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    Photos by Jessica Ebelhar.

    Editor’s note: In our October issue, we devoted 14 pages to the upcoming mayoral election. It’s safe to say Louisvillians are familiar with incumbent Mayor Greg Fischer — pro-business leanings, passion for all things “compassion,” not exactly charismatic at a podium. We sat down with him for an in-depth Q&A, allowing us to challenge him on his last seven years. The October cover asks the question: Does Mayor Fischer deserve a third term? We also covered his Republican challenger, Metro Council member Angela Leet. Because Leet is less familiar to the public, we decided to publish a profile of her, instead of a Q&A. The longform narrative profiles we aspire to produce at Louisville Magazine present subjects as three-dimensional people, and that involves scenes, settings and character description. We hope the two companion pieces give our readers a better sense of both candidates. —Josh Moss, Editor, jmoss@loumag.com

     

    Angela Leet is running late. It’s a little after 9:30 one Thursday morning in the sweaty end of August, and the sun is getting hotter by the minute at the Patriots Peace Memorial on River Road. A few more minutes pass, and then, there’s no mistaking Leet’s entrance: a Ford F-150 with a giant, all-caps “LEET”; a fleur-de-lis that’s almost the size of the truck door; and, in a casual script, “Louisville Mayor 2018.” Underneath the driver’s-side window is a photo of Leet large enough to balance out the fleur-de-lis — her blond, curled hair rests on a pink shirt, accented with a silver pendant necklace. As the truck rolls to a stop, the window slides down and the real-life version emerges.

    “Your carriage has arrived,” Leet says, with French-manicured hands on the wheel and a full-faced smile that makes the top of her nose crinkle. It’s a charm that rarely comes across in newspaper and TV coverage of the District 7 councilwoman and Republican mayoral candidate — the first woman nominee in the city’s history.

    “Today’s already been crazy for me,” the 49-year-old says. “We had a closed-down road in the district” — hers runs south from the river, through parts of Indian Hills, to the malls on Shelbyville Road and east along parts of Westport Road — “so I sent out a news alert this morning to all my district constituents, so they knew which way to approach the school, ’cause it was in a school zone.” That was at 7. Then she got her sons, 14 and 16, off to school at Sacred Heart Model School and St. Xavier High School. Knee surgery she had a month ago for a torn meniscus has her in physical therapy a couple mornings a week. “Came back, showered, did my makeup, got dressed. I also sent probably three texts and glanced at the paper before I got to you this morning.”

    Leet heads to Valley High School on Dixie Highway for the ribbon cutting of the school’s Industrial Maintenance Academy, a partnership with UPS and one of more than a dozen Academies of Louisville that JCPS has rolled out over the last two school years. Through her work as a Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellow last year, tasked with the issue “Winning the Talent of the Future,” Leet mentored a Valley student and keeps ties to the school. She has on a navy sleeveless dress and a highlighter-yellow jacket — school colors.

    Her navy, chunky-heeled Tod’s sandals clap on the sidewalk as she circles the school, looking for an entrance. Bright teal polish — a variation of the shades of blue used throughout her campaign signage — makes her toenails pop. Her gait is a little off from the surgery, so she moves as though she’s stubbed her toe. And then she just about does stub her toe when she trips over a rubber doorstopper in the ground near an entrance. (“That’ll probably be part of the story,” she’ll say later, without an ounce of embarrassment.)

    “Hi! How’re you?” Leet says to a man outside.

    “Hard to walk fast in those, ain’t it?” he says.

    “Are you kidding?” she says. “This is low!”

    “I should have parked in the grass,” says a woman also making the trek.

    “Well,” Leet says, “I’m a rule follower.”

    When Leet entered Metro Council in January 2015, she plunged into the heated debate about the site of a planned VA hospital. An environmental engineer, Leet repeatedly demanded that an environmental-impact study be conducted on the site that the government had purchased nearly a decade prior, in the East End near the intersection of Brownsboro Road and I-264, in Leet’s district. (The project is now going forward at the site.)

    As the city’s homicide rate ballooned through 2015 and 2016, Leet became a nagging critic of LMPD Chief Steve Conrad and was the first councilperson to publicly call for his resignation. Leet has turned up the heat on Conrad and Mayor Greg Fischer — as have her council colleagues — about the department’s educational Youth Explorer Program, from which sex-abuse allegations surfaced against two former officers. It’s been a back-and-forth of who knew what when, what was done about it and is the public in the dark at all. Fischer insists that he addressed the issue as soon as he knew something, involving the FBI and going so far as to order an independent audit of every city department. But inconsistencies in Fischer’s, Conrad’s and Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen’s statements in court have Leet and others questioning the mayor’s transparency.
     

