“People told me that I had three things going against me as I was trying to get elected Mayor of Mayfield Kentucky: I was a woman, I was a Republican and I was the secretary.” Despite all those challenges, Teresa Cantrell was elected as the first female mayor of Mayfield Kentucky in November of 2009 against a three term incumbent. She won by an impressive 2:1 margin. That’s why Teresa Cantrell is an amazing Mayfield woman.
Cantrell is a lifelong resident of Mayfield, Kentucky and tells the joltleft.com that serving the citizens of Mayfield is something that she has been drawn to since she was young. Her first contact with city government came in high school when she visited the mayor’s office as part of her FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) program. Cantrell says “That visit to the mayor’s office helped to develop my sense of service.”
Barely out of high school, Cantrell applied for the job as the assistant to the mayor of the day, Virgil Gilliam. She says that she didn’t know if she “had what it took” to compete with applicants that were already in the system and vying for the position. Cantrell says that her FBLA training made the difference in the selection process. “It was my ability to take shorthand that gave me the edge.” Cantrell said that Gilliam was a traditional executive who was most comfortable with an assistant that could perform this lost form of dictation.
Cantrell didn’t like being idle so she began crafting her position shortly after coming on board as the mayor’s assistant. Under her guidance, the city developed its own newsletter and several key festivals including Glory Days, Family Movie Nights, Music Fest and Winterfest. Her calling to become mayor happened sometime in 1999. Her desire to help her fellow Mayfieldians drove her to finish her bachelor’s degree from Mid-Continent University and her MBA from William Woods University. Cantrell is a planner and knew that she needed to develop her credibility among the citizens of the town before she threw her hat into the ring. She felt that an educational foundation in business, in addition to her 20+ years in the mayor’s office would solidify her credibility among voters.
When Cantrell decided to run for mayor, she didn’t expect the incumbent, Arthur Byrn, to run again. When Byrn decided to run for mayor, Cantrell continued to work as his assistant. Cantrell says there were a few awkward moments during this period. “During the campaign, residents would call to request a yard sign from Mayor Byrn in support of his candidacy. Even though I was running against him, I made sure the residents got his sign. It was my job.”
The night of the election Cantrell came out the 2:1 victor over Byrn. The next day, Cantrell faced a new challenge as the mayor elect. “Co-workers and peers became my management responsibility. It was the toughest transition I had to make.” Cantrell says that she believes this transition has gone smoothly, largely due to her ability to treat people fairly and her long history with city employees.
Cantrell says that re-crafting the city’s website and using brand strategy to improve tourism and attract commerce has been one of her most valued accomplishments since taking office. “We are never going to be a big city”, says Cantrell, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t think like one.” Cantrell says that the future I-69 corridor is going to provide opportunities for Mayfield that are unique. “I want folks to look at Mayfield 10 years from now and acknowledge that some good groundwork had been laid for the economic future of Mayfield. “
Teresa and her husband Mike have two grown children. Tyler is a senior at University of Kentucky and daughter Michelle is embarking on her freshman year at Trevecca Nazarene University. Cantrell smiles when she tells the story of meeting her husband, dating and marrying him. Her family, her faith and her service are the cornerstone of this mayor’s being. She hopes that by living her religious life to the fullest, the citizens of Mayfield will be served.
When asked about e-election, Cantrell says she would like to be around at least eight years to accomplish all of her goals. Cantrell hinted that she may seek a higher office than mayor, but that is in the future. For right now, Cantrell is content to serve the people of Mayfield, and the people of Mayfield benefit from the time and effort that she gives willingly and lovingly.