the morning, and the one sheriff's car that is working that night is out in the community of Hope, out, ten miles out in the county and there is a domestic call in one of these areas, you know what's going to happen. The city police are going to respond to it --



MAY: -- and --(clears throat)-- that is a service that the city taxpayers are paying for and the people that are getting that service are not paying for it. (Birdwhistell laughs) And if you try to annex them, you know, they are going to say, "I'm getting the service now, why should I have to pay for it?"

BIRDWHISTELL: But, it probably -- I'm just going to guess it probably never occurred to you to get involved in county government, really.

MAY: No, no it --

BIRDWHISTELL: Why is that?

MAY: -- really never did, um --

BIRDWHISTELL: Why do people like yourself, you know, they go to these -- and I've talked to Sylvia about this, you know, that I've been impressed with sort of the view that people getting involved in city government have, as civic leaders, civic promoters, uh, but you don't get involved in county politics any.

MAY: Well, you know, people in county politics, usually do that for -- they're really political people that really do that for a living.


MAY: You know, here I was in business, I had no intention of doing this for a living. (Birdwhistell laughs) I did it. I did it for -- because I thought it was the right thing to do.

BIRDWHISTELL: You couldn't afford --

MAY: And --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- to do it for a living.

MAY: That's right. That's exactly right. When it, you know, the 00:55:00mayor's job paid thirty-six hundred dollars a year, I couldn't afford to do it for a living. (Birdwhistell laughs) So, but, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, that's just not an option then, in a sense.

MAY: No. I mean, that's just nothing, that's not anything I ever considered doing.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. But, uh, in these cities the size of Mount Sterling, some a little bigger, some a little smaller, it is where it bumps up against the county government, the county vision of what the future is and, uh, these economic development issues that are just swirling around. Whether it's, uh, industrial parks or zoning or roads, and, and, so it's a very interesting, uh, relationship.

MAY: Well, I'll have to say, and, and give credit to the progress that Mount Sterling has made in the last fifteen years to the fact that we were able to work together.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, I thought you were.

MAY: You know, that's, uh -- Early on I, the county judge and I worked together. In fact, uh, uh, in 1990, when, uh, the Whirlpool plant 00:56:00left and unemployment expl-- well, actually before that, in '89, uh, we basically had two industries, and that was the, the Kitchenaid dishwasher plant which was owned by Whirlpool and the A. O. Smith electric motor plant. And, uh, those were the two major employers at the time. And we knew we needed to diversify. We needed to create some new jobs.


MAY: And actually I sat down with the county judge and the chairman of industrial authority. We had an industrial park at the time, which had very little in it. You know, there wasn't a whole lot going on.


MAY: And, uh, so we sat down and discussed what we needed to do. And we came to the consensus that, uh, we needed to start an economic development office, we needed to hire a professional and we needed to get working.


MAY: Together. And so we made a commitment, we got the chamber of commerce involved. We actually plagiarized --


MAY: -- what Winchester and Clark County had done --



MAY: -- with their Chamber involvement, and --


MAY: Initially the -- in 1989, the, the city and the county each agreed to put up, uh, I think it was fifty-five thousand dollars. And, uh, of course even though, here again, you know, this is why you've got to work together. Even though 25 percent of the people were in the city limits of Mount Sterling, and, of course, we also paid county taxes. And that's another problem. We have to -- I had two different county judges while I was in office and I --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- continually had to tell them that I was also in the county and I paid the same tax rate that everybody out there in the county that they thought were their people. (Birdwhistell laughs) That I was their people too.

BIRDWHISTELL: "I'm your people."

MAY: That's right. (Birdwhistell laughs) And of course, really all they do for us is they provided a dog warden and they provided a jail. You know, they don't take care of our roads. They don't take care of any of our infrastructure. And yet they take care of the county roads.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's so weird.

MAY: It is. But --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- anyway, we're off on another tangent here.

BIRDWHISTELL: No, that's okay. Tangents are okay.


MAY: But we did work, uh, we did, uh, work very well together. We got the chamber involved. The chamber committed fifteen thousand dollars to this operation. We hired a professional economic development director, probably the best economic development director in the state. And he, we actually developed, uh, continued to develop that park and bought more land and created a new park that had bigger acreage that would attract a two-to-four hundred job industry.


MAY: And, uh, just with his help and his knowledge and his professional way of doing things -- you know, there are several things as far as economic development goes, of course being on an interstate sure doesn't hurt you.

BIRDWHISTELL: Got to have it.

MAY: Location, location, location.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh yeah, Owensboro will tell you that.

MAY: Oh, yeah. (Birdwhistell laughs) But once you've got the location, you've got to get your house in order.


MAY: You've got to have your infrastructure. You've got to have somebody dealing with them that knows the community, that can explain the community to them, can explain the tax rates, the cost, the utility rates, whatever. You've got to have somebody that's got the authority 00:59:00to price them a piece of land --


MAY: -- you're not going to -- that's got the infrastructure there or can be there by a specific date. You're not going to take an industry out to meet a farmer and show them his farmland and say, "Well, we can get your infrastructure to you here before too long."

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. Sewer and water ----------(??).

MAY: "Oh, and by the way, Mr. Farmer, what would you take for your land?" (Birdwhistell laughs) You know, that's not going to happen. (Birdwhistell laughs) You've got to get your own house in order before things are going to happen. And we did that. And we were very successful. In eight years' time, we landed twenty-four new industries and created thirty-three hundred jobs.


MAY: So, I mean, I give all that credit to working together and, and I tell you the attitudes in the community were a big thing. In fact, there was a group of local business men got together, and this was probably in '90 or '91, maybe -- of course, you know, in '89, we hired our economic development director and a week later, the A. O. Smith 01:00:00plant goes on strike.


MAY: You know, if he had a prospect, he can't take them out to the industrial park because you'd have to go pass the picket line. (Birdwhistell laughs) And you're not going to have an industry (Birdwhistell laughs) come to a community that's got labor troubles.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's on strike. (laughs)

MAY: That's right.


MAY: So, um, anyway, and, and one of the problems was, was the make-up of the factory workers. So many of them own small farms --


MAY: -- and their contracts would come due when they've got to house their tobacco. And they said, "Well, let's just strike and get our tobacco housed. We don't care if we get any more money or not, we'll just take some time off --"


MAY: "-- witho-- you know, without any problems." And of course, the strikes basically are what cost the Kitchenaid plant its job, I mean, of course -- its existence.

BIRDWHISTELL: And of course you're being kinder than Mayor Smith was in Birchville, Birchville. What, what happened down there was that they decided Thursday, they're going fishing. (both laugh) And he said, "How do you bring in a prospective, you know, industry when your work 01:01:00force --"

MAY: Works when they want.

BIRDWHISTELL: "-- decides they're going fishing on Thursday, and they don't show up for work?" (both laugh) At least in Montgomery County they were housing tobacco.

MAY: Oh, yeah. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's, uh -- your work force, that's the, that's the biggest issue.

MAY: But, and, and, that was and the union presence was, was also big issue with us, and of course, what we had to convince people was that we had not had a successful union election in the last twenty years.


MAY: And that kind of brought people around, even though there were some labor troubles. When the Whirlpool plant left, of course that union went with them --


MAY: -- and, uh, which left A.O. Smith still having the union, but there's only like a hundred and twenty-five people working there today.


MAY: And they're not, uh, have been much of a problem since -- as far as the contracts and strikes, so that's worked out well.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you do the three terms on the council --

MAY: Um-hm.


MAY: Was off for three years.

BIRDWHISTELL: And then you -- w-- why did you get off?

MAY: Uh, I really thought I had done my civic duty and actually when I 01:02:00did get off, uh, we had a city administrator at the time and he came to me, and, of course, knowing I was in the automobile business, and. He said, "We're spending a fortune on police cars," and knew I was in the leasing business, and he said, "Can the city lease police cars and save any money?"


MAY: Well, I knew what we were spending on cars. I knew what we were spending to buying them and I knew what we were spending on repairs, and I said, "Well, I'll put some figures together for you." So I figured the lease on a new car and I figured the cost on a new car, and, you know, I figured -- I came back to him and I said, "Ernie, the only way the city can save money over what they are doing now by leasing a car, is to lease a two-year-old car, a used car with a maintenance agreement on it where the city doesn't do it -- spend a dime on it, but pay for the insurance and the gasoline that goes in it."


MAY: And he said, "What can you do that for?" And I done the figuring and I said, "Here it is." And he said, "Well, we'll discuss it." So the council discussed it, and they voted to advertise for leasing police 01:03:00cars, uh, the used lease-- police cars. Well, I bid it -- or I told him that it would cost them two hundred and fifty dollars per car, per month. They advertised it and I bid it at two hundred and forty-eight --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and got it.. And, uh, of course, here again I was -- you know, I had my own facility and I was doing the majority of the service work myself. I mean, but if a transmission went out, I'd have that done.


MAY: But, you know, the minor work, brake work, and --


MAY: -- that thing, I -- me or an employee w-- was doing.


MAY: And, uh, of course not counting anything for my labor, but, uh, when I filed to run for mayor, I was leasing seven police cars to the city of Mount Sterling and making about seven thousand dollars a year profit. (Birdwhistell laughs) You know, if I had billed for my labor, it wouldn't have been near that much.

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure, but -- yeah, but.

MAY: But still, and, of course you have to question my intelligence because I gave the seven-thousand-dollar-a-year profit contract up for 01:04:00a thirty-six hundred dollar a year job.


MAY: So --

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. That was a tough decision.

MAY: Well, I, I actually, uh, I had some people come to me and ask me to run, and talk me into running, because I had no, no desire, no intentions of, of doing -- of being mayor.

BIRDWHISTELL: So how did they talk you into it? They just flatter you or what? (laughs)

MAY: Well, uh, basically convinced me that we needed a change of some things that were happening at the time.


MAY: And, uh, I was in agreement with that --


MAY: and so, uh, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, so you filed to run for mayor.

MAY: Ran against the incumbent.

BIRDWHISTELL: Dorothy Lavoy.

MAY: Lavoy. Uh-huh.


MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you tell her you were going to run against her?

MAY: Um, you know, I don't think I directly did. (Birdwhistell laughs) I don't believe I did.

BIRDWHISTELL: I just, uh, what intrigues me about some of this, uh, in 01:05:00these small towns, is, uh -- I mean, obviously, you know Dorothy Lavoy very, very --

MAY: Well, I had served on the council with her. Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Served on the council with her. And so when you decided to run for mayor that, that disrupts her life quite a bit. (both laugh) And she probably knew this was a tough opponent.

MAY: Well --

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh, is the mayor's race different from the council race? Did you actually campaign this time?

MAY: Uh, yes, it was different. And I probably, uh, I guess was the first candidate for mayor that ever used yard signs. And of course, she used some too, uh, after I got some of mine out, she got some out. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: People don't realize just how -- what a recent phenomenon yard signs are.

MAY: Oh I know it, I know it.

BIRDWHISTELL: I think, they think they've been here forever, but it really is during this, uh, eighties that yard signs really took off.

MAY: And you know what really amazed me about campaigning for -- I mean, it was a big switch from running for council when you didn't even ask anybody to vote for you, to actually going out and knocking on doors 01:06:00and asking people to vote for you, and putting up yard signs and, and doing newspaper ads and doing radio ads, and, of course, in later years with cable TV, we did TV ads. And, uh, of course, the cable TV ads on the local channels are the ones that they run, runs them on there are actually, uh, cheaper than radio.


MAY: Yeah. But, uh, it was really a big switch and the thing that really amazed me, and -- there were some people who came to my parents after my first election for mayor, which was successful, uh, that told my parents that they would have voted for me, but I didn't ask them. And I want to think, I hate to, I almost hate to say this publically, but I, I really feel like you ought to have to own property and pass an IQ test before you get the right to vote. (both laugh) But --

BIRDWHISTELL: You were born a hundred years too late. (both laugh) But 01:07:00I know what you mean.