    "Campaigning at the gas station is actually really cool, so I've started doing it a couple of times a week. I always get to have conversations. 'You're that lady running for mayor, right? Well, can I tell you...?' And I'm like, 'Yes, please tell me.'"


    Last fall, Leet made her run for mayor official when she dropped her first campaign video. In it, she’s polished and steady, a constipated version of her usual unhinged self, touting her qualifications and calling out the city’s crime rates and drug epidemic. “The story you have heard for the last several years has been one of fiction, telling us that bike lanes will lead us to prosperity and growth. Instead, we’ve been led down a dead-end road to another homicide,” she says in closing.

    “I told Fischer one time, I said, ‘Yep, someday I’ll run for mayor,’” Leet says later. “He said, ‘That’s good. We need everybody. We need people.’ He wouldn’t say that now. But I didn’t expect to run against him.”

    After the ribbon cutting, Leet chats it up with business leaders and school administrators.

    “We need to leave if we’re going to stick to schedule,” says Leet’s communications director, Sarah Durand. Durand turns to me and says, “She’s very extroverted. She can go for hours, talking to people. It’s exhausting for most of us.”

    Back at the truck, Leet takes the wheel again.

    Durand says, “Usually on a campaign, the body person would drive so the candidate can make phone calls or whatever, write thank-you notes.” Durand worked on Gov. Bevin’s campaign and then was chief of staff for First Lady Glenna Bevin for close to a year. “Angela thinks I drive too slow.”

    “You definitely drive too slow.” (At one point, Leet grabs a bottle of lotion from the door and rubs some on her legs, no hands on the wheel as the truck flies down I-265.)

    “I’m a nervous driver,” Durand says.

    “People are intimidated by the truck. I let other people do it, but they don’t like to do it.”

    “It’s a boat.”

    “It’s not a boat. You know what I love about this one? It actually gets decent gas mileage and it has a huge tank — like, it goes for 400-and-something miles per tank. Campaigning at the gas station is actually really cool, so I’ve started doing it a couple of times a week. I always get to have conversations. ‘You’re that lady running for mayor, right? Well, can I tell you?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, please tell me.’”

     

    Leet oozes the American Dream. She was adopted through Catholic Charities at six weeks old, though she didn’t learn that detail until a couple months ago when she was at a picnic. She never thought to question how the transfer happened and has never met her birth parents. But she has understood that part of her identity since she was in fourth grade, when what had been explained to her before finally sunk in. “Then you go through the whole range of emotions with that information,” she says. “I think the initial reaction was: ‘Well, you can’t love me as much as you love the one that you had.’” (Leet has a sister close in age who is her parents’ biological daughter.) As a teenager, Leet thought it was important to know where she came from. “I’m kind of a thoughtful person — to a flaw, sometimes,” she says. “I think about things for a little while before I make a final step. I started to think: You know, it was probably actually a very loving thing to do to give me up for adoption. They could have just not been capable of being parents or they didn’t have a home to share with me or they were a young teenage mom that had wanted to do other things and I would’ve been neglected.” Earlier this year, Leet was at Metro Corrections mentoring women going through the jail’s addiction-recovery program. “Some of them had said that they had to give their babies up — they felt like they were mad at themselves — and I said, ‘That’s the most loving thing you can do.’ I said, ‘I thank my birth mom every day for the fact that she was selfless enough to know that she wasn’t capable of being a mom.’”

    Leet and her husband and their two sons now live on four acres in the Mockingbird Valley area in a house valued at $3.6 million — among the most expensive in town — which Leet designed down to the geothermal heating system. It’s far from her modest upbringing in Hikes Point. Neither of her parents attended college, and Leet’s father, a United Auto Worker and Ford Motor Co. employee, worked off and on for a number of years during “the Carter recession,” as Leet specifies in her online bio. Leet grasped this struggle and says she knew from about age 10 that she always needed to be in a position of financial security. Her work ethic gelled through mowing lawns at $7 apiece and babysitting. At one point, she offered to iron her family’s clothes for $1 a week. “Pfft,” she says, rolling her eyes at the memory. “I soon learned that was not a good proposition for me.” Her first real job was as a food runner at Ponderosa in Hikes Point, for $2-something an hour, plus tips — sometimes generous $5 ones, she says — that got her through college, especially after her mom came to her and told her that she and her father wouldn’t be able to pay for school any longer. “And I said, ‘I’m moving out next week.’ And she said, ‘Why are you gonna do that? You’ll have to pay for your car and your tuition and your books and your insurance.’ I said, ‘All one problem: cash flow. I’ll figure it out.’” Already working in the restaurant and doing odd jobs, she tacked on work as a teacher’s assistant doing computer-aided drafting for coal mine reclamation.

