Primary Profiles 2018: Harmon, Hunt seek Republican nomination for judge-exec
Published 9:01 am Monday, May 7, 2018
The Republican primary for Boyle County judge-executive is a race between two grandparents who both say making the county a better place for their grandchildren is a motivating factor in their campaigns.
Howard Hunt and Lynn Harmon are seeking the Republican nomination in the May 22 election, the winner of which gets a general-election showdown in November with presumptive Democratic nominee Gary Chidester.
There is no incumbent in the race; current Judge-Executive Harold McKinney is not seeking re-election.
Hunt said he is running on a platform of listening to the people of Boyle County and using his leadership skills to bring people together.
Hunt is a retired brigadier general who served in the Air Force, including during two phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I commanded 1,500 troops there,” he said.
He has also helped lead the Kentucky Air National Guard as its commander.
“I responded to nearly every state … emergency disaster from 1997 to 2008,” he said, adding that he helped write two emergency response plans while with the National Guard and managed the organization’s more than $50 million budget.
After that, he worked for the Kentucky Association of Counties, as human resources director, which he said taught him a lot about how counties operate.
“These life experiences have helped prepare me, I believe, to be the county judge-executive,” Hunt said. “Throughout all these experiences, I have achieved a degree of success that I attribute to my leadership style of doing things, where I build teams, where I bring people together and try to find common ground, and work to improve communications that help achieve goals.”
Hunt listed several campaign issues he hopes to address if elected, including improving communication between Boyle County and the incorporated cities within the county — Danville, Junction City and Perryville.
“I would like to hope and see that a Howard Hunt as judge-executive could improve on those communications for everybody’s best interests,” he said.
Hunt would like to work more closely with the Economic Development Partnership and the state to enhance the results of local economic development efforts.
“Whatever it takes to bring new industry and new revenues into the county, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
Hunt said there’s also a huge problem with telephone and cell phone service in the western half of Boyle County that he would like to do something about.
“I’m somewhat appalled at the fact that there is a huge void of telephone access in the western part of the county, like in the Forkland area,” he said. “Landlines only have about — (as has) been reported to me — only have about a 60-70 percent effective use rate — that’s landlines. Virtually no cell phone coverage. I would love to be able to provide half of our county geographically with telephone coverage for emergencies, communications and other things that they don’t currently have.”
Hunt said the future of the Boyle County Detention Center is “probably one of the biggest elephants in the room” for Boyle County.
“Are their facilities adequate? Is the arrangement with Mercer County the best it can be? Do we do things differently? I think we have to wait until we see the Brandstetter Carroll recommendations from the consultant that was hired on that,” he said. “But given that the jail is 20 years old, prospective remedies for that are probably going to involve some dollars and we’re going to have to figure out where that comes from.”
Hunt said his own memories of growing up in Boyle County, including playing on Danville High School’s first ever wrestling team in 1967, are part of the reason he wants to serve as judge-executive.
“It helped make me into the person that I am today,” he said. “I have six grandchildren and one on the way. I want them to have positive memories of Boyle County’s influence on their lives. That’s why I’m running — to make a difference.”
Hunt said the current members of the Boyle County Fiscal Court — all Democrats — are “good Boyle Countians wanting to do the best for Boyle County and I look forward to the opportunity of working with whoever the fiscal court magistrates are in the future.”
“I believe that my candidacy and election to the county judge-executive’s office will bring some fresh new ideas and approaches to working with those who are currently in the fiscal court and those who will be in the future fiscal court,” he said.
Hunt acknowledged a Republican has never held the judge-executive’s seat in Boyle County and said he’s heard people around the county talking about how they feel like Democrats are often appointed to their seats as county officials before they face an election.
“The term I’ve heard is it seems like a system of inheritance,” he said. “Well, I don’t want to inherit that, I want to be elected by the people and be their voice. I see that as being different.”
This is the third time Harmon is seeking the judge-executive’s seat — she was the Republican nominee for the office in both of the last two elections, losing to McKinney in both of them. Harmon said her campaign is focused on two big issues — bringing more and better-paying jobs to Boyle County and planning ahead so the county can handle rising pension costs.
