Mayor Jerry Abramson walked into a small conference room on the fourth floor of Metro Hall, took off his jacket, sat down at the table and gestured to the bare, deep-red walls, peppered with empty screws and nails. “I’ve boxed everything up, as you can see,” he chuckled.
In addition to cleaning out the belongings he has acquired since first stepping into the role of mayor of Louisville in 1985, Abramson and his staff have also spent time assisting Mayor-elect Greg Fischer and his team so that the transition from one administration to the next, which officially occurs, Monday, Jan. 3, is seamless. And he hosted his final press conference as the city’s chief politician on the morning of Dec. 27.
“We have a great deal of satisfaction,” Abramson admitted. “Having said that, I’m human. There’s sort of a melancholy after 21 years (as mayor). That’s most of my adult life.”
But his calling to go into public service came much younger, according to a story told to countless people by Abramson’s father. Only 10 or 11, the young Jerry helped out his father at their shop on Preston and Jacob streets. Each time the garbage men emptied the trash can, they “invariably took the can, too,” Abramson recalled. Annoyed by the frequent occurrence, the youngster promised his father, “Someday I’ll be mayor and I’ll bolt down the trash cans.”
For the record, Mayor Abramson did, in fact, bolt down some of the city’s garbage cans that seemed to “walk away” during his long tenure, but that’s the least of his accomplishments.
“I think most people will focus in terms of my “˜bricks and mortar’ legacy on things like the airport expansion, the jobs that were created, the waterfront (beautification), the baseball park, the city of parks, the bike ways “¦ Personally, what I take most pride in is back in 1985 when I first ran for mayor, this community definitely saw the glass (as) half empty. It was a community that was down on itself,” he said. “Now, as I leave office, I think there’s an energy of “˜we can compete with anybody.’ The glass is half full, maybe three-quarter full. I’m most proud of that.”
Over the years, in plentiful times and tough ones too, Abramson has reaffirmed what he’s always known: “You can’t accomplish anything without a commitment and a belief, that if we all pull together in the same direction we can be successful. We’ve had enough of those wins over the last two decades to give people a feeling that Louisville is really on a roll.”
Usually. “I hoped we would have been further along with Museum Plaza,” he said, as well as on the scenic loop around the city and the construction of a destination park in Southwest Louisville.
Abramson is handing over the reigns to Fischer, but isn’t dropping the political ball any time soon. He’ll be out on the campaign trail running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Gov. Steve Beshear in 2011. For now, though, he’s heading to the classroom to teach two classes at Bellarmine University beginning next week.
“I’ve got my syllabus finished, I’m learning Blackboard (an online course management system), now I’m just hoping my (textbooks) come in on time to the bookstore,” Abramson laughed, the sound bouncing off the barren walls.
Known throughout the community as Mayor Jerry and “Mayor for Life,” Abramson revised the latter moniker. “How about “˜Mayor for 6 or 7 more days’?” he gibed.
In the classroom, however, there will be no nicknames. Professor Abramson? No. Professor Jerry? Nah. Professor Abramson? “How about just Jerry,” he said.
Sept. 12, 1946: Jerry Edwin Abramson is born in Louisville.
Nov. 5, 1975: Abramson is elected to Louisville Board of Aldermen.
Jan. 16, 1980: Abramson is named general counsel to Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. Three months later, he’s appointed acting justice secretary.
Feb. 15, 1984: Abramson files to run for mayor of Louisville and is elected to position Nov. 5, 1984.
April 2, 1986: Abramson unveils Operation Brightside, an initiative he created to clean up the city.
June 24, 1989: Abramson marries Madeline Miller, with whom he now has a son, Sidney.
Nov. 7, 1989: Abramson wins election and begins serving his second term as mayor.
Nov. 2, 1993: Abramson is elected to third term as mayor of Louisville.
Dec. 31, 1998: Abramson serves out his last day as mayor of Louisville.
Nov. 5, 2002: Post-merger, Abramson wins election as first mayor of Metro Louisville, is sworn in on Jan. 4, 2003, and begins serving his fourth term as mayor.
Nov. 7, 2006: Abramson wins his fifth term as mayor, his second term as mayor of post-merger Metro Louisville.
July 19, 2009: Abramson announces he will not seek reelection, instead opting to run for lieutenant governor of Kentucky in 2011.
Dec. 27, 2010: Abramson holds his final press conference as Metro Louisville mayor.
Jan. 3, 2010: Abramson will leave the mayor’s office to teach at Bellarmine University and run for lieutenant governor of Kentucky in 2011. Greg Fischer will be sworn in as mayor of Metro Louisville.
Category: The Profile
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.