MAY: You know, I just feel like that somebody ought to be able to look at the, look at the field of candidates and try to make up their mind who they think is going to do the best job and vote for them. But that doesn't happen in so many cases.


MAY: So --

BIRDWHISTELL: Thruston Morton, you know Thruston Morton?

MAY: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Who's a Republican senator from Louisville --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and he used to tell stories about campaigning way down in eastern Kentucky. And he said after you gave a talk, you'd have to go stand in the back of the room. As everybody filed out, you'd have to shake everybody's hand.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because this woman came up to him one time and said, "Senator Morton, I just want you to know I never voted for anybody I didn't touch." (both laugh) So, it -- that -- it's part of Kentucky --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- political culture. You know, "Burton May doesn't ask me to vote for him; I'll just vote for Dorothy."

MAY: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because she asked me. (laughs)

MAY: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. That's right, they want to be asked.

BIRDWHISTELL: What, what -- was it a difficult campaign, a high-level campaign? What were the issues that, uh, separated the two of you?


MAY: Well, uh -- BIRDWHISTELL: I haven't read the newspaper reports.

MAY: I, of course, was it was business, and I, I --(sighs)-- she ran things a lot differently.


MAY: Uh, when I had been on the council, we had a basic committee system, which is -- was very similar to the commission form of government, but really does not have the, the, the power that the commission form has. You know, on the commission form, the, the duties are divided up, you know, you'll have a commissioner of the police department and --


MAY: -- of the street department, and whatever. They all divide the duties up, so --


MAY: That's right. So, we had these committees. Like at different times, I was on the police committee, and the parking committee, you know, different things. But when Dorothy was elected, she changed things, and she really exercised her authority given to her in the mayor-council form. And basically the council could have come and made the budget and gone home. And she could have run the city. She, she 01:09:00did run the city with, with very little input. And, and I thought that the people needed to be a little more involved, because I had been in the process when it, when it was that way and when it worked that way. So, even though the buck stopped with me when I was mayor --


MAY: -- I did reinstate the committee system and had people, and, you know, if we're going to hire police officers, candidates --


MAY: -- I had the, the committee, the police committee involved in the interviews.

BIRDWHISTELL: You got to --

MAY: They got to meet and know the people they were interviewing. And, uh, you know, that brought the council in, uh, gave them a lot more sense of, of, uh, need and of accomplishment, maybe, and got them a lot more involved and, and interested in the process.


MAY: And you know, I, I knew early on that you had to have everybody pulling together if you're going to go in a positive direction. And that was really the biggest issue. And there was kind of one little 01:10:00joke: we had a terrible snowstorm in the spring of, uh -- err, winter -- actually it was February of ninety-- of '85 and, uh, Dorothy was in, uh, the flower business and she did a proclamation chang-- changing Valentine's Day because this hit when -- I mean, people couldn't move. (Birdwhistell laughs) I had been to an auction in Ohio and called my wife from, uh, up near Columbus, about six o'clock that night and said, "I'm running late. I'm, I'm just now leaving up here." She said, "Well, don't even think about coming home."


MAY: I said, "What are you talking about?"


MAY: She said, "Well, there's people that work in the county, or work in the city leaving the county that can't get home.


MAY: You know, there was -- Yeah? Go ahead.

[Pause in recording.]

BIRDWHISTELL: We left you in a snowstorm.

MAY: Yeah, we had a snow storm in Ohio, uh -- this was around Valentine's Day and of course nobody was able to get out and, and buy Valentine's flowers. So, Dorothy issued a proclamation changing 01:11:00Valentine's Day. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, that's not one of the powers that I knew a mayor had. (May laughs) So, this is a new one for me.

MAY: So anyway that was kind of a joke. And, and one of the -- one of my campaign promises was to not to change Valentine's Day. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: I bet she liked you for that, didn't she? (both laugh)

MAY: Oh, well.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, so you're really campaigning this time, and, uh -- how do you tell in a city race if you're going to win or not?

MAY: Well, it's tough, I mean, you know, we didn't do any polling, no scientific -- uh, you rea-- and you really don't know and especially in a small race like that. You know, you've got a pretty good idea with the scientific polls that people do anymore, you know, you know, you ask the --

BIRDWHISTELL: Are people doing polling on local elections these days?

MAY: Yeah. They are more and more.


MAY: In fact, my last election I did a poll.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you really?


MAY: Yeah.


MAY: And, but what --(sighs)-- it really didn't come out too well, because we concentrated on the likely voters and there were a lot of people that were not likely voters, that got out and voted.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you were surprised.

MAY: I was surprised. And, uh, actually, I like to say the, the voters of Mount Sterling gave me a pay raise. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: That's one way to look at it.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, but when you are running for mayor, once you get in, I mean you've been a lifelong member of the community, you're a respected business person, so, I mean, you didn't want to lose.

MAY: Yeah, that's true. That's true.

BIRDWHISTELL: That would be kind of embarrassing.

MAY: Uh, so, so I worked it pretty hard. You know, I knocked on doors and put up yard signs and, uh, did, uh, I did all the advertising that you do and ran a very positive campaign.

BIRDWHISTELL: Had to raise some money into it?

MAY: Um, yeah, and that's something that, uh, it really shocked me. I mean, people just started coming to me.



MAY: And of course, it's really funny, and I guess one of my, I guess one of my proudest accomplishments or things that I'm really proudest of, was about ten years after I was elected mayor, I found out who was behind it. We had a group of business people in town that called themselves the Committee of Twelve.


MAY: Nobody even knew they existed. They would meet once a month or when they would, uh -- once a month was the most that they ever met, sometimes maybe not that much, but they'd just call and say "Let's get together." But anyway, there were these twelve business people that would just meet and talk about things that the community needed.


MAY: And they would get an idea, and of course, the original swimming pool was one of these issues. And --(clears throat)-- they came up with the idea and they planted the seeds in the right place and they, they sat back and watched it happen.



MAY: They never took any credit for anything.


MAY: Never -- you know, nobody even knew they existed.


MAY: And it was about ten years after I was elected that I found out that the Committee of Twelve had discussed the leadership of the city of Mount Sterling and had recruited me, unbeknownst to me --


MAY: -- to be the candidate for mayor.


MAY: And even had somebody outside of their group come talk me into running.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) That's a --

MAY: So I was pretty proud about that --


MAY: -- when I heard that, that story.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a great compliment to you.

MAY: So, and, and the thing I really hate to see is that to my knowledge, I don't think the Committee of Twelve has met since I went in office.


MAY: And of course they are all getting older, and -- one -- the fellow that told me about it is in a nursing home now. He's the one that told me when you run for re-election, you have to watch your accumulated negatives. (both laugh) And everything you do, you make somebody mad.


BIRDWHISTELL: That's right. That's right. And your family.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about election day. What's election day like?

MAY: It was a --(sighs)-- a nightmare. (Birdwhistell laughs) My mother was, uh -- my sister came home from Lexington and, uh, my mother was, uh, a nervous wreck. And, uh, my mother-in-law came down from Ashland. And, uh, uh, Channel 18 had called and wanted to know where I was going to be election night. And actually, I said I was going to be at my house and they were there with a camera crew set up, and --


MAY: Yeah, and it, uh -- I was really impressed with that and I don't know really why or what tipped them off to come to Mount Sterling, because we -- you know, as you said, the distance that, uh -- between Mount Sterling and Lexington is an issue that I've tried to --


MAY: -- tell people for years that it's not that big a distance for people from Lexington to come to Mount Sterling, you know. We come 01:16:00this way all the time. (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: It's the same distance.

MAY: But you know, I don't know -- I'd like to know what percentage of people in Lexington have never been to Mount Sterling. I say it will amaze you how many people have never been. They have been past it on the interstate, but they've probably never gone downtown. And they just associate it as being eastern Kentucky, in the mountains and, you know, not a part of central Kentucky that, that we think we are.


MAY: You know, to me, we're not eastern Kentucky, we're central Kentucky.


MAY: Of course, uh, your perspective changes depending on where you're located.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, it's that Mountain Parkway thing.

MAY: Yeah. (both laugh) That's another story. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: What story is that?

MAY: Well, I mean the, the fact that it, uh, comes to Winchester and to get to the Mountain Parkway, you have to go to Winchester and turn. From Mount Sterling, if you're going on the inters-- on the four-lane, you have to go to Winchester and turn around and go back.

BIRDWHISTELL: Why is that?

MAY: Well, actually because the distance between Mount Sterling and Winchester and, and Clay City is almost a perfect triangle. It's about 01:17:00seventeen miles -- sixteen, seventeen miles anyway you go, so --


MAY: Really the quickest way, if you're going down the Mountain Parkway, going from Mount Sterling to Pikeville say, or Prestonsburg or whatever, the quickest way is to take KY 11 --


MAY: -- to -- over towards Clay City to Waltersville and, and get on it there, so. Uh, that's really the best way, but of course, 11 needs to be improved --


MAY: -- more than the two-lane road that it is, so.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So, Wendell Ford always got a haircut on Election Day. Did you pick up on that?

MAY: No, well, I didn't really do anything special, I don't guess. (Birdwhistell laughs) I always tried to vote early and of course --

BIRDWHISTELL: And often then? (laughs)

MAY: No, uh, just once a day. (both laugh) But, uh, uh, and, and then would just, of course, spend the time walking around town talking to people.


MAY: Of course, in the earlier days you could get closer to the polls 01:18:00than you can today, and, uh, but, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you have people handing out cards, uh, for you?

MAY: Uh, some in the earlier days; the later days we didn't. Of course, you know, you were limited, uh, in the number of feet you could be to the polls and it just wasn't worth anything. And you know, that's another thing that, that almost offended me. And I di-- I don't guess I ever really did have anybody handing them out at the polls, actually at the polls, because back in the days when somebody could be right outside the door passing out you a card when you walk in the door to go vote --


MAY: -- that kind of offended me too. Because -- but -- here again, I'm not most people, but --


MAY: I figure that I know good and well when I go that day who I am going to vote for, you know, I know who's running.

BIRDWHISTELL: Louie Nunn takes that a step further, you know, when he was growing up, he said, where you don't stand outside the poll and hand out cards, you gave them a ballot. (Birdwhistell laughs) You didn't even have to mark it.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, so, uh, how do you get the returns? Do you go down to 01:19:00the courthouse? Is that where the returns are, uh --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- tabulated?

MAY: Yeah. Actually --

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you go down there?

MAY: Yeah, yeah and that's a habit that I still do.

BIRDWHISTELL: I love that environment when they -- I know over in Anderson County, they would run down the stairs and yell out, precinct, you know, down at, uh, whatever precinct, uh, Stringtown had gone such and such.

MAY: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that the way it was over there?

MAY: Well, actually, of course, the -- all the polls, uh, came to the county clerk's office in the big room where all the deeds and, uh, record books are and there were a lot of counters that people were leaning on and keeping their sheets and recording everything --


MAY: -- of what was -- as the precincts came in. And of course, the ones in the courthouse, you know, you would get the -- you know, you could go as they were reading machines and get a quick tally there.


MAY: And you'd have to be in for all of them. Of course, it's different in the city race, because you get them pretty quick, because you had, 01:20:00uh -- there are six precincts in town and they all came in reasonably quick --


MAY: -- because they were pretty centrally located. So it didn't take long, and --(clears throat)-- but that's a --


MAY: -- that was an exciting part. Of course, about three o'clock in the afternoon, Election Day, you'd go up and -- where they open the absentee ballots, so you'd get a little --

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you get the same percentage of those that you ended up getting of the --?

MAY: Most times. Uh, I, I carried the absentee ballots, uh, I think, the last time I ran and of course, didn't carry the election as a whole. So, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Most of the times --

MAY: Most of the times, if you carry the absentee ballots, you, uh, carry -- you know, your percentages are pretty close.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Well, you beat Dorothy Lavoy by a hundred and eighty-four votes.