The pension issues is more relevant now than it’s been in the past, with the state potentially increasing required pension contributions from Boyle County by up to 12 percent every year for longer than the next judge-executive’s term. But the jobs issue has been a foundational element of her campaign all three times — “it’s always been about the jobs,” she said.
Harmon grew up in Junction City and lives there today; she said her grandfather moved to Junction City for work back “when it was really booming” thanks to the railroad.
She’s been married to Mike Harmon, a former state representative for Boyle County and current state auditor for Kentucky, for 28 years this summer. Harmon said she’s worked at the Medicine Shoppe, been secretary at a Christian school and served one term on the Junction City Council, among other things. She’s currently completing a degree in pastoral studies from Campbellsville University and participating in an internship at Junction City First Baptist Church as part of that.
Harmon said during her time on Junction City Council, she dealt with managing the city’s budget, as well as whatever issues the city needed to deal with, such as people “prospecting” on lots in Junction City Cemetery — “they would buy them up and then they’d sell them” — and cleaning up an environmental hazard created by old car batteries that had been buried in the ground many years ago.
“I’ve always ran (for judge-executive) because I really love Boyle County,” she said. “I lived in California for a year and a half and we’ve lived in Lexington, but we always come back here … We just think this is the best place to raise a family. And since I’ve had my grandchildren, it seems even more important to me.”
Harmon said her son-in-law currently works 60 to 70 hours a week in two jobs in order to support his family. That’s necessary because there aren’t enough high-paying jobs in Boyle County, she said.
The unemployment rate in Boyle County looks low, but because wages aren’t high, “we’ve got people working but a lot of people are still living in poverty.”
“I think it’s important for us to work really hard in attracting more industry … make it more business-friendly,” Harmon said. “Because I don’t really want my grand babies to have to move away so they can find jobs.”
Harmon said handling rising pensions costs will be “the biggest challenge we’re going to face.”
While Boyle County has always paid what it was supposed to pay, the actuarial data used by the state was incorrect, leading to an underfunding of pensions for state workers, included those working in Boyle County, she said. The legislature limited increases in pension contributions this year, but only to a point, and those increases can continue to add up in future years.
“It’s going to be revenue coming in our you have to make cuts,” she said of how Boyle will handle the growing cost. “You have to take care of your employees.”
Harmon said to remember poverty remains high despite low unemployment, so caring for employees will have to be balanced with taking care of Boyle County residents.
Harmon said a passion of hers has been support the Haven Care Center, a pregnancy crisis center in Danville, which she has served on the board of twice. That gave her more experience working with a budget and making “tough decisions” when money is tight.
“We had to just do it, and sometimes it’s really hard,” she said. “… I think I can do that.”
Harmon said as judge-executive, she would like to have a mission statement that guides her decision-making.
“You want to say, ‘here’s my goals and ultimately the bottom line — here’s what I want.’ I haven’t made one yet, so don’t ask me …” she said. “I do think that’s important. Because a lot of times when you have a mission statement, what I have found — you look at it and when you get ready to make a decision, you can go back to that and (ask), ‘Does this decision fit in with this mission statement?’
“And every decision can’t be made that way, but it gives you a direction and a goal and way to help you make decisions.”
SO YOU KNOW
This year’s primary election will be May 22. The races on the ballots will be:
• Boyle County Judge-Executive — Lynn Harmon, Howard Hunt
• Jailer — LeeRoy Hardin, Rita Douglas
• Magistrate, Second District — Ronnie Short, Carl Gwinn
• Magistrate, Fourth District — Jason M. Cullen, Robert Earl Robinson
U.S. Representative, Second District — Rane Eir Olivia Sessions, Grant Short, Hank Linderman, Brian Pedigo
Boyle County Judge-Executive — Gary W. Chidester (David Alan Reeves will appear on the ballot but he has withdrawn from the race; any votes for Reeves will not be counted.)
Jailer — Dewayne Taylor, Brian Wofford, Bobby J. Potts
Magistrate, Fifth District — Suzanne Smith Sandidge, Jamey Gay
Constable, Second District — James Henson, Dennis Curtsinger
Constable, Third District — John C. Hambel, James A. Murphy