    The juggle was simple for someone who craves complexity. When she was in fifth grade, Leet aspired to be a brain surgeon. Specifically, she wanted to be the first person to perform a brain transplant. A math and science lover, she tinkered with different career paths like renewable energy throughout middle and high school. She’d spent a lot of time with her dad in the garage, working on carburetors and installing engines, so engineering made sense for Leet, who graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in 1987, in the same class as state Sen. Julie Raque Adams. While at the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Leet had a calculus test each week. “I remember I was getting beat every week by Eastern High School alumni,” she says. “You know, kids that went to public high school were outperforming me on calculus.” So she went back to Sacred Heart and told them the school needed to step it up. “They’ve really come a long way,” she says. In student government at U of L, several students, including Leet, wanted to get into environmental engineering, an emerging field at the time that the school had eliminated during budgets cuts. “So we lobbied for that too,” she says.

    She finished her master’s dissertation on a Thursday afternoon, jumped in a one-way U-Haul and drove to Edna, Texas, where she started a job at a petrochemical company on the following Monday. She moved around to several companies throughout her 20s, living in parts of Texas and in Chicago. Her role was to make sure the companies’ projects were in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards. She evokes a sort of Erin Brockovich quality when she talks about how she would climb water towers and work with “Ph.D. scientists in California to help implement this continuous air-monitoring system.” The young engineer in a field dominated by men wasn’t always taken seriously. A foreman once called her a little girl and told her she didn’t know what she was talking about.

    She eventually reconnected with the man who would become her husband, Lee, whom she first met in Air Force ROTC at U of L, where he went to the Speed School for computer engineering. After maternity leave following the birth of their first son, Leet would travel to Chicago for four or six weeks at a time, overnighting supplies of frozen breast milk to Lee, who would drop it off at their son’s daycare. The daycare staff nicknamed the boy FedEx. On one trip up north, Leet was preparing to host a meeting when her husband held the phone up to their son, who was “barking like a dog,” Leet says, clearly down with whooping cough. “I realized we can’t both work a hundred hours a week,” she says. Lee had started out consulting with Yum! Brands and was building up his restaurant-technology company, QSR Automations. Leet finished the project she’d been working on and returned to Louisville.

    Not one to, as she says, “let the grass grow” under her feet, she started building houses with Habitat for Humanity by the time her first son was seven or eight months old. She served on the board for a number of years but is less involved now, though she donates part of her $48,000 Metro Council salary to the nonprofit. (The rest has gone to the Red Cross, Fund for the Arts and the restorative-justice program at Spalding University, where she’s on the board of trustees. She says she would donate her mayoral salary as well.) “I believe that in the board service you gotta move around because you add new value, new energy, new ideas,” she says. “You can apply it to different places. Eventually, you’re just sitting there occupying a seat and not actually doing the work.” She feels similarly about a mayor being allowed three terms, which is why, she says, her first three actions as mayor would be to replace LMPD Chief Conrad, make sure wages and work conditions for first responders are better and to go to the state legislature and work to change the mayor’s term limit. “Fischer — he’s courteous; he’s not a bad person,” she says. “He’s had enough time in this position, and it’s time for something different. I think he’s failed our community on some of the basic things that we should be doing well.”

    Throughout her campaign, she has raised the volume of her disappointment in the city’s crime rates, which, though homicides have fallen from last year, are much higher than when Fischer entered office in 2011, though he points to the national trend: Other cities have seen the same rise. Leet keeps a tally of shootings and homicides, which she displays on giant yellow posters taped to her second-floor City Hall windows facing the corner of West Jefferson and Sixth streets.
     

    "I go to a lot of events, and Fischer has a standing ovation. Although (Leet has) been at the same events, she's been largely ignored in the West End. She's fighting that Republican brand," says radio host Claudette Milner.