MAY: Well, that's -- I didn't remember that.

BIRDWHISTELL: You received seven hundred and ninety-two and she had six hundred and eight. So, while that sounds close, it's really not, is it?

MAY: Percentagewise, it's not.



MAY: That, you think a hundred and eighty-some votes is not a lot of votes, but --

BIRDWHISTELL: But in the amount of votes cast --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- it's a fairly significant victory.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, so were you interviewed by the TV people?

MAY: Oh yeah, yeah. And a funny thing about it, it was, it was such a zoo there at my house, I mean, all kinds of people stopping by. Of course, we're right downtown, right at -- you know, you can hit the -- walk out my front door and take a rock and hit the courthouse with it. (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh, just, the house was absolutely packed that -- the first night.


MAY: And, uh, it was a -- there was a -- when the TV cameras were there interviewing me, there was my sister, my mother-in-law, and a friend of hers, that were all standing in the crowd and here are all these people from home, saying, "Well, who are these three women with him?" You know --(both laugh)-- so many of them didn't know any of them.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's funny.


MAY: But that was, that was funny. But, uh, I mean it was a -- an exciting time.

BIRDWHISTELL: Let me just check this.

MAY: Okay.

[Pause in recording.]

BIRDWHISTELL: There's that famous scene in that, uh, movie The Candidate, with Robert Redford after he wins the election where he turns and says, "Now, what do I do?"

MAY: Yeah. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that, is that something that occurs to candidates?

MAY: Well, or "what have I gotten myself into?"

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. (both laugh) But you knew.

MAY: Well, I did and that's one thing, one advantage I did have was I had been on the council and, I tell you, it's a learning experience, even on the council.


MAY: You know, it takes you a year or so to really know what is going on.


MAY: But that was an advantage that I had, that I could move right into it. But the real problem was, it took so much time to really try and do it right --


MAY: -- that it took time away from my business and of course, my business suffered, and, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, this is November '85, you take -- are you going to 01:23:00take office January of '86?

MAY: January of '86, January first, 12:01.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. What's the transition like between, uh, the mayor and the incoming administration? Is it cordial?

MAY: She called me the night of the election to congratulate me and, uh, basically, uh, never had another conversation with her.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. Rough transition then.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: But she was ----------(??)?

MAY: Well, I wouldn't think so.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. So, how do you go about getting ready to do that if you're not -- are you talking to the employees, I mean --

MAY: Well, I kept the city clerk --


MAY: -- and in most, in so many Kentucky cities with part-time mayors --


MAY: -- the city clerk is the one that really runs the show. I mean they're the ones that keep everything together --


MAY: -- and see that everything is done --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: -- in a timely fashion. And, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: So you had a good relationship with the --

MAY: Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- city clerk?

MAY: Yeah, uh, matter of fact, my mother had worked for -- with her in a bank beforehand, and she was campaigning against me. And, uh -- 01:24:00(Birdwhistell laughs)-- my mother called her up and said, "Doris, I hear you're working against him." And she said, "Well, I'm worried about my job." And she said, "Well, I can assure you that if he gets elected, you're going to be there."


MAY: Yeah, and so Doris stayed out of it from that point. I'm sure she did, so. But, um, she is a-- she was an excellent clerk.


MAY: She was, uh, instrumental in getting the, uh, organization set up, the city clerk's organization set up and getting the certification done that the clerks have today. And, uh, was just a, a leader in the Clerks Association.


MAY: She has since retired, but --


MAY: -- actually retired before I went out, but.

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you have to make, how many personnel decisions do you have to make? I mean, do you -- police chiefs sometimes get mixed up in politics and I don't know what other types of employees, administrative types you had in there that you had to deal with.

MAY: Well, basically in a fourth-class city with a mayor-council form of government, the mayor does the hiring and firing. Uh, your police 01:25:00officers are protected under the policemen's bill of rights. So they -- you need to have a legitimate excuse to get rid of a police officer.

BIRDWHISTELL: But what about the police chief?

MAY: The police chief is an at-will employee.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I thought.

MAY: As well as the city clerk.

BIRDWHISTELL: How was your relationship with the police chief, incoming?

MAY: Well, my police chief was very tight with the former mayor, and I --

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm shocked to hear that. (laughs)

MAY: Well, I went to him and I told him before the election, I said, "Philip, I don't have a problem with you. If you want to do your job and do it right --"


MAY: "-- you're welcome to stay."


MAY: And he stayed about three months before he resigned.


MAY: But a little incident came up with a council member, and, uh, let's just say he thought it best to resign. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: You all couldn't -- it just didn't work out very well.

MAY: No, it just --

BIRDWHISTELL: But you weren't surprised at that.

MAY: No, nor disappointed.

BIRDWHISTELL: Nor disappointed.

MAY: No.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, three months in, you've got to find a police chief.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you hire internally or do you --

MAY: I did.


MAY: I, I really felt like that, uh, that would help the morale to let 01:26:00people know that somebody could start there as a patrolman and work their way up and become chief of that outfit. And, uh, uh, I really liked the fellow that I hired. He was a good, loyal employee --


MAY: -- but I would never do it again.

BIRDWHISTELL: Hire from inside again --

MAY: No.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- or hire him again?

MAY: Hire from inside.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because it caused too much problems among the other officers?

MAY: Everybody knows everybody and all the past history and he, he -- they don't command the respect from the officers.


MAY: And it's just, uh, not the professional department that I thought it --

BIRDWHISTELL: That you wanted it to be.

MAY: -- ought to be.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is the, is the police thing the most difficult for a mayor?

MAY: Well, you know, actually my fire department was my most difficult.

BIRDWHISTELL: The fire department? I don't hear that very often.

MAY: Well, the police have got, usually have got something to do.


MAY: The fire department sat around for the phone -- waiting for the phone to ring, thinking about ways to beat the city. (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh, you know, I just continually had more problems out 01:27:00of the fire department. I mean, we had our share of problems with the police department --


MAY: -- but, uh, the fire department was the biggest thing and really probably the -- one of the best things that I did in office for the community was the way I dealt with the fire department. We had a very unique situation. We had a Montgomery County fire district, which is a taxing district that had formed.


MAY: Started out as a, uh, a bunch of volunteers that decided out in the city of Camargo that they were going to put in a fire department.


MAY: And they had bake sales and car washes and anything they could do to beg, borrow and steal money to buy used equipment --


MAY: -- and to be able to respond to some fires.


MAY: And they did such a good job that they became a taxing district and eventually provided fire service to the entire county with the exception of the city limits of Mount Sterling.


MAY: Of course, we had a fifteen-man, fulltime paid fire department. Well --(clears throat)-- after negotiating with the county fire 01:28:00district and the chief, we came to terms where the city actually contracted their fire service to the c-- to the fire district. And, in the process, I leased them our station down on East Main Street.


MAY: By this time, they had built a station on the by-pass, which was in the county, had not been annexed at that point, which I did annex it later, but. Um, they, uh -- so we leased them our station and leased them all of our equipment. And in the deal they bought an eighty-five foot aerial truck, which we really needed in order to get to the five-story building that we had that we couldn't adequately fight if it were to catch on fire. And, uh, it was just a tremendous deal for everybody. So, now we were being served by two stations. Half the town had a lower response time because now they could be served from the by-pass station.


MAY: Uh, more manpower, more equipment. Um, they hired some of our 01:29:00people. Uh, I hired some for the street department and a handful of them needed to go away anyway.

BIRDWHISTELL: But then you weren't administratively responsible? It's just a --

MAY: That is correct. It was a contract.


MAY: And, uh, we negotiated contracts, uh, err, negotiated the price, we basically set it up for a period of like, three years and then when it came contract negotiating time, uh, we would, uh, I would work on those numbers and maybe buy a new fire truck, and get the numbers down. And still --


MAY: -- own the fire truck, but lease it to them so they would have the use of it, but would keep the numbers down. And also, if there was ever anybody in my position and the fire chief's position that didn't get along, all the city had to do was hire a crew. They still had the building.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: They still had the equipment so they could get back in the fire fighting business.

BIRDWHISTELL: So do you give workshops for the League of Cities on leasing? (laughs)

MAY: Uh, sometimes. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, it just keeps coming up.

MAY: Well, yeah. But, uh, the really good news was, not only did it eliminate my biggest headache --



MAY: -- with -- personnel-wise, but it saved us a hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars a year.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow, that's significant.

MAY: And that was 1987, in nineteen-- or no. Yeah, 1987. And 1986 was the last year that we got a hundred and seventy-five thousand-dollar federal revenue sharing check.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: So, that went away. So, when so many communit-- communities were devastated when they lost that income.


MAY: You know, you couldn't use it for salaries and that type of thing. It was more for capital expenditures, but when they had to quit, if they wanted to keep doing their capital expenditures, they had to go into the general fund to get this money.


MAY: So, a lot of communities were devastated when they lost that, and we never missed it, because we picked up, uh, eleven thousand dollars in savings from the fire department over what the revenue sharing check was.

BIRDWHISTELL: So why was the country district fire people able to handle the personnel issues better than the city of Mount Sterling? What, what was different about it?

MAY: Well, I think a lot of that is just from the leadership within 01:31:00your department. And of course, the, the county was still a lot more volunteers. Yeah, they hired, uh, several people to make this deal work, which, which was really better for them because they were trying to put more stations around the county --


MAY: -- and needed some fulltime people to man the stations.


MAY: It just, it was a win-win situation.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's interesting. The fire department doesn't come up that much in these interviews --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- but the police do, because the police are out there on the street and there's always an opportunity to embarrass you as an administration.

MAY: Well, and that was, that was one of the main things. We had a police chief that, um, actually, when I was on the council and when I got off, that was there that we had hired away from Lexington, from the metro. He had been a detective in the metro force. Very professional, uh, good administrator, but the former mayor did things politically.


MAY: And he wanted to do things right and not politically and they just 01:32:00did not work at all. So, he was gone and a fellow that we had fired as a patrol man for just cause when I was on the council --

BIRDWHISTELL: Became chief?

MAY: Became chief.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, goodness.

MAY: -- under the new administration.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, goodness. (laughs)

MAY: So he's the one that stayed with me for about three months.

BIRDWHISTELL: That explains it.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That explains it. Um, when you became mayor, did you, uh, back then was the League of Cities doing its orientation, uh, meetings that they do now for new mayors?

MAY: It was -- they were. They had that newly elected officials training. And, of course, the thing that really gave me an advantage was, uh, getting on the board of directors of the League.


MAY: You know, I came in, in January of '86, um, and went to my first KLC board meeting in January of '86, and I --

BIRDWHISTELL: How did you get on so quick?

MAY: Um, back then, we -- it basically was given to a town and not the person.


MAY: And my predecessor had finagled her way on and, uh, so when she was 01:33:00out, I was in.

BIRDWHISTELL: You inherited her board position.

MAY: Um-hm. Well that's changed now. It's not necessarily done that way.


MAY: But it was really fortunate for me because I got to meet so many different people from around the state. And so many of the things we did were not my ideas, you know. I, uh, didn't reinvent the wheel. Uh, just in talking to people about different things that they'd done in their communities and we were able to bring it home and adapt it to ours and make things work.

BIRDWHISTELL: When you become mayor, uh, thinking back on that, uh -- people that you met through the League, what mayors were out there that impressed you, that had ideas that you thought had great merit and you wanted to try and implement?

MAY: There are so many.

BIRDWHISTELL: You can't even start.

MAY: I'd hate to start.


MAY: You know, you mentioned Paul Smith in Burksville.


