By Lily Barnette and Ülvi Gitaliyev
As the 2022 U.S. Midterm Elections approach, senators, congressmen, councilors and more are campaigning to enter or stay in office. Bruce Fraley, the current Mayor of Berea, Kentucky, is excited for his future in local government. That is because he is running unopposed for his second term. Regardless, on October 10th, The Berea Torch sat down with Mayor Fraley and spoke with him about his motivations for being a public servant and plans for Berea in his next term.
When asked about why he decided to run for his first term, Mayor Fraley described his childhood in Berea, the influence of his father and grandfather, and his previous position.
“I grew up in Berea. I was lived on Christmas Ridge Road… Growing up, my grandfather and my father were very civic-minded, always cared about the community and stayed involved. My grandfather especially, but I have been a lifelong public servant. I worked 34 years for the Social Security Administration, and I retired in 2017 and I was on the City Council at that time. And in 2018, you know, I felt like that there was more that I could do, and I had the time, the interest, the energy, and cared enough about the community that I decided I wanted to run for mayor… Hopefully we’ve made a big difference in the Berea community — the entire community — which of course includes the college and the employers. It’s not just the individual citizens, but the institutions and the businesses as well. Hopefully we’ve done good things for the entire community over the last four years, and I’m hoping that we can do that for some time to come.”
Mayor Fraley then went on to describe some of the accomplishments made in Berea over the last four years. He mentions advancements in economic development with the introduction of two new industries, AppHarvest and Hitachi Astemo Electric Motor Systems, and 40 new/expanded businesses. Furthermore, Mayor Fraley was excited to speak on the strong connections developed between the City of Berea, Berea College, Eastern Kentucky University, and the other school systems around Madison County.
“I felt like we could really make more progress in the area of economic development. I think it’s important to educate our young people, college students, secondary school students, as well as middle schoolers about what types of jobs are available in the local economy. It gives young people hope, but also it builds on those good paying jobs. We have brought in two new industries that are state of the art that we promoted Berea.
One is AppHarvest, which is an AgTech company. They built a 15-acre greenhouse in Berea, and we are their flagship for leafy greens, which are really lettuces, but they’re going to grow them here and supply the Eastern Seaboard with this as a prototype.
The second is in advanced manufacturing and they are Hitachi Astemo Electric Motor Systems that’s out on Mayde Road. They took an existing shell of a building and put about $100 million into it. They’ll eventually have 200 employees and they’re already building the electric motor for the Honda Accord and Honda CR-V. If you, your family or friends buy one and drive one, the motor will be built here in Berea, Kentucky.
Another major accomplishment is having more of a seat at the table and being more connected to the people that we need to be connected with. I’m talking specifically about public institutions… I’ve been in Frankfort [Kentucky’s capital] a lot and we have good projects and we received funding for very desirable projects in the city of Berea. Without it, we couldn’t do it on our own. So, reconnecting that network and building that and strengthening it, I would consider that very important.”
This led to the direction Mayor Fraley wants to take for his achievements in the next four years. He was pleased with the amount of revenue Berea has accumulated over the last two years, and what it could be spent on. Berea’s infrastructure, park systems, city streets, sidewalks, shared-use trails, etc. are all things Fraley would like to improve. He went into detail about the different streets and shared-use trails like Ellipse Street, Artisan Trail, Walnut Meadow Road, Logsdon Lane, Elm Street, Glades Road, etc. that could all be updated and the Berea Bypass Project, which has been an ongoing project and is expected to be completed June 2023. The Berea Bypass is expected to direct some of the traffic on Chestnut Street (where the two crosswalks are) away to the Bypass instead.
“That [Berea Bypass] was a project that was basically dead until 2018, a year before I came here. The Bypass was one of the most important projects as far as improving the city overall, reducing traffic, and improving safety through the middle of town.”
At the end of the interview, we asked Mayor Fraley what final message would he like to leave for not just the residents of the city of Berea, but the Berea College students as well.
“I would like to see more interaction over time with the students and the town. I’m seeing more and more of that with our small businesses in particular. Of course, we’ve seen that pretty regular with with the College Square, but throughout town. And I would like to see the college and the city citizens businesses be able to do more things together. When we have events like the Spoon Bread Festival or Levitt AMP Concert series, I would like to to make sure the students know that they’re welcome to come to those. And I would encourage them to do that — there are good things that come from that.
The COVID pandemic taught us that life was short and that we really need to examine the way we do things; that we truly are all in this life, in this town and in this together. And, you know, hopefully we can do more to be closer, to work closer together, and to have activities that benefit the students and the town alike.”Bruce Fraley
You can vote for Mayor Fraley, as well as the Berea Board of Education, City Council and many other positions on November 8th. To learn more about the candidates and how to vote, go to the Madison County Clerk’s office website here!