George Bray is just getting settled in at Paducah City Hall.
Having been sworn in on Dec. 28, Paducah’s new mayor moved into his office Monday.
Though he initially forgot his laptop and his walls are in need of a new coat of paint, Bray is feeling optimistic.
“It feels good,” he told The Sun. “I’ve been working for this goal for 14 months so I’m really excited to be here. There’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of challenges, but right now this feels natural.”
His first day was taken up by a number of meetings, both in person and virtual, with the likes of City Manager Jim Arndt and with McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer and members of the local health department.
Though he’s still getting his sea legs, Bray is focused on a productive start to his term. He wants to continue to develop working relationships with the city’s staff as well as his fellow commission members. Key to this development will be a February retreat aimed at sketching out the group’s big picture aims.
“I think that’s really important because they all represent different constituencies,” he said. “We overlap a lot but I want to make sure that I develop a relationship with them.”
In the immediate, Bray’s developing the agenda for his first city commission meeting — slated for Jan. 12. Two things, for sure, will be on the discussion docket: potential COVID-19 aid for local restaurants and the aquatic center project.
The first item, the mayor said, is inherited from the previous commission. The group will be looking at waiving liquor license fees for local establishments as a form of financial relief.
The aquatic center — a project the city sold about $20 million in bonds to fund — is “a nonstarter” for Bray.
He’s been against the project for some time now and his position hasn’t changed: “I feel like the aquatic center as it was designed did not have widespread support in the community,” particularly in the way it was positioned as a “total city project.”
One potentiality that excites Bray is that YMCA of Greater Louisville has expressed interest in developing a facility here that could meet the same needs the aquatic center was designed to fulfill.
“YMCA has a really great brand and it could be a really positive project for the community, but … there has to be widespread support in the community,” he added.
He would prefer to use the aquatic center funds for other city needs, like revamping the municipal 911 system, alleviating stormwater drainage and infrastructure issues, maintaining or replacing aging city facilities or aiding in the development of the new airport terminal planned for Barkley Regional Airport.
“It can be used for anything,” he said. “It’s not earmarked. The commission has to decide what our priorities are and there’s a laundry list of high priority projects. There’s plenty of need out there for that money so we’ll have to come together as a group and figure out the best way to approach it.”
Bray also wants to better communications between the city and its citizens through social media and otherwise. Though he has no plans to start an @CityofPaducah TikTok account, he’s not opposed to the idea — so long as it helps.
“People need to get a heads up on things that we’re thinking about and projects that we’re working on,” he said. “I just know that we need to do better and I’m committed to doing better. We’re going to work hard on that.”
One of his tougher challenges, Bray estimates, will be selling constituents on some of the less interesting needs the city has, like stormwater drainage, but that is a part of the job he’s prepared to do.
“(Dealing with) stormwater is something that needs to be done,” the mayor said. “It’s not sexy and it’s not popular and nobody wants to pay another $6, $7, $10 a month to have their sewers fixed … but part of leadership and politics is figuring out what the right thing to do is, what people will support and leading people through to the right decision.”