MAY: I mean, one of the best administrators, a two-- retired two-star general --


MAY: -- went back to his little community of two thousand people and -- or so, and did wonders for that community, as far as seeing that they did things right and --



MAY: -- getting the firm financial footing that they needed to exist. And you know, just, just so many different people from across the state --


MAY: -- that you can pick up a little, little bits and pieces of things from them here and there and, and you know, just go back and try to adapt it to your community.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, you, you're obviously good with numbers and you knew how to balance a ledger, and how to make things run. This was -- must have been an advantage as you entered the mayor's office, because the first thing a public official wants to do is not go broke in office, not bankrupt the city and not have money missing and stuff like that. So, uh, you had a good working relationship with your city treasurer? Is that a --

MAY: Actually, my, my city clerk was also the city treasurer.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was the treasurer, okay, I thought that.

MAY: We made a deal when I first went in office. I said, "Let's neither one of us steal a nickel of this money unless we get it all." (both laugh) And she said, "That works for me." (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: I had a -- have a really close friend, who worked his way up as a faculty member in universities and then got a job as an 01:35:00administrator at a major university. He still tells the story, we were at breakfast one day and he was just getting ready to take this job and I said, "George, don't steal the money." (both laugh) He tells people that all the time. But I like your line, "Don't steal the money unless you get it all." (both laugh) But that's a big issue, isn't it? I mean, uh --

MAY: Yeah, it is.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh, facing that.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: But you had experience, you felt confident, I'm sure, that you could, uh, I mean, run a budget like that.

MAY: Well, yeah, and of course, it's, uh, it takes some studying and knowing what you're doing everywhere. But you know, the, the monthly recording and you can track it, and, of course, you need to pay attention to it and what, you know, how things are doing. And of course, one of the things that, that I did, you know, I came in, of course I had, uh -- couldn't lease the city police cars as mayor, so, uh, four of them were expiring, uh, just after I filed, so I didn't bid on those --



MAY; -- when I was running for mayor.


MAY: And actually I, I sold the, the three that I had left, uh, to another fellow in town. Sold him the leases. And, uh, they were -- they expired a few months into my term.


MAY: So, I got out of that totally. But what I did was, I continued to do what I had done and that is buy the two-year-old police car, and, uh, so the city owned them. And I saw that they were maintained --


MAY: -- the way I wanted them maintained. And, and actually, by doing it this way I was able to go to home fleet.


MAY: By buying the used cars.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that unusual for a town of that size, to do home fleet?

MAY: It was at that time.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I thought.

MAY: I mean, we used to have -- I remember when we had one, then two, then three cars and, and those three cars just actually got the wheels worn off of them. And if you had three cars and maybe they only needed two, well, they'd be sure to keep the one they didn't like torn up, so it would be in the shop. (Birdwhistell laughs) So -- but when you've 01:37:00got only one man driving a car and a, a little something happens to it, he'll notice a little noise. You know, if a -- for instance, if an alternator bearing starts to make a little noise --


MAY: -- he'll get something done to it before he gets out and the alternator bearing -- alternator locks up and throws a belt and the car gets hot and he cracks a head and you know, it just goes on and on.


MAY: So they get used to them and they, they don't want to be without a car, and so when the little things happen, they get them fixed before they become major things.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) What about, um -- correct me if I'm wrong on this; I don't think people think of Mount Sterling and diversity very much, uh -- is it a very diverse community? Were you able to deal with diversity issues within the administration?

MAY: Uh, I think so. I think very well. Um, we, uh, I'll have to go back several years to -- my city clerk told me this story about -- (clears throat)-- about a mayor that was there, I guess, fifteen years before I was. Uh, somebody called him up and wanted to know how many, 01:38:00uh-- well, they didn't, didn't ask him how many black employees he had; they told him that he needed to have a certain percentage --


MAY: -- because that was the percentage that he had in his community.


MAY; And he said, "Well, hang on just a minute. And he said, "Doris, how many black employees do we got?" And she told him and he said, where this fellow could hear him, on the phone, he said, "Remind me to fire two tomorrow. We've got too many." (both laugh) And the guy said, "Oh no, don't do that." But, uh, you know, we had a -- I took care of the, basically, the third ward, was, uh -- is the black precinct. And, uh, you know, they had some improvements that needed to be done up there for years that, that I got after and got done. You know, there was a --

BIRDWHISTELL: Sidewalks and --?

MAY: Well, curbs and gutters, and a, a bridge that needed to be repaired, and just a lot of things in the neighborhood that had been neglected over the years. And, you know, they had a, of course, uh, the, the Dubois School burnt in the sixties --



MAY: -- a week before school was to start. And that, of course, that's when we integrated and you know, they had no place to go when school started.


MAY: And, uh, the only thing that was saved was the gymnasium and it, uh, has become a community center.


MAY: And, uh, you know, I used to go to their -- put on my tuxedo and went to the Dubois Ball, you know, had a big time. And really worked well with them. Had a, had a, a black council member still on today, and he's been on, I guess, going on thirty years that he's been on the council. So, I think we had a good relationship.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's interesting, uh, your generation of mayors that has obviously been identified by the League of Cities as progressive, people I've interviewed, um, tell the story, almost to a person about becoming aware that the, uh, the black section of the community has been underserved --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: in terms of the infrastructure.

MAY: Um-hm.


BIRDWHISTELL: And you all had to take that on. What does that say about these, uh, communities historically, do you think? I mean, is that -- how did you feel about that, I mean, looking at that and knowing that, probably through generations, that that had been that way?

MAY: Well, looking back on it now, it makes me think we've come a long way. But I, I know, I mean, even when I was a kid, what -- well, I remember the, the integration of the schools and like I say, it probably would not have hap-- did --


MAY: -- had it not been for the fire.


MAY: But we had a little bit of arson renewal in our town --(both laugh)-- and that was part of it.


MAY: But, uh, you know, I mean, it's, it's really sad to think that they, that they were -- those areas were neglected that much for that long.


MAY: And you're right with the sewers --


MAY: -- and so much of the basic infrastructure --


MAY: -- that just was not --


MAY: -- either non-existent or not in good condition.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, what do you think it is in your background that, you know, when you become mayor -- I mean, obviously it's in the eighties. I mean, you would hope that things had started to change, but doesn't 01:41:00necessarily have to. I mean, in some communities, it's, it probably still hasn't changed. What is it in your background that, uh, you say, "This has got to change?"

MAY: Well, I don't know -- I guess just coming from such a small community and seeing that everybody has to work together. And, uh, you know, I guess I was, um -- I'm trying to think what grade. I think I was in the third grade when, uh, when the Dubois School merged with ours.


MAY: And, uh, so you know, it's just first two years of school was an all-white school --


MAY: -- and, uh, you know it's just, uh -- you got to know them and get along and work together.

BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm. Okay, that's fair enough. Of course, one of the big issues that you had to face coming in as mayor -- you may have forgotten this, and that is, uh -- how do you spell the name of the city? (both laugh) You had to come to terms with that pretty early on, didn't you?

MAY: Yeah. Well, I tell you what --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- back then 01:42:00I spelled it m-t-period, because it was easier and quicker. And now I historically spell it out.


MAY: We, uh, we had changed, uh -- I got the logo changed and had a, a nice script spelling Mount Sterling out. And, um, had a big swooping line coming from the, the "g" in Mount Sterling. In that, we printed "1792 forward."


MAY: Of course, 1792 was the year that the city was formed --


MAY: -- actually named. There were four people that basically founded the city. And, uh, one of the fellows was given the opportunity to name it. And, uh, he had emigrated here from Stirling, Scotland. So they changed the spelling to -- from an "i" to an "e" and the, the "Mount" came from the Indian mounds that were in the area.


MAY: So it became Mount Sterling. So, yeah, I do -- and I was very 01:43:00fortunate with, you know, having seven letters in my name when it came to signing paychecks. (both laugh) You know, a lot of -- like with your name, it's going to take you a while when you're signing payroll checks or something, you know, uh, for the entire city --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- or the, the monthly checks. You know, it took some time. But seven letters came out pretty quick.

BIRDWHISTELL: I was talking to somebody the other day, we were talking about how we write so little anymore, that when you sign your name you almost have to pay attention, you know.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's kind of crazy.

MAY: Um, we -- of course, I was faced with some lawsuits from, uh, some police department lawsuits early on, too.


MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: For dismissal, uh or --?

MAY: No, for pursuit. We had a, we had a tragic incident.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, you mean the city was.

MAY: Yeah. The city was, not me personally.

BIRDWHISTELL: Not a police officer suing you --

MAY: No, no.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- or a police officer suing the city--

MAY: No, no.

BIRDWHISTELL: But a suit against the city.

MAY: That is correct.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's why I raised that issue earlier --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- because I said -- you know, my -- I know that the 01:44:00police thing is you're exposed so much --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, you're exposed twenty-four-seven as they say.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: And something's going to happen.

MAY: Well, and see we had this one, uh, pursuit happened, uh, this tragic incident at, at, uh, 11:45 PM, December 31 1985. I wasn't mayor.


MAY: Fifteen minutes later I was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh. (laughs)

MAY: Or sixteen minutes later, whenever.


MAY: You know --(clears throat)-- so, but anyway this pursuit happened at that time of a drunk driver, and, uh -- they broke the pursuit off, but the drunk driver continued on to get away and ended hitting an innocent victim and killing themselves and the innocent victim.

BIRDWHISTELL: And people wanted to hold the city responsible?

MAY: Yeah, oh yeah. They didn't like me and they didn't like my police department.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. Can't see how they could win that suit.

MAY: Well, they didn't. But it created a lot of bad blood, from especially the south side of the county where these -- all these people were from.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right out of the, right out of the gate.


MAY: Yeah, in fact one of my favorite stories -- still tell it, well, I even told it two weeks ago at a -- or three weeks ago, I was at a conference on a panel in, uh, Minnesota and I told this, uh, to a panel on rural development. But I was at my very first council meeting, and, uh, my wife gets a phone call, this girl says, "Is this Burton May's house?" And my wife says, "Yes, it is." And she says "Is this the one that's the mayor," like there's thirteen of us in the Mount Sterling phone book. (Birdwhistell laughs) My wife says, "Yes, it is." And the girl says, "Well, I've got to talk to him." And my wife said, "Well, he's not here right now, but if you'll leave your name and number, he'll call you right back." And she says, "I can't do that, that's confidential. This is his girlfriend."


MAY: Well, my wife knew I didn't have time or money for a girlfriend --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and she said, "Honey --"


MAY: "-- if you don't leave your name and number, he won't know which one to call back." (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: That was pretty quick.

MAY: So about nine years later, I sent it in to Reader's Digest and just 01:46:00got four hundred bucks when they printed it. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: She wanted to know which girl--

MAY: But I've, you know, had my share of hateful phone calls. You never make --(sighs)-- you make half the people mad anything you do, basically.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, did you leave your phone listed?

MAY: Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, and so you just had to take those calls.

MAY: Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You didn't have caller ID, probably.

MAY: No, we did not have the -- well, in the last year or so of my administration, we had caller ID.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I was thinking; it would be toward the end.

MAY: Yeah, yeah. My wife comments on that, several -- she's commented on that several times, about how all those years we took all those phone calls, and didn't know who we were dealing with.


MAY: Now the people in office get to see who's calling.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Of course, now they can call your cell phone.

MAY: Well, it's --

BIRDWHISTELL: I -- the first time a boy called -- I have a teenage daughter and the first time a boy called and said something ugly, I said, "It's caller ID time." (laughs)

MAY: Hmm. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, well, that's, uh, you know, that's, uh -- it's interesting looking at these, uh, positions because there's really 01:47:00good and really ugly stuff. And there's just no way to do it without getting the whole package, is there? I mean --

MAY: No, there's really not.


MAY: There's really not. As, as far as the -- like I say, as far as making people happy or making people mad, my state representative says it best, as far as the people you satisfy. He says there can be ten bills in the legislature that people from home are following.


MAY: You can make 90 percent of the people happy the way you vote on each one of those bills. But if the 10 percent that you made mad are different on all ten bills, you've made 100 percent of the people mad. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a pretty interesting way of looking at it.

MAY: (laughs) Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I've not heard that before.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You can make 100 percent --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- of the people mad. Hmm.

MAY: That's right. So --

BIRDWHISTELL: So, in the first term, uh, you're getting organized.

