Jim Segrest bought his first home in Butchertown in 1967, the same year he helped found the maiden neighborhood association there. A firebrand by nature, he’s been the nabe’s chief proponent — and a burr in the heel of industries and officials content with keeping Butchertown the stinky, smoggy place of history — ever since.
But the 67-year-old has decided to make way for new blood, and will step down as president of the Butchertown Neighborhood Association May 7. He said his style of activism — battling the negatives more than accentuating the positives — is becoming less relevant.
“We have a lot of new people on the board who are energetic and excited about doing things, like the art fair, neighborhood yard-sale, neighborhood cleanup — neat things like that that neighborhoods should be doing,” he said in an interview last week. “I think those people need a chance.”
Segrest has been president of the association twice, most recently in an 8-year stint during which residents’ battles with Swift — the meatpacking plant with pollution and odor problems that continue to interfere with Butchertown’s gentrification — have been paramount.
Andy Cornelius, who moved to Louisville in late 2005 and has lived in Butchertown the entire time, is the heir apparent. He’s a young guy with an environmental background — and a fan of Segrest.
“Obviously Jim’s been an integral part of the success that Butchertown’s had in the last few years, and all the progress that’s been had is definitely a result of his work,” Cornelius said. “I like to say he’s brought our little treasure to the city.”
Andy Blieden, who owns the Butchertown Market, has locked horns with Segrest in the recent past, mostly over qualms about the meatpacker. Despite their disagreements, Blieden said he believes Segrest is sincere about getting what he thinks is best for the neighborhood.
“Nobody can outwork Jim,” he said. “You just aren’t going to do it. From that standpoint, you’ve got to respect that. He’s focused on what he believes in and he’ll fight to get it.” —Stephen George