LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jerry Abramson, dubbed "Mayor for Life," was first elected in 1985 and has led the city for 21 years. During that time he's overseen major changes to the physical landscape and the spirit of the community.
Louisville was a very different place pre-Abramson, starting with its entrance from the north.
"There was a scrap yard right where the baseball park is today that didn't want to relocate," said Abramson. "There were lawsuits filed and all sorts of difficulties that took years to ultimately work out."
Now the waterfront has the Great Lawn, Slugger Field, and the new KFC Yum! Center, but the biggest change he's noticed is the airport.
Its expansion was also the Mayor's most difficult time, especially the task of relocating thousands of people to make it happen.
"You were telling people to trust you," said Abramson. "You were saying, if you'll allow me to relocate 4,000 people, 100 some odd businesses, 10 or 11 churches and two schools, in a decade or two you will see an expanded opportunity for economic investment," said Abramson.
Looking back, however, he says it was a success and the how Louisville recruited UPS.
Government has also changed. It's no longer the city and the county, but a merged government.
"We have a single agenda and for the first time the suburbs, they have representatives sitting around the table when decisions are made for this community," said Abramson.
What he says is the biggest change is the attitude shift, he first saw after Louisville recruited The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to put its headquarters in its city in the late 80s.
"When we were successful against all those large cities, I think it created a yes we can attitude, this community had finally arrived," said Abramson.
Abramson decided he would not seek a sixth term, but looking back is satisfied with the work he's done.
"Two decades plus of my time and energy, most of my adult life has be focused on making my hometown a better place and I feel good that we have an outstanding leader coming in," said Abramson. "But there's always that melancholy moment where you think, gosh you know it's over."
Mayor-elect Greg Fischer takes over January 3rd.
Abramson will teach classes at Bellarmine University, but his political career could continue. He's running for Lt. Governor as Gov. Steve Beshear's running mate.