    In late June, she held a press conference at her campaign headquarters inside the McMahan Plaza in Hikes Point, near where she grew up. She had been bitten by something — maybe while picking up trash by the Ohio River — and had woken up the morning of the press conference with a rash all over, so she took some Benadryl that just about knocked her out. It wasn’t as though she appeared drowsy, but the politician who normally lasers through questions and statements stumbled through several words as she made her remarks: the Explorer investigation report had been overly redacted; the list of the mayor’s Derby guests should not be a secret if their travels are on the taxpayers’ dime; the undisclosed bid for an Amazon headquarters should be revealed to show other companies what the city is willing to offer. She trudged through her bullet points, licking her fingers to flip through the pages on the podium. (“I was like, Please don’t fall over. Don’t scratch your legs. Ignore the rash,” she says.) After a seemingly rough start, she found her groove. “I do find it interesting that one of my colleagues got raked pretty well over the coals in the final days of her election in regards to the fact that $6,200 was spent on a table for a function for a nonprofit organization” — referring to Democratic councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, who has been on Metro Council since 2002 and lost in the May primary — “yet we can’t expect the same from our mayor.” She delivered the contrast with the stinging attitude that she often employs when referring to Mayor Fischer. “Members of government get to operate by a different set of rules than the private citizen, and I think it’s time for that to stop.”

    “After I did that,” Leet says later, “I literally rolled up in a ball and fell asleep.”

     

    By lunchtime, Leet is meeting with a group of mostly women at Long John Silver’s on West Broadway to talk issues. Wanda McIntyre hands out fliers for an event to feed the homeless on Labor Day weekend, while about 15 people gather in the restaurant’s parking lot.

    “Hi! I’m Angela Leet,” Leet says to a woman, who wraps her arms around her. “Oh, good, you’re a hugger! Me too.”

    The Rev. Bryan K. Litton, senior pastor at Israel Missionary Baptist Church in west Louisville, joins the group.

    “Oh, my God. He gave the most inspirational sermon,” Leet gushes to some of the women. “The one I was talking about where he was talking about connectivity. Here’s the guy.” Connectivity is huge for Leet. She says that humans need three things to thrive: safety, respect and connections. If they don’t have connections, she says, they don’t have anyone to turn to when their car breaks down or if they lose a job.

    “I want to thank everybody for coming out,” McIntyre says, “and I want everybody to know that we’ve been with Angela from the beginning of her signing in. And we’ve been her prayer partner. We’ve been praying every step of the way, and we feel that this is the lord’s doin’, and it is marvelous. We’ve been on the parade. Wore me out on the parade doin’ the — what was that? The Irish parade?”

    “St. Patrick’s Day!” Leet says.

    McIntyre and Leet met through an organization that held a crime discussion.

    “When I read that she had words against the chief of police, I said, ‘That’s my kind of girl.’ You know, you need a fighter.”

    Inside, over fried fish, hushpuppies and sweet tea, the group settles in.

    The Rev. Litton leads a prayer before the meal but doesn’t stay long.

    “I guess I’ll see you next weekend?” Leet says.

    “Saturday, yes,” he says. “Have more to say, now.”

    “I will!”

    “I asked her to come up and she made a few points and said, ‘I don’t know what to say. Praise Jesus!’ And the whole church just said, Ahhh! Wonderful.”

    “He had just given the most moving sermon. I was not gonna go up there and say anything that was more inspirational, so I didn’t say anything at all.”

    “You said, ‘Praise Jesus,’” McIntyre says. “That was a lot.”

    Leet huddles at a table with three other women, discussing evictions, a lack of full-time employment options, financial literacy. One woman, 36 and a grandmother, talks about what can be done about teen moms.

    “I’ve asked about it, even on our budgeting meeting on Metro Council,” Leet says, “I’m like, well, I see program after program after program for male juveniles. Where is it for the girls? Last time I checked, they’re the ones who’re having those boys.”

    “I went to Jeffersonville High School,” one woman says. “We had a daycare at our school. I just want help the young mothers who are really struggling.”

    “One thing I have heard multiple times: Some of these people don’t have hope, so they give up before they start. How do we change that?” Leet says.

    The women shake their heads and shrug their shoulders. “It’s hard,” one says.

     

    When Metro Council amended and passed the mayor’s budget in June, Leet issued a statement explaining her “no” vote, saying that it did not adequately address jail overcrowding, drug addiction and mental health, or the need to make the city more economically competitive, among other things. District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander replied to her tweet of the statement, writing: “The way you change the budget is by offering amendments and gathering support for them from colleagues. Several members did that. @CWAngelaLeet didn’t.”

