The following is the fourth of eight exit interviews with members of Louisville Metro Council who will be leaving their seat in early January. In this interview, Insider talks with Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, about the highs and lows of her four-year term on Metro Council and what she plans to do now. Leet, a Republican, was elected to the council in 2014 and chose to run for mayor this year.
Insider Louisville: In you four years on Metro Council, what would you say you’re most proud of accomplishing for Louisville?
Leet: For District 7, I would say that we were able to — I guess that’s kind of where some of my skill sets were utilized — in terms of the infrastructure and ensuring that we got some major thoroughfares paved that hadn’t been paved in some time. From Rudy Lane to Ormsby Lane to Mockingbird Valley Road. We don’t have much unincorporated subdivision area, but even some of those streets were able to get paved because we made that part of our priority.
And getting new sidewalks built, because there’s many areas that we were just missing 50 feet of pavement to create a connecting sidewalk. I think one of my most exciting ones is there by Patriots Peace Memorial at River Road, because what it does is it connects Thurman-Hutchins Park, which already had an entire loop around it, and it needed to have an extension up to Patriots Peace Memorial. But then it stopped and didn’t continue over to Caperton Swamp. And we’ve now connected all that. And then there’s a pedestrian walkway that was already existing that we were able to improve to go across the road to Cox’s Park, where there’s already part of the Louisville Loop. So you can even ride on your bike or walk all the way through Cox’s park all the way up to Zorn Avenue and cross back over to the old River Road Country Club and get on that sidewalk. So you can get all the way down to the edge of Waterfront Park on a sidewalk now, and I think that’s kind of cool right. And we have smooth roads.
IL: On the flip side, what would you say you’re most disappointed by, in terms of what the city or Metro Council was not able to accomplish over that time?
Leet: Still maybe moving the needle, in terms of preparing ahead for when we know where we’re developing in certain areas. We tend to still shove development there without providing the expanded infrastructure that needs to go with it. Specifically, it’s like the VA hospital. There’s there’s no mitigation proposed for that, yet they’ve determined that to be the best site. That discussion has come up over and over and over again amongst many of my colleagues.
And I saw it because I was personally engaged for three of my four years with the comprehensive plan. I was on the data collection side and I saw all this beautiful data that we collected that would indicate that we know where the growth is going to occur, yet there’s no plan to accommodate the growth. And then we write words on paper which sound great on paper, but they don’t actually provide the expansion before the growth. So that just creates a whole different set of problems. And we we see that in some of these longer debates on zoning projects and I think we’re going to continue to see that so long as we’re not planning for taking that information that we have about where we know growth is occurring and supporting it.
IL: So beyond specific policy or legislation, are there any aspects to how a Metro Council functions itself that you think need to change, whether that be how council members interact with each other or how council members interact with the mayor’s office?
Leet: Everybody knows it’s a mayor-strong environment. A couple of different things that I noticed. Of the 50 largest U.S. cities, only 11 actually have partisan elections. And so when I when I first entered four years ago, it was my first opportunity to be involved in a direct legislative role. And I think I was probably a little taken aback by how political it actually ends up being. I would say I’ve even seen it moving even more so in that direction. I don’t think that’s for the benefit of the community.
IL: In the elections we just had, Democrats expanded their Metro Council majority to 19-7, and Mayor Fischer won a third term. Why do you think Republicans struggled in Louisville this year, and what if anything do you think the party needs to change in order to become more competitive citywide?
Leet: I don’t know if it’s a party change. I just gave the example of the largest U.S. cities and partisan elections. I think the example there on the national level, too, is that there’s only seven states left that do straight ticket voting.
And I think that somehow we’ve made the system so complex that it creates barriers for participation. So the average citizen, even when you talk to — you know I talked to thousands of people over the last year — and some would express their discouragement. “It doesn’t matter who’s in office, nothing’s going to get better for me.” And I think that shows that disconnect that exists, and I think that’s one of those areas. And why do we have to be one of the last seven states? I mean I don’t know why we always bring up the rear on stuff.
IL: Some council members answered this question by saying it was as simple as Trump or Bevin. Was that a factor?
Leet: There’s clearly some national and state sentiment about that. But you know, they also hired in people from New York City to blast signs and place them illegally all over the community. Hanging them on street signs and telephone poles. You know, gosh, I was reading what I have to do to be in compliance with sign regulations for a project I’m working on, and I’m like, “wow, look at all that illegality.” And nothing was ever said, nothing was ever done.
