Who has it in Lexington?

Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

-Margaret Thatcher

All power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs, and all must exist.


Power, like pornography, is difficult to define-but we all know it when we see it (apparently, just like the Supreme Court). Real leadership, power, influence and so on isn't conferred by a job title and it isn't something you (necessarily, or always) get to vote on at the polls.

When we set about profiling a sample of Power in Lexington, we asked:

Who's getting things done in this town? Or trying to?

Who's making us think? Or trying to?

Who's pushing and dragging us, kicking and screaming, beyond the status quo?

We weren't looking for a measure of wealth, popularity, or even influence, but a sum of character and action and performance that added up to more than all of that.

Philanthropy's to be encouraged, but we didn't examine anybody from the 60+ set or the size of their checks.

And it wasn't simply a measure of doing good, though many people on this list certainly have fine resumes of charitable endeavors.

Power brings with it a Force for the future and the prospect of legacy.

The following is a small sampling of people who possess that force.

Power Sisters
Advocates and sisters, Holly Sanders (l) and Joy Sanders (r).

photo by Michael Geneve

Joy Sanders, 33, Fayette Count's Campaign Director for United Way of the Bluegrass. President of LYPA (Lexington Young Professionals Association).

Holly Sanders, 22, UK Senior. Anthropology Major. President of Leftist Student Union.

In her capacity as Campaign Director for United Way of the Bluegrass, most of the business community has had a chance to meet Joy Sanders. She's also a familiar face as the president of LYPA (Lexington Young Professionals Association).

LYPA was founded three years ago in an attempt to put a stop to Lexington's brain drain-to expand professional, social, and philanthropic opportunities for young professionals and to provide that generation with a voice in the leadership and future development of Lexington.

Their profile as an emerging force was enhanced considerably last week when they hosted a mayoral forum at the Lafayette Club and invited the candidates to meet with young, influential community members and address their concerns.

Joy is also a prior president of SAVY (a St. Joseph program that promoted and organized volunteerism among young adults). And prior to United Way, she worked for the American Cancer Society.

Those who know her well say "outreach has dominated her career," and that she has positively impacted "thousands in need."

Equally visible in an activist's role on campus is Joy's sister, Holly Sanders, president of a different type of grassroots organization: UK's Leftist Student Union.

A decade apart in age, the two sisters are successfully opening minds all over town.

Joy characterizes herself as a "pretty conservative person," making her all the more admiring of her sister's ability to get across her ideas, admitting, "she has certainly opened my mind to a lot of issues that many times we just simply don't want to think about. She has so much passion for someone who is so young. She really pushes me and others to think of the effects of any action we may take."

Citing a particular cause her sister has championed, she reminds us that, "she and her group have worked very hard to see that city's [sanitation] workers get better compensation."

According to their mission statement, LSU: supports grass-roots democracy; champions human rights; supports economic justice; supports equality, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle, disability; supports personal empowerment; supports environmental protection; and supports the anti-war movement.

The Power of Prosecution

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson

photo by Michael Geneve

Newcomers to the Bluegrass state aren't always familiar with the term "Commonwealth's Attorney."

The office is responsible for prosecution of felonies. If you watch too much television, the prosecution's side is usually represented in more familiar terminology by the District Attorneys and Assistant or Deputy District Attorneys (DA s and ADAs ).

Fayette County's office of the Commonwealth's Attorney has 16 prosecutors.

Larson is the official who oversees the prosecution of more than 1,500 felony crimes annually in Lexington.

(The county attorney prosecutes misdemeanors, juvenile offenses, traffic offenses, and conducts felony arraignments.)

In his spare time away from crime fighting, Larson was also the founding president of the Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass. Along with the Center's founding executive director, Linda F. Frank (now executive director of the Crime Victims Compensation Board and the Board of Claims), Larson helped to establish this much-needed organization dedicated to improving the treatment of sexually abused children by the criminal justice system.

He was featured in a segment of HBO's America Undercover series, Drunk and Deadly, for prosecuting a vehicular murder which ended in a 70-year sentence.

He's appeared on the Today show as an advocate for prosecuting drunk drivers who kill.

And his office has gained considerable notice for their repeat offender prosecution program.

Renaissance Man

Graham Pohl, Architect
Architect Graham Pohl

photo by Michael Geneve

A good renaissance man is hard to find, but local architect Graham Pohl is a man with a plan (several actually)-known for his contemporary designs, in a town where frequently stale restoration architecture gets the most ink.

