Dr. Lisa Willner

Louisville psychologist and JCPS board vice chair Dr. Lisa Willner has filed to run for state representative in House District 35.

Willner, executive director of the Kentucky Psychological Association, hopes to succeed fellow Democrat State Rep. Jim Wayne, who is retiring.

“I just felt we need … a strong, progressive woman’s voice” in state government, Willner told Insider Monday morning.

Wayne served with dignity and compassion, she said, and when he announced his retirement, it was a sad day. However, she said, people in District 35, especially those interested in education and social justice issues, soon after approached her to ask her to step up.

Willner graduated from Jeffersonville High School, Yale University and the California School of Professional Psychology. She serves as vice chair of the Jefferson County Public Schools board. She was elected to the board in 2014 in District 6.

Willner said her time on the school board had reinforced a realization of just “how much we are affected by what happens in Frankfort.”

Statehouse districts for Jefferson County

She said that she plans to continue to advocate for public education, including proper funding for public schools, teachers, access to affordable health care, especially mental health care, and workers’ rights.

Willner said that during the next state budget discussions she would make sure that Kentucky supports children, families and working people. She said she hoped to serve as a voice for those who are directly affected by decisions made at the state level.

“That’s a big piece that’s missing from the conversation,” she said.

Willner and her husband, John Scruton, have two children, Ben and Eliza, who attended JCPS from kindergarten through 12th grade. Her son is pursuing a doctorate in Assyriology and her daughter is pursuing a master’s degree in teaching and plans to teach with JCPS.

Willner has been a part-time teacher in Bellarmine University’s psychology department, and she has volunteered for the Parent Teacher Organization, Noe Middle Youth Services Center, assistant coach at duPont Manual High School and the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

All 100 Kentucky House of Representatives seats are up for re-election next year. Representatives serve two-year terms. Primaries are set for May 22, and the General Election will take place on Nov. 6. Candidates must file by Jan. 30.

Willner will have at least one primary opponent: labor organizer Richard Becker.

UPDATED: This story was updated to include information about Willner’s primary opponent.

Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.


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