    Council President and Democrat David James calls Leet a friend. She says she gets along with everyone on Metro Council. (As she’s walking into City Hall one time, Democratic Councilman David Yates drives by and sends her a honk and a wave.) “When she came on (Metro Council), she asked the council members to take rides through each district to get to know them and the districts,” James says. “She has an engineer’s process and watches and examines parts of government. She genuinely cares about the city.” While he shares some of her criticisms of Mayor Fischer — such as safety concerns, EMS and police department personnel retention issues, and not holding the police chief accountable for the Explorer case — he continues to support Fischer and is pleased with how he has been pushing to make boards and commissions more inclusive than the typically all-white, predominately male makeup that operated before him. James says he thinks the city is a great place to live and work. “We’ll look back on this time and say, ‘That’s when it really took off,’” he says. Even though he gets along with Leet, he says that he tends to disagree with her on some of the platforms that the Republican Party takes on a national and state level. “I don’t think she’d be a bad mayor, but you really don’t know how someone will do as mayor until they become mayor,” James says.
     

    "I told her, 'You understand, if you get elected mayor, on day one you're not gonna solve all those problems; they're just gonna be yours now," Leet's husband, Lee, says. "She's like, 'Bring it on. Fine. Put it on my shoulders.'"
     

    When she’s not schmoozing or airing her disappointments, Leet is studying. She keeps a cart by her bed, stacked with books on Louisville’s history and on leadership. Two Centuries of Black Louisville: A Photographic History sits on a table in her Metro Council office. “One of my regrets — I was so into science and math growing up, I used to read Popular Science and Scientific American, and I now have a much greater appreciation for history, so I feel like I’m trying to catch up,” she says. One afternoon at her campaign headquarters — a continuation of shades of blue, with satin pillows, velvet accents, a teal rug and a corn hole set — she says she’s reading up on LMPD crime statistics. A work she’s digging into now is the 2002 book by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith called Putting Faith In Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship, which emphasizes faith-based and community-organized work. “One of the things that I keep hearing when I’m out on the campaign trail is…from the church families that say, ‘We want to be able to do more; we’d love more support,’” she says. “Just — the barriers of government (and churches) working together, it’s just extreme. So I’ve been trying to think: How can the churches step in and help with homelessness?”

     

    After lunch, the crew heads to the Jefferson County Republican Party’s West End office, inside the Trinity Family Life Center on Hale Avenue in Chickasaw, just west of I-264. Every couple of weeks, Leet and a group get together and clean up the yard and surrounding blocks. Leet sheds her jacket and heels, slips on a pair of running shoes and some work gloves, and starts picking up pieces of garbage.

    She talks about how she once met with the principal at the school of one of her sons, to help him improve some behaviors. Leet had a list of seven or eight things she wanted him to work on. “She said, ‘That’s too many. Start with three, and when he’s got those taken care of, then you can add some more.’” Now, Leet says, he’s a junior taking four AP classes. “I think the problem is, sometimes we try to do too many things, so we don’t do anything well. We do a whole lot of things that are average or terrible.”

    As mayor, she says her focus will be on public safety, which she’ll address through new police leadership and aggressive recruiting of police and first responders. She doesn’t have a chief in mind but says that it should be someone with gang-fighting and Drug Enforcement Agency experience, and “relationships with people at the federal level.” Infrastructure is also top of the list — pot-hole-free roads, adequate sidewalks and ample street lighting.

    “I think you gotta go back to the basics,” she says. “One of my philosophical beliefs: I think government isn’t supposed to do what people are able to do for themselves. If we were working on really doing those priorities really, really well, a lot of the other things would start to take care of themselves.”

    Leet says she would alter the way the city approaches economic incentives by “acknowledging that people are in fact our greatest resource.” Training people for jobs, she says, would be a great way to gives businesses the incentive to move to Louisville. She doesn’t mention the promising — and tangible — Academies of Louisville that are giving 17,000 JCPS students a boost (and that she threw her weight behind at Valley), which the mayor has championed. Or the SummerWorks program Fischer created in 2011 that has continued to grow, from 200 to now more than 6,000 kids.

    While the mayor tends to cheerlead — $13 billion in investment! Bourbonism! Unemployment at 3.5 percent! — while downplaying the issues, Leet does just the opposite. As Leet’s driving down Broadway in west Louisville, Durand spots a 77,000-square-foot, under-construction site and asks, “What’s going here?”

