Voters in Johnson County expressed a desire for change in several major local and state offices in this week’s midterm elections.
In Frankfort, state Sen. Brandon Smith won re-election to his seat in District 30, but for House District 97, Rep. Scott Wells’ decision to not run left a vacancy that will be filled by fellow Republican Bobby McCool.
McCool, of Van Lear, is a former educator and marine who serves in leadership roles with the Paintsville Tourism Commission, Paintsville/Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and numerous other agencies.
“I’m just so grateful and humbled. Johnson County came out well. And I’m ready to go to work,” McCool said.
Plans for his coming term, McCool said, will focus on transparency, job creation and keeping public pensions funded.
“We need to be very transparent, and open up our lines of communication with people in all areas,” McCool said. “It’s also essential that we work on bringing small manufacturing to our area, with groups like (the Haas eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute), we need to expand on what we’ve got and utilize it. We’ve got so many great, wonderful people in our area, we need to keep them so they can raise their kids, and raise their grandkids here. It’s a lovely place to live, we just need more opportunity and reasons for people to stay.”
McCool said talking with his constituents involves working with those of differing opinions, and he hopes everyone can unite for the betterment of Johnson County.
The county government itself has faced a constrained budget due to declining coal severance funds and large financial obligations to the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center. Johnson County’s Judge-Executive-elect Mark McKenzie said he is looking forward to working with the rest of the fiscal court for the betterment of the county.
“In a nutshell, we want to deliver core services to the county. Our fire departments, roads and law enforcement, we want to deliver at the highest levels possible,” McKenzie said. “At the same time we want to concentrate on economic development and job creation. We need to develop a plan for growth and promote our existing opportunities.”
Like McCool, McKenzie said he will also be open to input from the citizens of the county.
“It’s going to take some active community involvement, and the sharing of ideas,” McKenzie said.
Johnson County voters also chose a new sheriff for the county, current jailer Doug Saylor.
Saylor said that cleaning up crime in Johnson County starts with continuing to combat the drug problem.
“It’s all related,” Saylor said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I have several things in mind that we want to implement, one of which is a K-9 unit to assist in location and eradication. We’re also going to pursue having 24-hour patrols, and enhancing patrol in the rural parts of the county.”
Saylor also reiterated the need for transparency and listening to ideas and input from the people of Johnson County.
“I’ve already talked to several other agencies, local and state, on how we can work together to enhance our relationship to the benefit of the city, the county and everyone involved, “Saylor said.
Saylor said that includes contact with every sheriff in neighboring counties, and he has begun work already on pursuing grant opportunities to assist with funding at a time when the county fiscal court’s options are limited.