MAY: And I knew I was a one-term mayor.


MAY: I knew that's all I wanted to do.


MAY: It was costing, at thirty-six hundred dollars a year, uh, taking 01:48:00time away from business. I wasn't making any money in my business. I was just getting by and I, I knew that that's all I could afford to do.


MAY: And then as things began to happen, uh, the association I formed with the people in the League of Cities --


MAY: -- a little progress was beginning to happen with the community. Uh, first downtown revitalization community block grant --


MAY: -- was starting to work --


MAY: -- uh, that we, you know, that we had applied for and received, and, and got that moving and, uh, made me feel a lot better about things. And, uh, of course, uh, I guess that, uh, was into the second term that we had -- the city administrator decided, uh, he wanted to retire. Uh, he'd been a -- over a hundred grand-a-year man at IBM--


MAY: -- back in those days, which was a whole lot more money then, you 01:49:00know, than it is now, err, you know.


MAY: Then than it is now.


MAY: And he worked a couple of years and he decided that he really wanted to, uh, to retire. And he recommended to the council that they get me to work fulltime and, uh, assume his duties too. Uh, which is the -- which the council wanted me to do and asked me to do --


MAY: -- so I did.


MAY: I had an opportunity to sell my business at that time or shortly thereafter.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you really jumped in it then. I mean --

MAY: So, I did do it fulltime.


MAY: Yeah. Well, I was seven and a half years into it when I --


MAY: -- it was July of '93 --


MAY: -- that I actually went to do it fulltime.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's quite a commitment.

MAY: Yeah, they raised the salary a little bit, but if I hadn't had some rental property and some other things going, you know, I couldn't have existed, so.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's another thing I'm picking up that city government really wouldn't work very well unless people like yourself, like Mayor 01:50:00Smith and people who have other incomes get involved in city government.

MAY: Well, it's a, it's a different animal, really. Basically it is, in so many cases, is expected to be a volunteer job, when it's really a big job, uh, when you think of all the responsibilities. I mean, the cities actually provide more services and have more things to do than the county governments do. You know, they've got more -- for instance, in my little city of fifty-eight hundred people, at one time we had the fire department, we got the police department, we got the street department, and we got the general government people, in addition to all the boards and commissions and the council that we deal with and --


MAY: -- you know, the different things that we support. And, you know, basically I had responsibility of the hiring and firing of all those people. Where in the county, you've got an elected jailer doing the 01:51:00jail --


MAY: -- you've got an elected sheriff that's doing the law enforcement --


MAY: -- you've got an elected county clerk that's, that's keeping the records --


MAY: -- and, you know. So basically the county judge and the fiscal court are in charge of the road system, the county road system.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?

MAY: They sure don't do the city.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) so much, but that's pretty much all they can do. (laughs)

MAY: Yeah. So, you know, they don't, and of course, in most cases, the cities provide the water and sewer, and in some cases, gas and electric.


MAY: And you know, if there is a water district, yes the taxing districts are creations of the counties and fiscal courts. They are permitted to exist because of them, but there's very little to do with them once they are created.

BIRDWHISTELL: Once they're done. Yeah.

MAY: So they don't have the direct input on them, so there's --


MAY: -- really -- the job descriptions and the salaries of the highest city-elected officials and the highest county-elected officials don't work.

BIRDWHISTELL: So is this ever going to change or is it just going to go 01:52:00on like this?

MAY: We've, we've tried to raise that awareness, uh, and actually in the legislature with a bill to, uh -- on mayor's pay. And the last time, the last, uh, session, uh, however, we had one state representative, who was a former mayor, who was grandstanding for KET and the people back home, and, uh -- because he was -- knew he wasn't going to run, had already filed for mayor, and was trying to -- and told the people that he didn't need any more money to be mayor.


MAY: He knew what it was going to pay and we didn't need to pass this bill.


MAY: And we're really just trying to ways-- uh, raise the awareness and, and trying to set some minimums of the mayor's salary, if and only if, the legislative body deemed it a full-time position. I mean, they would have had to pass a resolution or an ordinance, saying that the mayor's position is going to be a fulltime position to make these minimums kick in. So, it was entirely optional to the legislative body whether they wanted to do this or not.


MAY: It was just permissive legislation, basically.



MAY: But --(clears throat)-- it, uh -- needless to say, we didn't get it through. But we're just trying to raise that awareness because we're really concerned that somebody that wants to get in local politics and to be a leader in their community and they say -- sit back and say, "Well, you know, I'm maybe thirty years old or thirty-five years old or whatever, I could have a future here. I could either go to work as, uh -- I could be a mayor for twenty-four hundred dollars a year or let's see, I could be county judge and get sixty-six thousand a year." (Birdwhistell laughs) Or, or eighty-five, depe-- whatever it is, depending on your, your, uh -- the population of the county. So we're afraid that --(clears throat)-- some of the young, dynamic leadership is going to be leaning towards the counties, because they need to -- they know that they need to support their families.

BIRDWHISTELL: But there's another side to this, though, that's kind of interesting to me. And that is, if you're successful in making it full-time and raising the salary, you might get not as good of people. (laughs)

MAY: Well --(clears throat)-- that's true and that's something that, 01:54:00here again, you're going to have to trust the voters on.


MAY: And if they, if they prove --

BIRDWHISTELL: Because part of what makes it so successful right now is that there are entrepreneurial-type people, natural leaders, who are committed to the community, that go do this. Not about -- it's not about the salary or the title.

MAY: Well, that's true, but it's, uh -- you know, we just want to give the communities the option.


MAY: And, and in so many cases, uh -- I mean, let's face it, uh, you've got so many people that, uh, several people have been mayor for a long, long time --


MAY: -- and they get set in their ways. And it, it probably is not a, I mean -- you know, I did it for thirteen years before the voters turned me out. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Before they let you go.

MAY: Before they gave me a raise, actually. So, uh, you know, and it's, it's -- I've got mixed emotions on that because I, I feel like I had a 01:55:00lot of things going, and a lot of contacts made to --


MAY: -- make things continue to be better, but then you get new ideas when you get somebody new and you get different, things done a little differently, and it's --


MAY: -- you know. It all works out.

BIRDWHISTELL: Let's talk a minute about that first four years.

MAY: Okay.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you make the kind of progress in that first four years that you'd hoped to see?

MAY: No. No.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. It would have been hard to --

MAY: Well, there were evidence of things starting to happen --


MAY: -- but see, I had basically two lawsuits involving the police department that were pretty good size lawsuits that I had to deal with. Um, any number of things and of course, the beginning of the demise and the contracting of the fire department --


MAY: -- happened in the -- well, it was a year and a half into my administration that that happened. So that was, that was really a positive that I recognized that, uh, that was really good for the community and good for the -- everybody, city and county it was good 01:56:00for.


MAY: Um, we got our first downtown revitalization grant -- you know, things started slow, but towards the end and before the filing deadline for the next term, uh, I'd really gotten to know a lot of people throughout the state, um, of course through the League and my association with them being on the board of directors and, uh, people in Frankfort that we dealt with on community development block grants, and, uh -- just made a lot of friends with that and, and was beginning to see some things start to happen. So I go ahead and I file for the second term, of which I figured all along I was going to be one term to try and straighten things up and get somebody in there that could take over --


MAY: -- and get back to business and make a living.


MAY: So -- but then, the second term starts off, um, I ran in '89, and took office in '90. And, of course, '90 is when Whirlpool announced that they were closing --


MAY: -- and we lost six hundred and fifty jobs, and unemployment --

BIRDWHISTELL: Must have cut into your payroll tax, huh?


MAY: Uh --


MAY: Actually, no. No, because they were in the county.


MAY: Now see, that's one of the things that I talk about working together.


MAY: You know, we fun-- helped fund -- starting in '89, we helped fund the economic development office on a fifty-fifty basis with the county or equal amounts with the county. And the chamber put in a little. Even though we only had 25 percent of the people and got none of the payroll tax. (Birdwhistell laughs) So.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a tough, that's a tough formula.

MAY: But, I mean, there were other things in the community that, that I realized --


MAY: -- that we needed these jobs. These people spent their money in the community and, and hired people to service those people that did pay the payroll tax. And it was a, it was another piece of the puzzle.


MAY: So what's good for the county was good for the city.

BIRDWHISTELL: And as we've discussed earlier and you're saying again now, uh, um, part of your hallmark of your administration was that you did work with the county officials.

MAY: Absolutely.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, the cooperation between your office and the 01:58:00county offices was recognized, uh --

MAY: Absolutely.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- for, for its success. One of the things that intrigues me about the -- you know, you think of the county judges as being in Frankfort and, you know, going by and seeing the governor, benefiting from all this, you know, the road projects and these kind of things. As mayor, let's see, when you take, uh, when you take office, uh, in, uh -- what's --

MAY: January of '86.

BIRDWHISTELL: January of '86. It's the end of the Collins, uh, the Collins administration, um, and then you are going to transition through the Wilkinson administration. And one of the things that's always been said about the Wilkinson administration was its close ties with the communities around the state. What was your, what was your relationship with the Wilkinson administration?

MAY: Well, I liked him in the early days of the campaign. I thought he was a fresh face with a, a very good business background. Well, soon 01:59:00we learned differently, but, uh. (Birdwhistell laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: He'd been successful to this point.

MAY: Yeah. And, uh, I really did like him. BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm.

MAY: And, uh, I voted for him.


MAY: And, uh, of course I've -- had done business with, uh, several of the people at home that were really close in his campaign and, uh, got along with them fine. It was a, a good relationship for the community, so I thought initially. Um, however, the, uh -- one of his supporters that they had promised a job to was, uh, the former mayor. (Birdwhistell laughs) (clears throat) And when they realized that they couldn't produce and get her a job, um, it worked out that 1988, the summer of 1988, uh, I took a little week's vacation. And while I was gone I called home and they said, "Oh, by the way, the industrial authority met without you and, uh, the Wilkinson administration promised that if we hired her as our economic development director, that they would bring us two industries in the next year." 02:00:00(Birdwhistell laughs) So they caught me out of town and they hired her --(laughs)-- which was fine. So, we -- anyway, we --

BIRDWHISTELL: Didn't that aggravate you though?

MAY: Well, it annoyed me a little bit, so. But anyway, she served her twelve months and no industries and, and, uh, I was sure glad I was not chairman of the industrial authority because he was the one that got to go and say, "We tried this and it didn't work, so you need to move on."

BIRDWHISTELL: So Wilkinson didn't come through?

MAY: No, no, no. And, you know, when we hired this fellow for our economic development director, I really learned --

BIRDWHISTELL: You need to go?

MAY: No. I really learned what an asset he was. I mean, he got to know the people in the commerce cabinet --


MAY: -- and, of course, he had done this before. He had been in another city before he came here. But, every year, he and I and the county judge, well, the later county judge. The county judge -- the first county judge didn't go with us, but. He and I would go up on a houseboat, up on Cave Run and have the -- all the project managers from 02:01:00the commerce cabinet come up and spend the night with us.


MAY: Cook a big steak for them, you know --


MAY: -- and just sit around and, and have a big time and get to know them --


MAY: -- and treat them well. And, you know, they really enjoyed and appreciated that.


MAY: And we got to know them. And they knew that we had our infrastructure in place. They knew that we were ready, willing and able to take care of the people and when a project came, they'd bring them to Mount Sterling.

BIRDWHISTELL: All things being equal, go with the guys who gave you a steak. (laughs)

MAY: Well, and once we got them there, we could show them our community --


MAY: -- and we could sell our community.


MAY: And, and, I -- that one thing you talked about, the cooperation and I've said this many times, I can assure you that if you've got an industry looking at your community, six months before you know who they are, they're subscribing to your local newspaper.


MAY: And if they see the city and the county are at odds --


MAY: -- they're going on down the road.


