Gov. Beshear Appoints Leaders as First Set of Members of Louisville West End Opportunity Partnership

Appointments set first 12 of 21 total members of partnership

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 1, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced appointments to the board of the West End Opportunity Partnership (WEOP), the first step in investing in West Louisville and creating more opportunities for residents and businesses there. These appointments represent the first 12 members. The initial members will select nine additional board members from community residents who express interest in serving.

“This is an important first step in rebuilding and investing in a community that has been left behind for too long and hasn’t received the attention it deserves,” said Gov. Beshear. “Whether in Western Kentucky or West Louisville, we want to build communities where our children can learn, live, work and raise their families.

“The partnership will be independent and will guide the $30 million initial investment in West Louisville. Community leaders and residents who know the community will be empowered to make decisions about how the funds are utilized. They know where the needs are.”

Currently, 80 cents of every dollar of revenue developed in West Louisville ends up leaving, so wealth is not building up in West Louisville.

On April 9, 2021, at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 321 to help build a better Kentucky by creating a new economic development area in West Louisville aimed at transformational change. The bipartisan legislation creates a $30 million investment in West Louisville and the WEOP. In addition, it also creates a 20-year TIF, or tax increment financing, a tool used to encourage economic growth in a specific area. Community leaders who live in the area and know the people and issues will be involved in the Partnership Board and the West End Louisville Advisory Council and will guide the direction of the WEOP.

Gov. Beshear has eight appointments to the partnership. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, Simmons College of Kentucky President Dr. Kevin Cosby and the Louisville Metro Council each have one appointment. Those members will appoint nine additional members, one from each neighborhood, to the Partnership Board.

The neighborhoods located inside the TIF district are Shawnee, Chickasaw, Algonquin, Park Duvalle, Portland, Parkland, Russell, California and Park Hill. Residents interested in being a part of this project can provide their information at This information will be turned over to the West End Opportunity Partnership Board.

The governor will also make appointments to the West End Louisville Advisory Council, which is a subcommittee that will work directly with the partnership board.

“I am highly encouraged to see us taking the next step in bringing the West End Opportunity Partnership to fruition,” said state Sen. Gerald Neal. “I look forward to collaborating with these newly appointed members and solidifying a plan to empower and strengthen the neighborhoods beyond 9th Street. Rep. Stevenson and I are fully committed to seeing this project all the way through, and I appreciate the efforts at the local and state level to make this possible.”

“The success of this innovative approach depends so much on how it is implemented, which is why these appointments are crucial,” state Rep. Pamela Stevenson said. “My advice to those serving is that they must be the person who makes this work for our greater good. What they do in months ahead will have the potential to positively benefit our community for generations.”

“I am pleased to appoint Dr. Dawn Wade to this board. A strong advocate for transformational change and building equity, Dr. Wade brings a wealth of education, experience and commitment to this role,” said Mayor Fischer. “She is, as I am, excited about the prospects of the West Louisville initiative – creating more opportunities, attracting more investment, opening more doors, and enhancing our work to bring real, meaningful progress for the residents of west Louisville.”

Dr. Bendapudi selected UofL Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Watkins to represent the university on the board.

“The University of Louisville is committed to the success of the West Louisville Opportunity Partnership, which is vital to the future of our city and the entire commonwealth. Mark Watkins will be a great asset to the board. I have no doubt his business savvy and his commitment to building public-private relationships will be critical to advancing economic development while preserving the rich heritage of West Louisville.”

Dr. Cosby named Dr. Frank M. Smith Jr., executive vice president of Simmons College of Kentucky, to serve on the partnership board representing the school.

“We in the West End value our freedom,” said Dr. Smith. “We welcome this brand-new authority to manage the money that comes out of our communities, goes to Frankfort, and then comes back to our communities to be used only for the benefit of our communities. It’s a game-changer. The nine Neighborhoods under the leadership of our neighborhood-led board will directly benefit, like never before.”

Metro Council President David James will represent the council on the partnership panel.

“I am very thankful for the Governor and the state legislature’s leadership on this one-of-a-kind opportunity to make once-in-a-lifetime changes and improvements in West Louisville,” James said. “I want to especially thank Gov. Beshear, President Stivers, Senators Neal and McGarvey Rep. Pam Stevenson, Evon Smith, Nikki Lanier, Steve Poe and Craig Greenberg.”

Gov. Beshear made the following appointments, all Louisville residents, to the partnership:

  • J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet, is the highest appointed official in Kentucky.
  • Jeana Dunlap is an urbanist and strategic advisor, representing the NAACP.
  • DeVone Holt is the vice president of external affairs at Goodwill of Kentucky, representing One West.
  • Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, will represent the Federal Reserve Bank, where she is a board member.
  • Christina Shadle is the director of investment at the Louisville Urban League, which she is representing on the partnership board.
  • Jennifer Hancock is the CEO of Volunteers of America, which she is representing on the board.
  • Steve Trager is the CEO of Republic Bank, representing a local bank.
  • David Kaplan is an attorney at Kaplan Johnson Abate & Bird LLP, representing a locally based foundation.

Larry Hayes, interim secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, and Rebecca Fleischaker, co-chief of Louisville Forward and director of the Department of Economic Development, will serve as ex-officio members of the partnership.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president & CEO of the Louisville Urban League, said, “I’m looking forward to serving on the West End Opportunity Partnership Board and believe the appointments today, coupled with the soon-to-be-announced appointment of neighborhood residents, will represent the West End well and help to ensure independence and revitalization without displacement, something I know matters to our community and our Governor."

The partnership is one of several bipartisan measures Gov. Beshear collaborated with lawmakers on during the last legislative session to move forward building a better Kentucky. The objectives for the partnership per HB 321 include:

  • Establishing the West End Opportunity Partnership to oversee this new economic development program;
  • Encouraging investment in the established development area through the implementation of state and local TIF incentives;
  • Ensuring all new housing projects include housing deemed affordable by federal guidelines for low-income families; and
  • Providing a refundable income tax credit for residential property owners in the development area who maintain the property as their principal residence.

The partnership is designed to provide opportunity for the residents of these neighborhoods to have long-term investment and reinvestment over the next 20 years. In addition, the goal of the WEOP is to stabilize and improve homeownership, incentivize economic development and promote empowerment of West Louisville residents, with neighborhood-driven planning.