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Rumor became reality Monday when Magistrate John Wayne Conway confirmed he will run for Anderson County judge-executive next year.
Conway, who represents the county’s 6th District, became the first Democrat to toss his hat in the ring against incumbent Steve Cornish, who has not publicly announced if he will seek re-election. Donna Drury announced that she will run earlier this year as an independent candidate.
Conway said he has been considering a run for judge-executive for months, and that it’s time to make it official.
“My supporters have been harassing me to get out there and let it be known, so that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m in it to win.”
Conway has repeatedly been at odds with Cornish, who won the seat in 2006 when he defeated then-judge-executive Anthony Stratton in the Democrat primary.
Conway said he has multiple goals if elected, including revitalizing the county’s economic development efforts, treating department heads equally and allowing them to do their jobs, and offering the public a clear picture of the county’s finances.
“We need to start shooting for infrastructure again and get jobs and small industry in this county,” he said. “We need to build an industrial tax base because that has just died. I have asked a number of times why that is, but I have never been able to get an answer.”
Cornish and Conway have butted heads primarily over financial issues, particularly how much money the county has in reserve.
“I’ve set on the court with three different administrations and I think it’s time the magistrates know what’s in the county budget,” he said. “If they know exactly where the money is, where the surplus is and that they can rely on it, I think the meetings we have will be better and this county can move forward.”
The two have also butted heads over personnel decisions, most notably Cornish’s decision when he took office to give the county’s highway foreman a two-year vs. a four-year appointment, which Cornish later extended to four years.
“Every department head will be treated equally and every appointment I make will be for the same number of years,” Conway said.
Conway said his candidacy won’t change how he will conduct himself during fiscal court meetings.
“I’m going to be the same as I have been in the past,” he said. “If it’s good for the county, I’ll vote for it. If not, I won’t. I’m not going to treat the judge or court members any differently than I have during the past three years.”
Conway, who has served on the fiscal court for nearly 20 years, graduated from the former Western High School and is a farmer in western Anderson County. He is employed by Mago Construction and is considered the fiscal court’s road construction expert.
He said he isn’t necessarily a suit-and-tie kind of guy, but has five in his closet — thanks to his wife — and won’t hesitate to put one on to represent Anderson County wherever he’s needed.
“I wear my feelings for Anderson County on my shirtsleeve no matter where I am,” he said. “I’ve represented the 6th District for years, but I love this entire county.
“I have some very down-to-earth people who want me to run for this job, and are willing to get out there and support me with no strings attached. They’ve made that real plain to me.
“I’m not the type of person who seeks out crowds or goes to all of the KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) meetings. But I feel like with 18 1/2 years of experience in county government, I can do a better job for the people if they have enough faith and trust in me.”
If elected, Conway said he will be the county’s judge-executive 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“That’s the way it will be,” he said.
E-mail Ben Carlson at email@example.com.