He founded Pohl Rosa Pohl, Architecture + Design in 1992, and has long been a tireless advocate for residential design standards.

The firm's philosophy includes the belief that "Every design begins with the meeting of functional and poetic ideas, develops with sensitivity to history and context, and ultimately expresses meaning that is deeper than bricks and mortar."

So although he frequently works lovingly and artistically with historic structures, he brings to them a freshness and a vision of what's new and possible.

Architecturally, his work respects the past, without being mired in it.

Responsible infill cannot take place without such philosophy and aesthetic.

Pohl has been an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky. In his role as teacher and community activist, he's promoted a better public understanding of architecture and urban design.

He is a vocal opponent of "design by committee," citing the results of the plaza design competition, which initially offered great promise.

He characterizes the process as having had a valid concept and premise "professionally organized" with what he describes as "brilliantly qualified jury.

"Guidelines published as a part of the competition brief clearly spelled out how negotiations were to take place with the winning designers. But the powers-that-be did not understand the winning designs and subverted the entire process by throwing out the jury's work and setting up a committee of locals, almost all of whom are architecturally unschooled. They chose a submission that suited them and the result is an uninspired mediocrity that doesn't hold a candle to the vision and appropriateness of many of the other competition submissions."

Three of the firm's works have been featured in Southern Living in the past six months (April, August, and September), all residential addition/remodels to homes built in the 1920s.

The Power of Ideas

Kris Kimel, President, ideaFestival
Kris Kimel

photo by Michael Geneve

Kris Kimel is the president of Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation., but most people know him as "that guy behind the idea Festival."

KTSC is a private, non-profit corporation founded, in 1987, to advance science, technology, and economic development built "on Kentucky know-how."

The ideaFestival centers around the presentation, integration, and exploration of "big ideas" and innovation, spanning a range of fields.

Nearly 3,500 people participated in the inaugural three-day event in the fall of 2000.

The 2002 festival broadened in scope to about 7,000 and attracted national attention with its "Deep Time Probe."

The Time Probe design and launch team included University of Kentucky physicist Suketu Bhavsar; University of Kentucky, College of Engineering associate dean Bruce Walcott; University of Kentucky architect Greg Luhan (and students from the UK College of Architecture Virtual Design Studio); Susan Hill of Tate Hill Jacobs Architects, University of Louisville iTRC Director Jim Graham; and students from area schools.

For the probe data, community members were asked "If you were to communicate with an advanced civilization that possessed the technological ability for time travel what would your communication /question, be?"

Information was digitized, formatted and launched via laser.

The Power of Art

Pat Gerhard, artist, activist, advocate, owner Third Street Stuff
Pat Gerhard

photo by Ryan Whelan

Everybody knows Pat Gerhard, and even if you don't, you've seen her work. If not at her shop, Third Street Stuff, then hanging around town in the form of banners, signage, and other colorful contributions to downtown.

As a business woman, she's a rare retailer who's managed to keep her establishment afloat in and out of a recession, downsized in scope when manufacturing issues (at one point) prevented her from being able to meet the demand for her products-and emerged on the other side, successful.

She is not backed by a team of wealthy investors, a Daddy Warbucks, or a trust fund, relying instead on dogged hard work, creativity, belief in what she does, and persistence.

In the middle of a downturn, stories like hers are rare, hard to come by, and are a reflection of her work ethic, along with an uncanny ability to adapt to changing times and changing markets.

Far beyond her job description as a business owner, Gerhard is a force to be reckoned with in downtown. She sees both its economic and artistic viability, and has very specific ideas as to how they can be realized. And she's not afraid to enumerate them. Loudly. To everyone who will listen.

Although she serves on many committees and donates a great deal of her time to worthy causes (too many to list), she's never going to be confused with a bureaucratic paper pusher.

She's on the front lines, her shock of red hair blazing the way-never to be ignored.

Power Couple

Alan and Kathy Stein
Alan and Kathy Stein

photo by Forrest Payne

At the top of every guest list in town is this year's Power Couple, a title that's hard to dispute.

Alan Stein is the man who brought baseball to Lexington, and almost coulda/woulda/shoulda (?) been elected mayor in a write-in campaign that mustered a wellspring of grassroots support scarcely before news of the possibility had even been breathed outside the Stein household.