MAY: They don't want to get into a mess. They're going to make a major 02:02:00commitment. They want a, you know, they want a good quality of life. And they want concerned people that are worried about their community, and -- in fact, one of the best things we did in 1990, we put on a, uh -- you know, here it was hard times. We did a couple of things. We passed the liquor by the drink for restaurants --


MAY: -- uh, and we put on a restaurant tax.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, you did?

MAY: We did. We put on a 2 percent restaurant tax; you could put on up to 3. The legislature changed those laws. Originally that restaurant tax could be used for recreation or tourism and --(clears throat)-- they changed the law in the '90 session of the legislature. But before the effective date, we got it passed where we could use that money for recreation. The first year, we generated two hundred and twenty thousand dollars from that 2 percent tax --


MAY: -- and on the strength of that we borrowed one-point-eight million dollars from the League and built a sixty-eight acre recreation park.


MAY: And that became our second stop on our community tours with 02:03:00industry. And, you know, we'd take them out and show them the site first, the, the industrial park --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)----------

MAY: -- where their building was going to be, yeah. And then --(clears throat)-- we'd start coming in back in Georgetown and turn on the by- pass and take them to Easy Walker Park. And we'd say, "Look what we put a tax on ourselves to build."


MAY: And you know, these industries they're talking about hiring -- sending, either some of those people coming themselves or sending some of their people to a community --


MAY: -- and they want to know that that community is going to put their money where their mouth is --


MAY: -- and do things that's right for the community.


MAY: And that was, uh -- of course that was, it happened to be on the way to the schools, you know, before we could show them the education system, so we'd show them that one second.


MAY: But it was a tremendous asset.

[Pause in recording.]

MAY: I need to be in Frankfort at one, so that's --

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Well, that was my next question, about the schools. Um, I don't know much about the Montgomery County schools, in terms 02:04:00of I haven't looked up to see where they rank. I know some kids that have come out of the Mount Sterling -- or Montgomery County school system recently, and they seem to be doing fine. Was that an issue for you all?

MAY: The schools were an issue with us and especially in later years as we were beginning to be so successful and needing to -- needing workers --


MAY: -- you know, as the unemployment rates dropped down to 3.2.


MAY: You know, especially with some areas that may actually have 5 percent that are unemployable and you've got 3.2 unemployed, you're hurting.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I mean, this is kind of interesting. You know, I'm not an economist. I don't know much about it, but you're -- you know, one minute you have what? Eighteen percent unemployment?

MAY: Nineteen ninety.

BIRDWHISTELL: And then you go down to less than five percent, and --

MAY: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's driving the salaries, it's driving the hourly wage up in Mount Sterling, but you don't have enough workers to continue to expand, so you never can quite --(May clears throat)-- get it all working.

MAY: Well, that's true. And it's, uh, you know, we had a lot of people that didn't think we were getting high enough paying jobs.



MAY: But, now -- and there are certain --

BIRDWHISTELL: Other than Bill Bishop?

MAY: Well, yeah, well. (Birdwhistell laughs) Who didn't like the Creda (??) program, but you know, the Creda Program worked for us. Seventy percent of our industry deals were Creda deals.


MAY: Yeah.


MAY: And, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: He just never let up on that.

MAY: No, no. But, you know, what we gave up were things we weren't getting in the Creda Program.


MAY: And, um, well, where do I want to go from here? So many directions. Uh, one of the things early on that really helped get the community involved was you've got to be so secretive about industry prospects. You know, you can't tell about a company that's coming because chances are if the name gets out, the neighboring community is going to either contact them and give them a better deal and steal them. (Birdwhistell laughs) Or number two: they may be closing a facility that's going to get them in legal trouble --


MAY: -- which is going to stop the deal. So, you just can't tell anybody 02:06:00anything about that. And we had some business people that were getting quite upset that we weren't doing anything. And they basically got together and attempted to have a witch hunt to see what was going on with our economic development office. And I heard about it and made a comment I was going to go to it, because it was concerned citizens for economic development. I was told right up front that I wasn't welcome.


MAY: I said, okay.


MAY: So I didn't go. Well, some level heads prevailed. And, actually what they did was, the way they formatted it was they took questions. And they said all right, we're going to compile all these questions and then we're going to get the -- all the local officials in here and we're going to present these questions to them and we're going to get some answers. So there was a second meeting that I was, uh, subpoenaed to, basically. (Birdwhistell laughs) Instead of not just invited, I was told I was going to be there. So --(clears throat)-- but it was a really positive outcome. The people understood what we were doing, why 02:07:00we couldn't say things, what was going on and they realized that things were really happening behind the scenes and that they just hadn't seen the evidence of it yet.


MAY: And that was basically the turning point of the community.


MAY: And they really got behind a lot of our efforts, and, uh, the chamber picked up and things really started to go from that point.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is it difficult in a community that size that's working on economic development where a small circle of people know what's going on. Uh, that there is even the appearance of, uh, issues, about people buying up land, and knowing ahead of time what's what with the industry?

MAY: Uh, that is difficult, and that's, uh --


MAY: -- in fact, well, that's why we were able to hire our economic development director. Um, he came from a community where the, uh, finance, uh, the head finance guy for a governor's, uh, administration, 02:08:00uh, was on that, uh, industrial authority down there and they had a prospect. And he told this economic development director, "You need to sell them my land." (Birdwhistell laughs) And the economic development director says, "I don't operate that way." (Birdwhistell laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Good for him.

MAY: And needless to say, he was not there long. And so we were very fortunate to get him. And honestly, he worked himself out of a job in our community and went on to Morehead.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. What, uh -- we've talked about education a little bit, uh, and, uh, as you bring in these, uh, new industries, training is an issue, and, uh -- communities around the state, people wanted a private college, they wanted a four-year colleges, they couldn't get that. They wanted the technical schools. Where does Mount Sterling -- it gets caught in the middle on that.

MAY: We were, but the good news is we're within forty-five miles of six colleges or universities.

BIRDWHISTELL: So that's the way you present it?


MAY: Yeah. And we worked a -- we had some very good working relationships. In fact, we're now in the process of building a community center that's been going on for about, well, soon to be five years, I guess, since we started with that. But it's under roof now and progressing, and it, uh, it has areas for training in there. We, uh, think Morehead State University is going to probably lease a, a portion of it from us to, to do some training.


MAY: And we're ready, willing and able for any partnerships with anybody else that wants to do it, do some specialized industrial training or whatever.

BIRDWHISTELL: What's the closest technical school?

MAY: We've got a little vocational school there with the county school.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. But, uh, a part of the KT --

MAY: The CKTCS, I guess would be, uh, would be here in Lexington.


MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm, that's interesting.

MAY: So. But you know, we're right in the center of UK and Transy, and 02:10:00Richmond, uh, Eastern and Morehead and Georgetown.


MAY: And of course, there's some of the community college branches are around. And they do some things here in Mount Sterling, too. Morehead will do some, especially, will hold some classes there. Uh, that's a -- we've had a lot of input from the education community and, uh, especially a lot of input from Morehead. So.

BIRDWHISTELL: So as mayor, you had a lot of, uh, interaction with Morehead?

MAY: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah, sure did.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because you seem to be more Lexington-oriented, uh, in just the way you talk about things. You're, you're sort of turned toward Lexington.

MAY: Well --

BIRDWHISTELL: And I was going to ask you about the Morehead thing because of that. Was that ever an issue, in terms of the way you -- were you perceived as having a, a leaning toward the Lexington side of the --?

MAY: I don't really think so, and I think that I probably get that image now, because for nearly four years, I've been traveling to Lexington 02:11:00and Frankfort.


MAY: But, um it's, uh -- Morehead really had more of a presence and had, had wanted to do more with the existing school system as far as offering some college classes, uh, before anybody else did. And of course, we're really the closest to Morehead. You know, it's just about thirty miles to Morehead.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. And you have, a lot of your citizens, uh --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- are either graduates of Morehead --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- or are attending Morehead.

MAY: Um-hm. So they really had the most presence and, uh, were very interested in working with us on a number of things.

BIRDWHISTELL: But were the communities competing against one another?

MAY: Well, to, to some extent.


MAY: Uh, to some extent they were, but, uh, you know, we were way ahead of the curve, or way ahead of Morehead in the curve on, on getting our infrastructure. And, you know, like I say, they, they hired our economic development director --

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, that's what I'm going to be --

MAY: -- after he worked himself out of a job. I mean, we had made the commitment to the local industries that we were not going to try to recruit for anybody for a two-year period to let them get their 02:12:00workforce stabilized and, and not have anybody coming in and stealing their people.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was part of the, uh -- well, you've, you've mentioned the, the low point in the economy of Mount Sterling coincided with the national fall during the last years of the Bush administration --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and the first year of the Clinton administration. Um, it started to pick up after that. Does it also have a connection to the Toyota plant in terms of how things grew?

MAY: Um, you know, initially, we did not get the spin-offs that we thought we might, uh, because it was up in, I guess '93 or four before we ever got an automotive spin-off.

BIRDWHISTELL: Let's see, you got a, uh, Donnelly --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- operation in Mount Sterling --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- which initially they were going to employ fifty people to make car windows. That's in '92.

MAY: Oh, was it? Okay, well, that was --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: -- the announcement probably in '92, but it didn't come until 02:13:00probably ninety --

BIRDWHISTELL: And then you got the Lyon.

MAY: Well, Lyon, that's not really automotive, that's, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: No, I was just going on to the other, uh --

MAY: Okay.

BIRDWHSITELL: -- things that you got.

MAY: Summit Polymers was, uh, one that does injection molding of plastics --


MAY: -- and they make, they make primarily the, oh the, windshield washer jug bottles. Uh, the, you know, for windshield washer fluid and coolant recovery tanks. And they make the little air conditioning vents in your dash that you -- the little louvers, the louvers that you change, you know.

BIRDWHISTELL: I think you would be in a privileged position as mayor would talk to the automotive people about manufacturing.

MAY: Yeah, uh, of course it was, uh -- I'm really not much in the manufacturing end at that time.

BIRDWHISTELL: But your cars. (laughs)

MAY: Yeah, that's true. But, uh -- and I tell you one thing that I tried to do when, uh, when I was in the office, uh -- in fact I went on a trip to Holland, Michigan one time to, uh, uh, for the League. Actually, when I was president of the League, I went up there to see how the Michigan municipal league, uh, did a program. They had a 02:14:00mayors exchange, where they'd have two cities that would come together and spend a couple of days with each other --


MAY: -- and tour the facilities and see what all they did. And then they'd go -- the other group would go to that other city. I went to observe that in Holland, Michigan one time. And of course, Holland, Michigan is where the, the Donnelly headquarters is, the automotive. And this is not R. R. Donnelly, the printer; this is the automotive parts Donnelly. And, so, uh, I called in advance and set up an appointment to go call on John Donnelly --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- you know, the owner of the company. Went by just to, you know, to contact with him, make contact with him, and see how things were going in the community, and, you know, in, in Mount Sterling and just get a little different perspective. And I think they appreciate things like that.


MAY: So anytime I was traveling and had an opportunity to see somebody that had a business interest in, in our community, you know, I did it. I made sure that I did it, even if I had to go out of my way to do it.


BIRDWHISTELL: Sort of an ambassador of business --

MAY Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- an ambassador for the community.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Hmm, that's interesting. And I suspect you did it very well, too, I would say. We started off talking about your roots in downtown Richmond, and every --

MAY: Mount Sterling.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean --(laughs)--

MAY: That's all right.

BIRDWHISTELL: In Mount Sterling. Every mayor wants to do something about the downtown, because, uh, most of our generation has watched the decline of it and tried to rebuild it, and we talked about your roots there, uh, the expansion of the city out toward the interstate, the Wal-Mart coming. But in your administration you were trying to, to deal with that downtown area. Tell me a little bit about that.

MAY: Well, as I said earlier, we were typical, rural America, a by-pass and a Wal-Mart. Downtown went away, and, uh --[telephone buzzes]-- Yeah, let me get that.


