Katie Axt is the new director at Paducah Main Street. This Midwesterner and has worked in urban planning her entire career. She is looking forward to oyster dressing at Thanksgiving, but at heart she’s a warm weather lover. This mom of two is a big fan of the movie White Christmas! iMeet a busy gal who loves working with the downtown small businesses.
Welcome to iMeet and Paducah, Katie. Tell us about yourself...
I am Midwest with a capital M! I was born in St. Louis and spent my childhood in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dad’s from St. Louis, Missouri. My mom is from a small Mississippi river town called Quincy, Illinois. Most of my extended family has relocated to Kansas City, on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri State Line.
I went to undergrad at the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It was living in these small but highly active cities that sparked my interest in built environments and how to create quality public spaces.
When I was 22 years old, I left Wisconsin and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning. On my first day in Los Angeles, I met a lanky, scruffy haired boy named Kevin and feel in love.
Tell us about your family...
Kevin and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in May! We have two daughters, Iris (8 years) and Quincy (1 year). My husband says he’s allergic to animals (he’s not), so no pets (yet!).
Tell us about your position at Paducah Main Street...
I was hired last August the Director of Paducah’s Main Street program. Paducah Main Street’s mission is to revitalize historic downtown. We do this through four transformation strategies. They include the rehabilitation and preservation of downtown’s architecture. Promoting economic vitality through city incentive programs. Community organization and partnerships, and the promotion of Paducah’s unique cultural assets.
What are some of your goals for bringing more people to downtown Paducah businesses?
Downtown Paducah already has so much going for it. I want to build on that and work with the community to make downtown a more active neighborhood during all times of the day. This means more people living, working and spending their free time downtown.
Success to me is more housing units, lower vacancy rates of the ground floor retail and commercial spaces, and a greater variety of activities and attractions for families and youth.
Where have you worked before now?
I have worked in government as an urban planner my entire career, the last nine years have been
in New York City. My background is in waterfront planning, development, and policy. I worked for New York City’s Economic Development Corporation for five years and then moved to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
I’ve worked on projects that span the fields of maritime transportation, port development, open space and recreation, environmental regulation and permitting, wetland restoration, and brownfield remediation. The common thread between all of these disciplines is place. I like making places that people want to live and employers want to relocate.
What is the best part of your job? What is the hardest?
The best part is working with the small business owners in downtown Paducah. I love stopping in to chat with each one, to hear what’s new and how business is going. Downtown Paducah has approximately 150 small businesses. Supporting our local shops, cultural institutions, and restaurants not only contributes to strengthening Paducah’s local economy, it fosters vibrant community.
Behind the beautiful art, fantastic food, and one-of-a-kind gifts is a group of genuinely wonderful, hard-working people. They’re doing their best to support their families and employees, while at the same time offering each person that walks through their door a personal and uplifting experience.
The hardest part is leaving Paducah and making the long commute home to Murray. I want to stay and take my daughter to an evening show at the Market House Theater, followed by dinner at Freight House.
I want a date night with my husband at the Yeiser’s gallery opening, and then have drinks at the Juniper Room. I want to attend the library’s “Evening Upstairs” series with my girlfriends and learn about 19th century steamboats, or rock climbing, or barn dancing, or how to do a holiday makeup look even though I don’t wear makeup!
But it’s all in the evening! I love the diversity of Paducah’s cultural offerings and have serious fomo (fear of missing out) when I leave work at the end of the day.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. What are you most thankful for?
I am a new homeowner! Living in Manhattan, I never thought we would be able to afford our own home. I am thankful for the roof over my head, the space to stretch out, and the memories we will make as a family in our new home.
What dish at Thanksgiving are you looking most forward to?
In my family, Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without oyster dressing. My grandmother made it when I was a kid, but few ate it because of the slight fishy aroma. And yet, every year oyster dressing was on the table, because it was our tradition.
When I began hosting Thanksgiving several years ago, oyster dressing remained on the table but the recipe changed. Canned oysters were swapped out with ones freshly shucked. Fresh baked sourdough replaced Wonder Bread white. And in went fresh herbs, bacon, and browned butter. No fishy smell or taste. It’s good and now it’s a family favorite dish.
Who will you spend Thanksgiving with?
We rotate every year between my side of the family and Kevin’s. This year, I am hosting, with Kevin’s mom and uncle joining us.
It's getting colder outside. Do you like the cooler temps or are you a warm weather gal?
I love heat and humidity – I love Western Kentucky summers! I am a naturally anxious person. Heat, sun, and sweat is Mother Nature’s way of saying to me, “Relax, you got this.”
It's 10 pm on a Friday night. Where would we most likely find you and what would you be doing?
When the clock hits double digits, I’m in bed, asleep.
What is your all-time favorite movie? What about makes you love it so much?
Around the holidays, my all-time favorite movie is White Christmas. I was thrilled to see the theater version at the Carson Center two weeks ago! Growing up, my parents were selective about what we could watch, but classic musicals were always a go. White Christmas checks all boxes for me – the crooning of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, the swoon worthy dancing of Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, the dream of spending the holidays in a Vermont ski-lodge washing my hands, my face, and hair in snow!
But what makes me love it so much more than any other Christmas movie is watching it with my sister Amy and singing:
“Lord help the mister
Who comes between me and my sister
And lord help the sister who comes between me and my man!”