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Unique Lexington council forum gives locals a chance to hobnob with the hopefuls

Lexington Council At-Large candidates meet with the public during CivicLex Forum and Ice Cream Social on October 20, 2022.
Josh James
Lexington Council At-Large candidates meet with the public during CivicLex Forum and Ice Cream Social on October 20, 2022.

Candidates for Lexington's At-Large Council seats and the Vice Mayor spot took part in a unique forum Thursday night that a more up-close-and-personal feel.

'Tis the season for candidate forums, where would-be community leaders typically sit on a stage and take questions from moderators or the audience. But this year, CivicLex opted for a different approach they've attempted only once before.

"If you think of it like speed-dating, I think that's the easiest way to think about it," says the nonprofit's Megan Gulla.

All six at-large council candidates were stationed in different rooms around the Downtown Arts Center and would take on a dozen different topics. Attendees — with a cup of chocolate or raspberry sorbet in hand — were invited to move from room to room to take part in facilitated conversations with each, or stick with the candidate they were most interested in.

WUKY caught up with Rahsaan Berry as he was leaving a session with incumbent councilman Richard Moloney. Like many, his mind was on issues like crime and affordable housing. But he also wanted to meet the candidates face to face.

"It's more personal, where you can talk to the candidate and see their thoughts, maybe get to them a little bit — not just on the political side but on a personal side as well... I love the concept, and you know ice cream is one of my favorites as well."
Rahsaan Berry, forum attendee

About 150 people signed up. At the half-hour point organizers said the count was probably closer to 60 or 70. Still, not bad they say for a downtown political forum competing with a Carrie Underwood concert just down the street. Gulla says her organization would rather have smaller crowds if it produces more meaningful conversations.

"We're more about quality than quantity," Gulla says. "That's how we think about our events. If you show up, we really want you to really be engaged and feel like you've learned something."

For visitors like Rahsaan Berry, the forum did just that, giving him a chance to hobnob with the council hopefuls and get a taste of who they are... and maybe their favorite ice cream flavor.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.