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3 River City Mayors Say Goodbye as Urban Core Braces for Change

Ludlow Mayor Ken Wynn has concluded city council meetings with the bang of a gavel for eight years, but his final attempt got ahead of itself.

"Meeting adjourned," Wynn said last week at his final city council meeting.

But legally the meeting could not adjourn.

"Mayor," Councilman Tom Amann said with a friendly vocal nudge. "I make a motion to adjourn."

Following a second to that motion and then vocal approval, Wynn banged the gavel again.

And then ended Wynn's 14 years at the Ludlow city building, six as a city councilman and eight as mayor.

"These past fourteen years have been wonderful," said Wynn, who lost his bid for a third term as mayor to council member Josh Boone, who takes office in January. "It's been a great experience. I love this community. I just want to say, it's been a pleasure. It's been an awesome experience working with this staff for the last three to four years. I think we have accomplished a lot."

"I'm looking forward to the next journey in the next two years," said Wynn, who also announced earlier that he would close Wynner's Cup Cafe on Elm Street so that Second Sight Spirits can expand into the space in the building that the outgoing mayor owns.

Two other river city mayors are also moving on.

Dayton Mayor Vigil Boruske lost his bid for a second term to council member Ben Baker, and Bellevue Mayor Ed Riehl opted not to run for a third term.

"It was just time," Riehl said after his final meeting last week. "I told myself I would do it until I really didn't enjoy it anymore or it wasn't fun. The running around from meeting to meeting... you could have a meeting every night of the week if you wanted to."

For Riehl, his departure marks the end of more than two decades of service to the city, first as a volunteer firefighter and then as a long-serving member of council, and then two terms as mayor.

"I want to slow down a little bit and spend time with my kids and grandson," Riehl said.

Bellevue city administrator Keith Spoelker surprised Riehl with a mock-up of a forthcoming commemorative bench which will be located at a place of Riehl's choosing.

For Boruske's final meeting in Dayton, the mayor was thanked by members of council and others for his long service to the city, which included the past four years as mayor, and more than a decade on council prior to that.

These three cities saw lots of changes on Election Day this year, more than just a new face coming in to serve at the top.

Boone will be mayor of a city where more than half the council will be different. With his campaign for mayor, Boone's seat on the council was open. Two others, Matt "Catfish" Williams and Jordan Scheid, decided not to seek second terms. Incumbent councilman John Gaiser was defeated. Only Bill Whiteley and Tom Amann will return as council members. They will be joined by newcomers Julia Terry Navarre, Chris Wright, Stephen Chapman, and Tiffany Grider.

For Ludlow, the city's ongoing feud with a youth football league and the rejected Ludlow Yards mixed-use project factored significantly in voters' minds in making a change.

The outgoing council members thanked their fellow council members and the mayor for the past two years, and Boone said that he looks forward to working with the new council in January.

Bellevue also saw significant change on Election Day.

With Riehl deciding not to run, Councilman Steve Brun, who was appointed to return to his previous seat on council in 2017, stepped up to run for mayor, opening up his council seat. Brun was defeated by business owner Charlie Cleves who made his first run for office and will be mayor of Bellevue in January.

The council will look much different.

Three incumbents were defeated in November, Carol Rich, Rodney Poynter, and David Slater. Ryan Salzman and Steve Guidugli were returned to council and will be joined in January by newcomers Sean Fisher, Scott Witte, Patrick Hogan, and Shauna Kruse.

In Bellevue, government leaders will have their hands full.

"There's a lot on the plate right now as far as economic development, so they're going to have their hands full, hopefully with a lot of good things," Riehl said.

Riehl said that he has no regrets from his many years of service, and believes that the city finished strong at the end of his watch, with the groundbreaking of the new Kent Lofts project. "That project is going to be huge and transformational for Bellevue," he said.

"I'm a little disappointed that the Marianne (theater) didn't take off but it's still harboring interests," Riehl said of the city's purchase of the historic art-deco movie theater who developer recently pulled out. "It was still the correct thing to do to get it under city control and get that asset back on the books."

In Dayton, Boruske leaves the city building with council member Jeff Haas, who lost reelection. Both Boruske and Haas struggled to overcome tension between the city government and the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Department as its fire board sought to fill the vacant chief's job earlier this year.
 
As mayor in January, Baker, who served two terms on council, will be joined by incumbents Joe Neary, Bill Burns, Jeff Volter, Denny Lynn, and newcomers Scott Beseler and Tammy Cornett.
 
Northern Kentucky's five urban cities have seen lots in the way of development and reborn interest in their historic downtowns. With a new year on the horizon, the new governments will be tasked with maintaining that momentum while navigating uncertain costs associated with pension funds and other large-scale items like the purchase of new digital emergency radios for first responders, an issue affecting every government in the region. 
 
Only Newport's government emerged in November unscathed, with all four incumbent city commissioners re-election, and Mayor Jerry Peluso not on the ballot.
 
Covington will also brace for change, though Mayor Joe Meyer is only in the middle of his first term and was not on the ballot. Two incumbent city commissioners are out, and one new and one familiar face are in.
 
City commissioner Bill Wells lost his reelection bid and Commissioner Jordan Huizenga lost his race as the Republican nominee for state representative in the 65th House District to Democrat Buddy Wheatley.
 
Shannon Smith and former Mayor Denny Bowman won the two open seats on the commission and will join incumbents Michelle Williams and Tim Downing in January.
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Ed Riehl at his final meeting in Bellevue (RCN)