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Democrats will head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fates of Anderson County’s incumbent judge-executive and sheriff, as well as two candidates for property value administrator and a host of hopefuls looking to win seats on the fiscal court.
Republicans won’t vote on any local races, but will have a chance to nominate candidate to challenge incumbent Congressman Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) and a candidate to vie for the Senate seat that now belongs to outgoing Senator Jim Bunning. (See pullout for details.)
The race that has drawn perhaps the most local interest is for sheriff, where incumbent Troy Young is being challenged by Rex Burkhead, a retired Fish and Wildlife officer.
The judge-executive race features incumbent Steve Cornish facing a challenge from John Wayne Conway, a magistrate in the county’s 6th District.
For PVA, candidates Chris Jones and Brian Stivers are vying for their party’s nomination for the right to run in November to replace outgoing PVA Beverly Stivers, who is not seeking re-election.
In the 5th District, democrats Randy Chrisman, David Montgomery, James Sargent and Michael Satterly are vying to replace outgoing Magistrate Larry Smith, who is not seeking re-election.
In the 6th District, Kenny Barnett and Jeff Drury are squaring off to replace Conway, the candidate for judge-executive.
This will mark the first time Young has been challenged for his job after running unopposed in 2006.
Young, 47, has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. He said his goal is to continue building on what he says are the successful programs he’s developed during his tenure in office, which began in 2005.
“I think the citizens can look at re-electing me as my job evaluation,” Young said. “Have I done my job over the past four years? The improvements that we’ve made in combining agencies, establishing 24-hour patrol coverage, expanding community programs for all ages and providing efficient tax collection.
“My answer is yes.”
Young said he’s proud of the programs he has established and grants he’s been able to secure, but adds there is plenty more he would like to be able to accomplish.
“We still have a lot of projects on the table of things we’d like to do, but have limited funding. We have to be creative in finding ways to do these things.
“But when you get down to brass tacks, the sheriff is still the tax collector and responsible for collecting $13 million and distributing it to the taxing districts.
Burkhead, 45, spent 20 years with the state’s Fish and Wildlife department and said he wants to build better working relationships with other law enforcement agencies and emergency responders, and cites differences in philosophies with the way Young runs the sheriff’s office.
“The us vs. them mentality has got to go,” Burkhead said. “We’ve got to develop relationships with the community and citizens that live in that community, and we have to do that before a problem arises.
“Our differences are in our approach to law enforcement. I’m a person that wants to get out of the office and into the community and lead by example. I want to work together with all of the other emergency responders on a daily basis.”
Burkhead said he considers his best achievement in law enforcement to date being promoted to sergeant while working with Fish and Wildlife. It was that promotion, he said, that is part of the philosophy he intends to bring to the sheriff’s office.
“That accomplishment put me over six counties,” he said. “As a Fish and Wildlife officer, I was required to become an integral part of every one of those communities. We have to become part of the fabric of that community, or we are unsuccessful.
Cornish, who defeated former judge-executive Anthony Stratton in the 2006 Democratic primary, faces a primary challenge of his own from Conway.
Cornish, 56, is a retired state trooper who says he is “extremely proud” of his efforts to overhaul and consolidate the city and county economic development efforts and form one united EDA.
“The county had an economic development board, but it had no assets and no plan,” said Cornish. “I spoke to the mayor and we decided to consolidate the two.”
Cornish said he also spoke with the private Industrial Foundation, which eventually turned over an estimated $1.2 million to the city/county EDA.
Cornish rejects any criticism about the EDA accomplishing little since its formation.
“A lot of work has been done and people don’t realize that,” he said. “I’m proud of the work that has been done.”
Cornish also cites a host of accomplishments during his first 3 ½ years in office, including vast improvements to the county’s solid waste department.
“When I took office the county was facing a $25,000 fine for polluting the ground at the recycling center,” he said. “We’ve been able to reorganize that operation and now, the only material on the ground is white good (appliances).”
Conway, 54, A 20-year magistrate in the county’s 6th District, Conway makes it clear that if he’s elected, bringing jobs to Anderson County will be something he works toward every single day he’s in office.
“It’s all about jobs,” said Conway. “We have an unemployment rate between 11.3 and 11.6 percent ... higher than even northern Kentucky.”
Conway said as a magistrate, he’s frustrated over what he considers the lack of effort to bring jobs to the county and the lack of information he receives from those responsible for bring them here.
“Fiscal court members are not always involved in what’s going on, but I know for a fact that nothing’s going on right now. Now is the time for us to get prepared because this economy will turn around and we have to be ready when it does.”
Conway said Anderson County needs to transform itself from a bedroom community to one that attracts industry.
This has been a bedroom community for too long. I’m not the type of person to get caught up in with what the high political people want me to do. They know I can’t be bought and I’m going to work for everyone in this county.”