BIRDWHISTELL: Taking up a lot of your time this morning.

MAY: Oh, that's all right.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, but the, uh, efforts to--

MAY: Downtown revitalization, okay. We had a situation where we had, uh, ten buildings at the very main intersection of town that were owned by two absentee property owners.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. Um-hm. I've heard that before. (laughs)

MAY: They were 30 percent occupied on the ground floor --


MAY: -- totally empty on the second and third stories. And we discussed and I got an engineering firm to look at it, and we actually had somebody contact us wanting to do a project with it, but, uh, to actually buy them and rehab them and put some housing in there. Um, of course, we applied for a community development block grant to help that process along. And it was -- it didn't make it, and finally, I asked the people, the people at BLG, I said, "You know, this project 02:17:00is really neat as far as fixing up the downtown. It's really going to do what we need it to do. Why can it not get funded?" They said, "Your developer's making too much money." (Birdwhistell laughs) I said, "Okay, what can we do?" They said, "Get you a non-profit housing corporation to help you --"


MAY: "-- or form a non-profit housing corporation and do it on your own." So we did and boom, it was funded.


MAY: And it was very innovative and got us some national publicity, statewide awards, national awards. Very complicated, six million dollar project. Bought these ten buildings. I mean, very innovative even the way we bought them. I mean --

BIRDWHISTELL: I was going to say, how do you buy those buildings from absentee owners?

MAY: Well, under the threat of condemnation, basically. But, we had one that, uh, and of course, we can only use NCDB, CDBG funds to buy them. You can only give the appraised value. And one -- n-- nine of the ten 02:18:00buildings applay-- appraised at like four hundred and forty thousand dollars. And the guy wanted -- started out wanting a million dollars --


MAY: -- for them and, I think, agreed to take seven hundred and fifty thousand. Well, we couldn't pay that much. The project wouldn't work. So, finally I said, "Why don't you get an appraisal on this property of your own and whatever you can get an appraisal for that's over and above our appraisal that we pay you for the property, you can have as a charitable contribution?" And he said, "Hmm." So he got to figuring and got an appraisal and we bought it for the appraised amount without the thr-- without having to go through condemnation.

BIRDWHISTELL: And he got the tax --

MAY: He got the tax credits, so he was better off. And we got the deal done and it worked.


MAY: So, um --

BIRDWHISTELL: When you got the buildings re-- re-done, has that worked?

MAY: It's not without problems.



MAY: (clears throat) And some of the problems are complicated. Uh, we used, we borrowed 2.3 million dollars in home money --(clears throat)-- to, uh to do the half -- the fifty-one, low income, elderly apartments. The, uh -- we had a deal set up where we were going to sell the tax credits and due to an error that we moved people in before we should have, before we had all the paperwork done, uh, Fannie Mae had agreed to buy the tax credits and they refused to buy them.


MAY: And we lost out on a bunch of that that we should have had. Of course, the elderly apartments, so many of the people, uh, that go in there, they come out in not too long a distance either to the nursing home or to the funeral home. And so you got a lot of turnover there.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I was wondering.

MAY: We fixed up the, uh, retail space down -- all the facades were 02:20:00restored to their 1890's condition. We actually formed two non- profits. We were a Main Street community. And I got the Main Street group to become, uh -- to form their own non-profit, to hold title to the retail space, because due to the home money, which is a federal home loan program, you can't have any retail property in it. It has to be strictly a housing development.


MAY: So we did a condominium subdivision on it.


MAY: And divided it out and had two different non-profit corporations hold title to them. Well, the problem was we didn't have any grant money to fix up the property. The, the Main Street group had the property free and clear, but no money to fix it up, to be able to lease it out. And there were a lot of people on there that were afraid of the commitment and didn't want to spend anything more than five years, have more than five-year loans invested in the fix up of these buildings. And therefore weren't able to do it like they should, and to get the 02:21:00kind of deals that they needed in there that would be long lasting deals, so. I had a hard time convincing them, you know, to go ahead and spend the money, that you don't have to worry about paying anything else off because the building is already paid for. You know, well, so that was a long struggle and it's, it's been a continuing struggle.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I think it -- the reason I ask that is because all of these projects are not only so complicated, but their outcome is not guaranteed.

MAY: That's true.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean there's a lot of -- when you're trying to reinvent --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- a city, a community in a, a sort of a twenty-first century set-up, there are some things that just don't work.

MAY: That's true and you know, things are changing. You've got to be careful with the types of businesses you get in. I mean, we've gotten basically two, uh, women's clothing, little dress shops in, one in that, uh, actual facility and one across the street from it. We've got 02:22:00a restaurant there on the corner that's really nice and had we not, had not done that project, that would have never happened. Of course, had we not had liquor by the drink, that probably would not have happened either.

BIRDWHISTELL: So it's all, it's all interchanged.

MAY: Yeah, all part of the puzzle.

BIRDWHISTELL: And you can have one part fall out --

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and it just starts to, to, to go down.

MAY: That's right. So it's going to be a continuing project to keep this thing going, but now, it's really made a difference in downtown --


MAY: -- you know. And even though these people are low income/elderly, and so theoretically, they're not spending much money downtown.


MAY: But they bring people downtown. They are downtown. They're on the streets. They give the perception that things are going on. And a lot of times perception becomes reality.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, every time I walk in downtown Lexington, just walking from Mechanic Street over here this morning, it -- you know, you see all the fits and starts of this community and you go, "You know, will that ever get worked out?" But, then you think, "Well, what if we weren't even trying?"

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: "If we hadn't started trying in the sixties with downtown 02:23:00Lexington, what would we have today?" Probably nothing.

MAY: That's true. That's true.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you know you've got to keep yourself built up at the same time --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- that you're sort of taking things on. What about, uh -- it just comes to mind -- what about a person like Albert Clay? Is, is he a, is he a factor in city government? Was he a factor in city government?

MAY: You know, behind the scenes, maybe a little bit. Uh, very great individual.


MAY: Um, anything he could do for the community without getting credit for it --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- basically he would do. You know, there's a handful of people that know --


MAY: -- that one of the churches in, in the community, uh, did a living Christmas tree project --


MAY: -- um, where they built this huge thing that went way up in the ceiling. They had people standing in the choir, you know, standing all over this tree.


MAY: (clears throat) He went to see that performance a number of years ago and asked one of the fellows in the church what it cost to build 02:24:00that, to construct that --


MAY: -- and was given the information. And he cut a check for it --


MAY: -- to that church, under the condition that it was not told who did it. You know --


MAY: Any number of things like that as far back in the sixties, as far as the early days of economic development.


MAY: The times he made trips on his own and had contacts, uh, uh, you know -- he was the reason that A. O. Smith came to town --


MAY: -- in the sixties, in the early sixties.


MAY: Of course, A. O. Smith and Albert Clay were the reason that, that Hobart followed.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, is this --

MAY: And, you know, so, so many things that he has done --


MAY: -- that nobody ever knows about and yet as far as him coming and trying to tell me something to do in the community, wasn't going to happen.


MAY: Not going to happen. I mean, just a -- an outstanding individual that contributed so much to the community and -- in ways that people will never know.

BIRDWHISTELL: The kind of guy you read about. (laughs)


MAY: Oh, just fantastic. A tremendous loss for our community.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was he in that group, uh, the Committee of Twelve --

MAY: Uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- or was that even too official for him?

MAY: Well, he was, uh, he was not, but he had some very close friends who were in it. (Birdwhistell laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: He didn't have to be in it.

MAY: Yeah. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: "My guys are in it."

MAY: Yeah. That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: "I don't need to be in it." Like any community, you know, you're doing low-income housing, you know, you've got these issues, you've got infrastructure, you've got income, da, da, da, da, da, but you're also -- and you've got economic development, but you've also got these quality-of-life issues for the upper-middle class and the upper class and that's golf communities and things like that. You all, you all worked on that as well.

MAY: Absolutely. Uh, you know, and, uh, we -- I recognized the need. Of course we have a country club that's forty years old. A little nine-hole course. A very nice course. Very nice club house, very nice pro shop. It's a really nice facility.



MAY: But not everybody is a member and not everybody can go out there and play golf. And with the industries that we have, we -- I saw that we needed an upscale golf course, a public golf course.

BIRDWHISTELL: That could become part of a golf community.

MAY: Oh yeah. And, and it worked out really, because we had the developers that wanted to, that purchased this four hundred and fifty- eight acre farm, that wanted to do fifty acres commercial up front.


MAY: They wanted to do residential in the back and they wanted to do a golf course. And they came to me and I embraced it and I actually made the commitment and had a -- spent the money to get a feasibility study done. And from that feasibility study we put together a team of, uh, actually, Graham Marsh, who is from Australia and had designed about forty courses, and, uh, but they were all in, uh, Asia and Australia and he wanted to get in the U.S. market, you know. He's on the seniors tour --


MAY: -- and wanted to get into the market. And then Bill Kubly owns 02:27:00Landscapes Unlimited out of Lincoln, Nebraska and is one of the premier golf course construction companies in the country --


MAY: -- was going to build it to Graham's design and the two of them were actually going to lease it back from the city for enough to retire the bond issue.


MAY: But I had council members that couldn't comprehend the seven million-dollar bond issue. And, you know --

BIRDWHISTELL: Difficult time there.

MAY: And that's one of the problems, seriously, it's, uh, that, you know, you get people that are on -- retired and on fixed incomes, that never made a lot of money to begin with and when they get to talking this big of money, they, they can't comprehend, and, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: It's too big for them.

MAY: To satisfy the council, uh, they both, uh, both gentlemen agreed to put up personal guarantees, and of course, when that happened, the IRS sees it as private activity and we couldn't use a tax-exempt bond issue. And so Graham came to me and said, "You know, we can do this with our own money." And I said, "Well if you'll build the course in 02:28:00our own community," --what I was after to begin with was the course for the community -- "we'll back out and let it happen," which is what happened. So Graham Marsh owns a piece of that course and so does Bill Kubly.

BIRDWHISTELL: So did the other development come?

MAY: Oh yeah, it's -- houses are coming up. It's, it's it's a beautiful -- in fact it was, uh, I think that last year in 2001, it was, uh, golf -- in Golf Digest's, uh, top ten, uh courses in the most affordable public course range.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?

MAY: Yeah. It sure was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, congratulations on that. ----------(??)

MAY: Um-hm. But here's a problem with that.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now what's the problem with that? Other than the fact that ----------(??)

MAY: And the problem with that is one of the stories in one of the national magazines said it was about thirty-five miles from Lexington. It didn't say Mount Sterling. (Birdwhistell laughs) And that's that same old perception that we're still having to --(Birdwhistell laughs)- - convince people that, you know, that in thirty minutes, a little over thirty minutes, you can be there.


BIRDWHISTELL: That's funny.

MAY: So.

BIRDWHISTELL: Another thing that comes up and this intrigues me a lot because I followed it, uh, and as I was preparing for your interview, I started reading about it again and I'm just intrigued by it, and that is this issue of the airport.

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, it was Bill Lear, here in town --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- has written these pieces about, uh, what are we doing about the airport? How much longer are we going to do this? And of course, his i-- he was promoting moving it out toward Mount Sterling. You weighed in on it, and, uh, I mean, it sounds like such a great idea. Is that ever going to happen? And what is up with that?

MAY: I don't think it will, to be honest with you. I mean, you, you see what the -- they've spent on the existing airport with the new parking structure. And, uh, you know, the time to do it was before you did that, especially when the city of Lexington had control of the, of the Avon property, you know, the property. You may have had to buy some people out in the neighborhood.


BIRDWHISTELL: So why didn't it happen?

MAY: Um --

BIRDWHISTELL: Politics? Money?

MAY: I really don't know. I mean, it's, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: I don't understand what the money would be out at that airport.

MAY: The reason I, of course -- now we've got a really nice airport in Mount Sterling.


MAY: And it's, uh, one of the, one of the best general aviation airports in the state.