Kathy Stein is equally well-known, especially for her record in the state legislature (currently campaigning for re-election as the 75th district state representative).

She has been outspoken and fearless as a mother, a feminist, and a persistent reminder to the legislature that they represent a diverse religious (and sometimes non-religious) constituency, not all of whom are Christian. She even had a starring role in the local (and sold out) performance of The Vagina Monologues-one fact, among many, contributing to the fact that she is not your everyday politician.

Power of Love

Father Dan Noll, Sacramental Minister for St. Peter and St. Paul
Father Dan Noll walkin’ the talk.

photo by Michael Geneve

In a year when the Catholic Church (and definitely the Vatican) has had almost nothing but negative press about the misuse and abuse of its power to cover up and shield criminal behavior, it's all the more refreshing to encounter a local Catholic priest who's beloved for using his power (some of that stemming from giving up material wealth) for good in the community.

Giving money, in and of itself, might not be worthy of the appellation of "power."

But when it's combined with a life of service, example, teaching, and faith, it can be an empowering example.

Parishioner Linda Carroll Morgan says, "Father Dan Noll gave away everything. He is the sacramental minister for both St. Peter and St. Paul Parishes. Without speaking for him, I think the process of giving away money and material possessions proved liberating."

His congregants report he committed an inheritance to set up trusts to help children attend Sts. Peter and Paul School, and another to donate across several charities, including reuniting a family he met with the Catholic Worker Group while he was on sabbatical, and that he donated his full salary to the parish capital campaign.

Parishioner Kate Savage says she knows and admires Dan as, "A man who truly walks the walk. Humble, forthright, and frighteningly honest. No pretense about Dan. The type that if it is possible to walk on water through faith, then by Jove he would be able to. He is the kind of person who gets you excited about God. As one parishioner recently said to me, 'the thing I like about Dan is that he still wears his dog collar, his wardrobe is full of black and white outfits, he wears his sandals all year round, and alternates long hair with a crew cut as a way to save on expenses.'"

Linda Carroll Morgan sums up his force in the community as this, "He simply had an opportunity to make a different choice and look what it did for him and for others. My point is only to say that he doesn't hold himself out as some standard of charity, but he does know that it is a powerful process."

Staying Power

Lucie Slone, culinary diva and empire builder
Lucie Slone

photo by James Shambhu

Restaurants come and go in Lexington, and go, and go, and go. Everyone limps along with pale memories of former greats (The Bistro, acajou, and so on)-and in a town with a fickle palate and a taste for riblets, Lucie Slone has prevailed as a fine dining fixture for decades.

Her successful trio started with the eponymous a la lucie, and went on to encompass Pacific Pearl (with pan pacific décor and cuisine), and Nadine's (formerly Roy and Nadine's) which caters to Lexington's growing southwest corridor.

Slone is a longtime character in the local cuisine scene, usually found in chef's whites, mixing among the diners and socializing gregariously when she isn't slaving over the stove.

Her next venture is the aptly named Phoenix.

Can it help resurrect Victorian Square from what many consider to be an ash heap? It remains to be seen.

Those who attended an inaugural Phoenix event last week (Slone was one of the co-hosts)-a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Scott Crosbie-say Yes.

Either way, the fact that Slone oversees four successful dining establishments in Lexington (none of which are named Applebee's), amounts to a culinary empire, if not an outright dynasty.

Power to the People

Frank X. Walker, executive director of the Governor's School for the Arts
Frank X. Walker

photo by Tracy A. Hawkins

The mayoral primary wasn't the only substantial disappointment to many Lexingtonians this year, who were hoping for a landscape filled with new and exciting ideas.

Many arts patrons quietly, but forcefully lobbied for a candidate such as Frank X. Walker to head up the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council-an organization with the potential to revitalize and energize the local arts scene.

With his national reputation as both an administrator (as executive director of the Governor's School for the Arts) and an artist in his own right (the book and the play, Affrilachia, standing out as one of many examples), he seemed, to many, a natural.

He was the founding director of the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium; an artist in residence at the Alabama State Arts Council; a program director at UK's Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center, and so on.

But as he told the Herald-Leader in a January 2000 interview (the week after being profiled as Ace's 1999, "This Year's Model"), "I prefer to stay behind the scenes and make everything happen."

His power isn't reliant on his job title.