    “The YMCA,” Leet says, diverting the conversation to point out the radio studio where she recently did an interview and a Habitat house she worked on — without adding, as Mayor Fischer might do, that the YMCA project has been a 10-year, $28-million endeavor that will include a Republic Bank & Trust branch (offering financial literacy classes), a Norton Healthcare clinic and other services.

    When running for Metro Council against Democrat Bruce Maples (whom Leet beat with 63 percent of votes), she told the C-J that, while she would look into evaluating the minimum wage, raising it does not lift people out of poverty, and that she favors keeping entry-level positions for youth. When I ask how she arrived at that belief on minimum wage, she looks over each of her shoulders and, in a defensive tone, says, “Who’s decided what my views are on minimum wage?” as though she were being accused of something. She goes on to mention “free-market principals,” mentioning her first $2-something-an-hour job. “What we should really be talking about is: Why does Louisville still fall way behind in the national trend on wages?” she says.

    To fund her public-safety and infrastructure plans, Leet grabs an ax. (Though she says that creating a climate for more businesses and better wages would increase the city’s tax revenue.) “There was $500,000 on bike lanes. Could I cut that in half?” she says. (The allotment for bike lanes makes up half a percent of the city’s overall budget). “There’s a budget for trees. Could I cut that in half? Could I save 10 percent in every department?”

    Claudette Milner hosts a Saturday radio show on WLOU 1350-AM called “A Matter of Interpretation,” and she has interviewed both mayoral candidates. She says that, despite the $1 billion of investment currently going into the West End, she doesn’t see the job-training programs necessary to bring sustained employment to the city’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods. “I go to a lot of events, and Fischer has a standing ovation. Although (Leet has) been at the same events, she’s been largely ignored in the West End. She’s fighting that Republican brand,” Milner says.

    Leet says she has never been in a meeting with Gov. Bevin but has seen him at a fundraiser before. “I think he’s starting the tough conversations. Is he picking the right words to start some of those conversations? No. Some people, their word selection is not good,” she says. “What bothers me is the crime and the drug — I’m more worried about here, local.” She similarly deflects questions regarding President Trump. The day after the 2016 election, she did an interview on the “Rusty Satellite Show” podcast with left-leaning host Rick Redding. When asked about Trump, Leet said, “I think Americans are looking for the process to change. I think it’s an indication that people think that Washington is somewhat broken. We need a change, and I think folks believe Donald Trump is a possibility of that change.” On Inauguration Day, she posted a photo to Facebook of her son in D. C. wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, with the caption: “Proud that my son loves his country and wanted to be part of Our Nations History (sic).” When she announced her run, nearly a year after the 2016 election, she told the C-J that she disagrees with Trump’s Twitter tactics. Is there anything else she has disagreed with the president on? “I don’t, I haven’t — you know what? I’m focused on our local issues right now. I’m focused on the things from that perspective that I can directly impact and control: public safety, infrastructure, the environment for economic growth and better wages.”

     

    Outside, while picking up trash, Leet takes a few steps, bends over, scrapes up a fleck of a crumpled metal wrapper and shoves it in the bag. She takes a few more steps and scuffs the bottom of her shoe on a piece of white paper embedded in the asphalt, loosens it up and tosses it in the bag. It’s peak sunburn hour, and Leet catches her breath in between complaints about the drug epidemic and halfway houses. “We should be talking about homeownership,” she says. “We used to always talk about homeownership, and I’ve seen that type of conversation go away in favor of: Let’s just build more multi-family dwellings. When you own something, you take better care of it. There’s nothing that anybody can say to convince me otherwise.” Of course, it’s one thing to recognize the city’s ills, another to solve them. “I told her, ‘You understand, if you get elected mayor, on day one you’re not gonna solve all those problems; they’re just gonna be yours now,’” her husband says later. “She’s like, ‘Bring it on. Fine. Put it on my shoulders.’”

    One of the women in the group comes over to discuss tearing down housing projects. In the past, the woman says, she has seen clusters of people relocate to other neighborhoods and negatively impact those areas. “Those people in Beecher Terrace, they’re gonna need somewhere to go,” she says. “What’s your take on that, Angela?”

    “Ugh,” Leet sighs and pauses.

    “It’s just so complicated, ain’t it?”

    “It’s very complicated. I was just saying that I think homeownership is exceedingly important,” she says. “I have lots of different ideas. They’re not all well-thought-out yet, but….”

    Leet resumes the trash hunt, spotting a few more specs of garbage that the other women missed on their round. “Hard to stop once you start,” she says, “‘’cause it never ends.”

    This originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Fleet Leet." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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