MAY; Uh, we've gotten to the magic number of five thousand feet, which lets you lands-- land the corporate jets.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did Senator Ford help you with that?

MAY: Oh yeah. (both laugh) Senator Ford was our hero. But --(clears throat)-- you know, I mean, we've built a new administration building. It's a very attractive place. It's a -- really an active, little airport --


MAY: -- and used by our industries, especially with all the new industries that we've got --


MAY: -- and, uh, that's --

BIRDWHISTELL: You just couldn't be without it.

MAY: That's right. And basically a, a world of people in Lexington have realized the close proximity --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- of Mount Sterling to Lexington and a lot of people that do fly, do fly out of Mount Sterling airport.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, they do?

MAY: Oh, they do, they really do.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay, I didn't know that.

MAY: Yeah, they sure do. But seriously, when I need to go somewhere, 02:31:00I check. It's going to take me forty-five minutes to get from Mount Sterling to Bluegrass Field. It's going to take me an hour and forty to forty-five minutes to get to Standiford Field. It's going to take about the same length of time to get to northern Kentucky. So I check pricing on all three.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, and, uh, flight times.

MAY: Oh yeah, absolutely.

BIRDWHISTELL: Because that's one of the big issues --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- it seems to me, is direct, uh, er, just non-stop.

MAY: And you know, in so many cases that if I fly out of Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati, uh, you know, or anywhere. If -- say if I fly out of Lexington, when I land in Cincinnati and wait for that flight to connect me on to Lexington --

BIRDWHISTELL: You could almost --

MAY: -- I could be home long before the flight ever leaves to get to Lexington.

BIRDWHISTELL: And then the drive back to Mount Sterling. Wasn't one of the issues the fact that, uh, uh, the eastern location of, uh, the 02:32:00airport would continue to be so close to Cincinnati that it would not allow it to grow?

MAY: Well, the, the reason I thought it needed to move -- the eastern Kentucky people could buy into it more.


MAY: Let's think about it, if you're in Pikeville, where do you go to catch a plane?

BIRDWHISTELL: I have no idea.

MAY: Maybe Bristol, I don't know.

BIRDWHISTELL: I don't know. But you don't go anyplace convenient.

MAY: No, unh-uh. And, and seriously, going down east on 64, the, the next decent airport you've got -- and it's nothing but a mountain top that's as dangerous as a loaded shotgun -- is Huntington.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. You wouldn't want to fly out of there.

MAY: No. Not unless you had to.


MAY: And, uh, you know, it just made sense for me, that's close enough for the people in Lexington --


MAY: -- and yet closer to the Mountain Parkway --


MAY: -- and closer to people in eastern Kentucky to buy into it, to think more of that being their airport.


MAY: And now, see, I have very little loyalty --


MAY: -- I -- because I'm looking at price and times; whoever can give me 02:33:00the best service.

BIRDWHISTELL: It, uh, just seems to me that it's another instance where Lexington, although it's a regional center for eastern Kentucky, it really turns its back on eastern Kentucky.

MAY: Well, and they really need to stop and realize how many of their dollars are coming from eastern Kentucky. I mean from clothing sales to vehicle sales, to -- you name it. The, the impact is tremendous, it's got to be.

BIRDWHISTELL: In interviewing Mitch Mead, he was telling me -- you know, he's from eastern Kentucky --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- he said, "You know a lot of people come to Lexington from eastern Kentucky." I said, "I know, Judge. You know that old joke about what you call an eastern Kentucky millionaire? A Lexington resident." (both laugh)

MAY: Yeah. That's right in a lot of cases. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: We're about to run out of time here. I think we've, uh, gotten through, um, a lot of, uh, uh, key issues. I guess, 02:34:00uh, one of the things we haven't dealt with is, uh, your defeat in November of 1998. Tell me, this is always the hardest part of these interviews, whether it's Mayor Smith or Mayor May. I mean, here you all are, flying high, you've given some of your best years of your life, literally. I mean, that sounds corny --(May laughs)-- but you did, to these cities. Um, in-- instead of the compensation that your families could have gotten, you've given that time, you've, you've sacrificed. And then you come up to an election that, uh, that seems like everything is going fine and you get defeated. What happens back in 1998 that, that, uh, sends you packing?

MAY: Well, basically in 1998, I had a police officer, whose father thought he ought to be a higher rank than he was and talked somebody else into, uh, running. And it just so happened that the fellow that he talked into running was, uh -- is a very likable fellow that had 02:35:00never done anything to make anybody mad, member of the biggest church in the county and he got out and knocked on every door.

BIRDWHISTELL: And he got more votes.

MAY: And it was a very positive race. There were no negative issues at all.


MAY: I tried to run on the record and talk about the things that we had done in working together and all that. And, and he just got out and, and knocked on the doors. And as I said, I had a poll done that time that showed me fourteen points ahead.

BIRDWHISTELL: Fourteen points.

MAY: But what happened, and I mean this was two weeks out. The poll was done from the likely voters. And he got out and knocked on a lot of doors that were unlikely voters and they got out and they voted.


MAY: He, uh, of course, had a furniture business that, uh, had been an old, family business, and it's -- you know, the way some old family businesses do, things change. He was downtown and, uh, people don't want to trade with the little, hole-in-the-wall downtown. And, I -- 02:36:00nothing against his business, but that's just kind of the way things are.

BIRDWHISTELL: No, that's okay.

MAY: They want to go and trade with the people that are out in the major shopping centers, that look successful and look, you know, look prosperous. And that's where the business is going. They might get a better quality and a better deal at some of these mom-and-pop places, but that's, that's just not what happens. They go where the, where the advertising draws them and they spend their money there.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you're there that night and the, and the returns come in.

MAY: In the courthouse.

BIRDWHISTELL: You're, you're, you're a proud guy. You fought hard. You know, you've done the right thing. And I can't think of -- that's like a punch in the stomach, isn't it?

MAY: Well, it was and I, I, I'll never forget that I, I was walking out of the courthouse, and, uh -- in the hallway of the courthouse and a young kid, a reporter for The Advocate, wanted to stop me and interview me and I just didn't really even want to talk to him. I said, I'll talk to you later. And of course, I walked out of the, uh, I walked 02:37:00out of the courthouse and I turned left, and I walked straight across the street into the -- into Gary's furniture store, congratulated him and shook hands with him. And then I walked next door into City Hall, where my girls and their husbands were, and --(laughs)-- and -- who were listening on the radio.

BIRDWHISTELL: And tried to handle all that.

MAY: Said, it's been fun. And of course, this was, uh, early November. We had until the end of December, you know, to get things going. And, uh, then I had a council member that had, uh -- was going to have a party for us, and which was, uh -- we had a good time. But, uh, we got up, uh -- I got up there probably, I don't know, seven or eight o'clock, and probably home by midnight and back in the office at eight the next morning. About -- by ten o'clock people were calling, saying what are you going to do and discussing potential --


MAY: -- offers. And, and to be honest with you, I didn't really have time to get upset.


MAY: Of course, this one was one of those, uh, being here with the 02:38:00League of Cities. Uh, it's really, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, I mean, you know, I'm sure.

MAY: Yeah, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: But something about standing for election, in your community and again after -- you know, I tried to set that stage --

MAY: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- all the work you've done and all those late nights driving places --

MAY: Oh, absolutely.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and flights out to --

MAY: Night meetings, and times that you're, you know --

BIRDWHISTELL: I, I just don't know. I've tried to put myself in that situation mentally and I don't know. I would just be, I'd be mad for a while.

MAY: Well, it's, you know --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- I could have easily done that, and I know a number of people that have been defeated and have been mad. I know one guy that cleaned out his desk and left an empty desk for the incoming mayor.


MAY: But you know, knowing how you have to work together and of course, Gary's business was right next door to City Hall. I went over a day or two after the election. I said, "If you want to come over and start 02:39:00spending an hour or so --"


MAY: "-- a day with me learning what you've got to do," because he had never even been on city council. And, uh, you know, "I'll be glad to start showing you this stuff." Of course, it wasn't long after that that I realized it was a good thing I did that because I was going to be over here and have to be working with him. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: That would have been awkward. (laughs)

MAY: But, uh, you know, we've had a, a good relationship and, it's, uh, you know, it's worked fine.

BIRDWHISTELL: So did he hire an administrator? Does he do that?

MAY: No, he's doing that. And, of course, uh, the two -- well, he's got, uh, the building inspector is doing some. I'm sure has some presence in city hall.

BIRDWHISTELL: So they name anything for you over in Mount Sterling?

MAY: No, no.

BIRDWHISTELL: They haven't yet?

MAY: No. Unh-uh. No. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: See, I'm not getting the city tour like I sometimes get.

MAY: Yeah, yeah. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: So I have to ask you --(both laugh)--

MAY: No.

BIRDWHISTELL: This is the part where we go by the --(May laughs)-- recreation center, they go, "Oh look, I didn't know they put my name up there." (both laugh)

MAY: Yeah. No, I haven't had anything named for me.


BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, but, uh, that'll come in time.

MAY: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I don't -- you know, I usually end up by asking about your major, uh, accomplishments and your major disappointments, but I think we've almost covered that. I mean, you've gone over, you know, the issues that you fought the hardest for and, uh, and had the success with. And, uh, I didn't hear many disappointments going through it. I mean, you'd wished people didn't sue the city. And, uh, and you wish things would work out easier, but that's just part of the day-to-day work of being mayor, isn't it?

MAY: Well, uh, it is, it is. And I, you know, I look back and, and just like people said, the -- like you were saying, you know, how upset you might be for, for, uh, getting beat. But now, you know, I can look back and see all the accomplishments that we, that we did by working together and be proud of it and move on.


MAY: And I know that there, you know, there was any number of things that we did that, uh -- a lot of them innovative and a lot of them 02:41:00just copied off of other people, and things that really worked. And of course they don't all work. You got to try a lot of things.

BIRDWHISTELL: Got, uh -- just because you try them, doesn't mean they're going to work, but you can't not try them.

MAY: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's, uh, that's the thing. Um, and you've already--and another thing that I usually end with, and I think you've addressed that fairly, uh, clearly here, is that not just because you work for the League of Cities now, not just because we're in the offices of the League of Cities, and not just because they are paying for this project, but the League of Cities, um, from the mayors I have interviewed, has played an instrumental role in sort of the progressive nature of, uh, communities, uh, through --

MAY: Well, I --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- the political process.

MAY: I said that I, I knew going in I was going to be a one-term mayor. Uh, little did I know -- and had it not been for the League of Cities, I never would have run for the f-- not alone, not, not just the fourth term, not, not the second even. (Birdwhistell laughs) You know, so. So yeah, I, I did try it for four terms and it was because of the, you 02:42:00know, just the general camaraderie here --


MAY: -- and, you know, the help that they've been, and the, and, you know, the exchange of ideas from people throughout the state --


MAY: -- and actually throughout the nation even --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

MAY: -- with getting to know people through the National League of Cities. Uh, you know, it's a -- no point in re-inventing the wheel --


MAY: -- as long as this place is here to keep it greased. It's done a -- you know, it did wonders for my community indirectly.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. And of course now, with the League of Cities you're down in Frankfort dealing with the politics of that place. And that, uh, as we said before we began the interview, never a dull moment down there.

MAY: Well, and our biggest challenge right now is, is raising the awareness of, of our city-elected officials and, and getting them to have more clout with the legislature --


MAY: -- because it's, you know, like I said, we don't have the clout that the counties do. And it's -- historically that our people are the non-partisan people. They run in non-partisan races. They don't get 02:43:00involved in the, in the partisan politics, and, uh -- like the counties do. And, and, uh, we're not recognized as the players as much. (Birdwhistell laughs) So.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, thanks a lot for taking the time today, and I know you need to get to Frankfort, and we're about out of tape.

MAY: All right.

BIRDWHISTELL: So we'll just end it.

MAY: Thank you.

[End of interview.]