Louisville Has A New Mayor After More Than 20 Years
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
For 21 of the last 25 years the city of Louisville, Kentucky has had the same mayor. And Jerry Abramson, the departing mayor, remains popular with many residents. He's being replaced by a businessman who inherits a city facing a lot of financial trouble. Gabe Bullard of member station WFPL reports.
GABE BULLARD: Jerry Abramson is Louisville's biggest cheerleader. He's quick to point out the good in almost anything that happens here, like the construction of a grocery store.
JERRY ABRAMSON: Those who wait. You may wait for a while, but never give up hope. And today is the day that we will break ground on a new grocery store for this neighborhood.
BULLARD: No one else will be mayor of Louisville for as long as Abramson. It's impossible. He served the maximum three terms as mayor of the old city of Louisville, then returned for two more terms when the city and county governments merged. Now he's running for lieutenant governor, and many Louisvillians are mourning their loss, including these callers on a public radio talk show the mayor appeared on.
INSKEEP: Unidentified Man #2: The place is cleaner, it's more beautiful and there is a tremendous amount of city pride.
INSKEEP: I also want to thank you so much for your tremendous energy and enthusiasm and leadership.
BULLARD: That energy is Abramson's trademark. It's something his successor, businessman Greg Fischer, is not known for. Here's Fischer the day after the election, talking about building his administration.
GREG FISCHER: Who's here, who wants to stay, are the folks here do they want to be the best in the world at what they're doing?
TOM OWEN: Mayor Fischer is much lower key, as best I can tell....
BULLARD: Tom Owen is a city councilman and historian. He says Fischer's laid- back demeanor is different, but it isn't necessarily bad.
OWEN: I won't mind Mayor Fischer when he says, we got troubles. Let's pick them off one at a time and try to deal with them.
BULLARD: Louisville's budget situation is tenuous. The city will soon owe millions to employee pensions. And businesses have moved thousands of jobs out of the city over the last decade. Despite that, Abramson remains popular. But Fischer's spokesman Chris Poynter says there's noticeable fatigue in the city, mostly with how the government is run. Poynter was also Abramson's spokesman, and he says the city needs a new mayor to move forward.
CHRIS POYNTER: In some ways our city has been lethargic, and I think we're going to get sort of a jolt.
BULLARD: But it won't be easy. Fischer narrowly won the election and doesn't yet have the widespread popularity or clout Abramson does. When he's asked about the challenges Fischer will face, Abramson says too much is being made of his impending absence.
ABRAMSON: I don't know how I was in 19 - January of 1986 when I first took over. I mean, it takes some time. If you mean - it takes time to get your sea legs and to get comfortable with the responsibilities - I'm sure it was that way for me, I'm sure it was that way for any new mayor.
BULLARD: Fischer isn't worried either. He describes the transition the way he explains most things - in business terms.
FISCHER: I've been involved in buying companies and improving companies, so this is a similar process that we're going through with the transition here.
BULLARD: For NPR news, I'm Gabe Bullard in Louisville.
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