Property Value Administrator
Anderson County will elect a new person in charge of ensuring property values are accurately set. Step one will be to determine which Democrat will have a chance to do that this fall.
Jones, 41, is a deputy PVA with 10 years of experience in real estate. She said that gives her a leg up in terms of being the best candidate for the job.
“It gives me a tremendous advantage,” said Jones. “I am very familiar with real estate trends and I’m continuing my education with the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet. I am a certified Kentucky Assessor and am working toward a senior assessor designation.”
If elected, Jones said her goals include making sure assessments are accurate and helping people understand their options.
“I want to see more consistency in the assessments of the properties,” she said. “I also want to make sure information is out there for people who qualify for homestead exemptions and disability exemptions.
“Many people don’t find out about those until after they’ve paid their tax bills, and I want them to know about them before so they can sign up for them.”
Stivers, 37, is the chief deputy PVA whose goals include upgrading many aspects of the office.
“We are updating pictures and sketches of everyone’s house for our website, and we are in the process of getting those sketches and photos more accurate.
“I’d also like to get all of our maps online, and would like get with the police and fire departments to develop a program that’s available that would allow them to zoom in on a person’s house and practically be able to look into their gutters.”
Stivers said that process is achieved through tictometry, a software program he said is expensive but invaluable for police and fire protection.
“I’ve been doing this job for five years, and I’m the most educated person in this primary,” he said.
Magistrate, 5th District
This race has four Democrats vying to replace longtime Magistrate Larry Smith, who is not seeking re-election.
Randy Chrisman, 47, served as magistrate from 1993-98 and is a retired major/paramedic with the Lexington Fire Department.
If elected, he said his top priority will be public safety, but he also wants to boost economic development.
“We need to make sure our county is safe and provide police and fire protection, but also that our roads and infrastructure are in good shape. Those things are always going to be number one with me.
“But we also have to make sure we survive this economic downturn. We should do an independent analysis of combining our city and county governments and consolidating our police and fire protection. We need to look outside the box of how we’ve always done things.”
David Montgomery, 46, said economic development and tourism are two of his priorities during his campaign.
“My focus will be on economic development and working with local industries such as General Cable and Florida Tile,” said Montgomery. “I want to keep existing jobs while striving toward expansion and more jobs, and to promote tourism to help stimulate small businesses.”
Montgomery said he supports creating an industrial park to attract businesses.
“I want to create one, but do so without raising taxes,” he said. “The new jobs that it creates will provide tax revenue.”
Montgomery said Anderson County’s geographic location is an advantage.
James Sargent, 44, is a former AT&T employee who was “surplused” out of his job. If elected, he said bring high speed Internet access to the county’s rural areas will be a priority.
“I want to know why we are so far behind,” he said. “DSL is already obsolete, and a lot of Anderson County doesn’t even have it. It’s either dial-up access or satellite service. It’s time to get our county up to par like everyone else.”
Sargent said he also will focus on economic development.
“We have to get something going here. We have to get jobs and things here for the kids to do, or people are going to start moving away.”
Michael Satterly, 37, said finding jobs is imperative for Anderson County.
“If we don’t find some work for the people of Lawrenceburg, we’re all going to be in trouble,” said Satterly. “We need a bunch of things done in terms of economic development because we have nothing now. General Cable during the winter was talking about going out of business, and we have nothing else going on.”
When it comes to economic development, Satterly said calls to build an industrial park before a business has committed to Anderson County doesn’t make sense.
“Everyone talks about an industrial park and this, that and the other. I don’t see spending that kind of money — millions for land and infrastructure — when nothing is moving right now.
Magistrate, 6th District
Kenny Barnett and Jeff Drury are vying for the seat being vacated by long-time Magistrate John Wayne Conway, who is running for judge-executive.
Barnett, 54, said making Anderson County more efficient and seeking opportunities in economic development are the reasons he’s running for office.
“We need to make Anderson County more self-sufficient,” said Barnett. “We are too dependent on surrounding counties for jobs, jails, recycling and recreational facilities.
“We need to find ways to keep our tax dollars in the county instead of paying surrounding counties for services that we should have here at home.”
Barnett said he isn’t interested in cutting back on services, but will be a watchdog when it comes to spending taxpayers’ dollars.
“I have no reason to cut budgets of any service funded by the fiscal court,” he said. “However, if elected and I observe wasteful spending, I would be willing to trim the waste.”
Drury, 44, said his goals are to upgrade the county’s roads and end the “bickering” on the fiscal court.
“Upgrading them and getting them cleaned when it snows, that would be my main thing,” said Drury. “There were two days this year when the buses couldn’t run for our kids, but they could in other parts of the county.”
Drury said if elected, he intends to make sure money is distributed evenly among the county’s six magisterial districts and vows to work well with other magistrates.
“I will work with the other magistrates and get some of the bickering and stuff stopped,” he said. “We need to get something done instead of bickering.”
E-mail Ben Carlson at email@example.com.