Outgoing city commissioner Johnny Collier has had many irons in many fires over the last 43 years.
“Since 1969, the year Doris and I got married, I had always been involved in civic clubs — Jaycees, chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, parks and rec, all the (youth) league programs, school PTOs, booster clubs — I’ve always given my time to anything anybody needed,” he said.
It was that commitment to community that first prompted the 64-year-old to first seek public office in the early 1990s.
“In 1992 or 1993, several people said, ‘Why don’t you run for city commission?’” Collier said. “‘We think there are some things that need to be done, and we’d like to see you get involved with it.’ So in the 1993 election, I ran and was elected.”
Collier served as city commissioner from 1994 through 1996 and has served as commissioner again from 2004 until 2012. During his separate tenures, Collier said the city’s growth has been most impressive.
“When I was little, U.S. 27 was our Main Street; it ran straight down in front of the courthouse,” Collier said. “On Saturday night’s, Main Street Nicholasville was packed. There was a movie theater down there, a 10-cent store, drug stores, and on Saturday night, you couldn’t hardly walk up and down that street.
“Now, we have a bypass that handles a whole lot of traffic that goes north and south. I’ve just enjoyed watching the city grow.”
Collier, who fell 177 votes short of being re-elected in November, said the growth, at times, has been a double-edged sword.
“Some of the worst times and the best times we’ve had has been growth,” he said. “We were fighting an uphill battle trying to hold down growth, but at the same time, we didn’t want to stop it. With the growth, we were getting new businesses, and we were getting some new industry coming into town. We wouldn’t have gotten those things if we were the same small, sleepy town we were years ago.”
At the Dec. 10 city-commission meeting, Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer thanked Collier and praised him for his commitment to the city and its residents.
“I am sad to see him go because I’ve leaned on him for the past six years as mayor and two years as a commissioner,” Meyer said. “He’s done a lot of great things at the city of Nicholasville and in our community. A lot of the projects we’ve been able to accomplish over the years, he’s played a huge part in that. He just brought a lot to the table each and every day.”
During his time serving as a city commissioner, Collier has been commissioner of public safety, electric and water and sewer, and he said taking care of water projects, including the wastewater treatment plant on Shun Pike, are among the highlights he cherishes over his career.
“In 1994, the first meeting we went to, the mayor, Sam Corman — who by the way was a great mayor — told us that in two weeks we were going to start being fined by the division of water $10,000 a day if we don’t have a plan for and are moving forward very fast to get a new sewer plant built,” Collier said. “That night, I told (utilities director) Tom Calkins to call the man who had the farm where we now have the sewer plant. That night, (former commissioner) Gary Goldey, Tom Calkins and I went and met with him and started the negotiations to buy the farm.”
After the ice storm of 2009, Collier said the purchase of a generator for the water department was a must, given how close the city came to nearly losing the ability to pump water from the plant.
“The last really big ice storm was the time I was over water and sewer. That was the time we were down to the last day and within three hours that we almost ran out of water. The electricity was off in the city for three or four days,” he said. “The pump at the water plant was down because of the electric being off. So the city purchased a generator, so they expand the water plant to 10 million gallons a day that can be pumped out. If the electricity goes off for a week, we’re still going to be able to fire that generator up and pump water into town.”
Looking ahead, Collier said he would not run again for a city commission seat, but he would not rule out other elected positions.
“I would and I have already been contacted. I’m looking at two or three options. I’m not sure what I want to do yet,” Collier said. “I think we’ve (the city of Nicholasville) done pretty well. We’re still in better shape than most cities around us. I’m proud of how everything has gone to this point. I want to thank everyone who has backed me, and tell them that we’re not through.”