I get it. People get frustrated at the double standard. It’s like if you’re in politics you get to do it one way, and I think some of that comes out sometimes. And I don’t even think that’s party affiliated.
IL: Democrats now have a larger supermajority on Metro Council and hypothetically they don’t really need Republican votes to pass legislation. How do you think they should handle that type of power?
Leet: How do I think they should handle it? Well, my version of how I think they should handle it I’m sure may or may not match the version of what will happen.
We’re all still working for the community at large and there has to be that accountability in place. I think I even felt it in the time I was here. Because when you see legislation that comes out, I think if it was started over in the Republican side — I can’t say exclusively this was true in every situation — but I think in nearly every situation you went to look for a co-sponsor from the Democratic side. Because you knew you weren’t going to do it by yourself, but that you could find some folks to join you if it was if it made sense and it was the right thing to do. And that was not reciprocal in every case, and more times than not the legislation came down and there was no “Hey, what do you think of this?” Or “Hey, would you want to be a co-sponsor?” Even if perhaps we were going to be in complete agreement with it, there was still no opportunity to say “Hey, do you want a co-sponsor this with me?” or “Hey, I have this idea, what do you think?”
I’m not going to say that’s true in every case, but that was the tendency. And I would hope that maybe that doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t matter whether there’s a supermajority or not. If you’re working on something that will benefit the entire community, then let’s try to have the voices at the table.
IL: Do you have any advice for the incoming Councilwoman-elect Paula McCraney, who’ll take over the seat in your district?
Leet: When I came on board four years ago, I started something that hadn’t been done for our district, which was to create the Mayor’s Advisory Council. We have 26 suburban cities — now they call them home rule cities — and that has been a successful process to get feedback. That would be the one thing I would say, is to continue that, because it’s a good way to engage.
Even though you’ve got the Jefferson County League of Cities, as we all
I think that was a great forum that created a good cohesiveness, because all those things that I listed, almost all of the major things we accomplished in District 7 happened because we were able to create public-public partnerships. So I was able to put in a portion of the funding, but I convinced them because they needed that project and that’s how we were able to accelerate those projects by combining our forces and saying “yes, this is something that’s going to be good for the district. Let’s work on this together.”
IL: What do you plan on doing now?
Leet: You know it’s funny, I’ve been asked that a lot lately. My phone has been ringing off the hook, which is a good thing and it’s better than stone silence. So I have a lot of different opportunities for me right now.
I’m really just going to spend some time during the holidays being with my family and doing the mom things that I didn’t get to do over the last 12 months. My mother’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, so I need to help my dad a little more on that front. So I’m going to do the family things I need to do.
And then I’m giving myself a March 1 kind of quiet period before I decide where I’m going to jump in with both my feet again, so that I have the opportunity to… You know, I got exposed to a whole lot of other things in my journey over the last 16 months, and I’m going to pick a topic and you’ll know I’m there. I’ll be loud and I’ll be serious about working on that issue for our community.
IL: Is there any chance that you will run for office again, or are you putting that chapter behind you?
Leet: Oh, I would say that flame is still in the heart. It’s certainly not something in the short-range plan right now. You know, I’ve got a son who’s going to be a senior in high school and another one getting ready to start his high school career. You think sometimes that four years seems like it’s going to be a long time, but even just from this experience of just being in this office for years, I just can’t believe four years is already gone by. I can’t believe that my son is going to be senior next year, and it really does pass you by. So I’m going to savor those moments, and we’ll see if God puts me on that path.
IL: Do you have any regrets about getting in the mayoral race, or would you do it all over again?
Leet: Not at all. I’d do it over again. Now, would I change some things? Hmm, maybe.
IL: Like what?
Leet: I think it’s the whole “in hindsight,” what did you learn from it? Like, I gained so much experience through that process. Learning about different groups of people. There’s some consistency within our districts, in terms of the issues we’re dealing with. But when you start going out and really digging in other districts and understanding the issues for people who are living in different parts and areas, you see that there’s different conversations that have to occur.
So from that perspective, I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret it at all, because I met so many people that are now going to be a part of my life. Like, they didn’t just drop in during the election process.
I’m actually starting a little brain consortium with some folks that I believe would make a really impactful team to solve some really unique problems. And we’re starting it in the first year, and who knows if that will turn into a business model or where it will take us, but I think it’s going to be cool. Every single one of them