ELECTION 2014: House District 53 candidates tout business backgrounds, political experience

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By William Carroll

Each of the candidates for Kentucky House District 53 was given 45 minutes to answer the following questions.
1. What is your educational background and your current profession, and have you sought or held public office previously?
2. What do you feel are the most important issues in the 53rd district and if elected, how would you resolve or advocate for the resolution of those issues?
3. What grade would you give the legislature during its current session? What factors do you base that grade on?
4. We constantly hear about the overinflated state budget. If elected, what types of cost cutting or cost saving measures would you seek to implement to curb this trend?
5. What are your specific policy goals or platforms? Are there any specific issues you think that the state should consider or tackle that it currently doesn’t?
6. Roads and infrastructure improvements are an ongoing issue locally. What tactics would you take to help increase and improve our local infrastructure to increase competitiveness with Louisville and surrounding areas.

Kent Stevens focuses on prior experience, administrative background
Kent Stevens, a native of Van Buren, holds a bachelor of science degree in education from Eastern Kentucky University, as well as a masters in education and rank one degree from Eastern Kentucky University.
“I spent 28 years in the school business,” Stevens said. “Started out as teacher and basketball coach. Then became a principal for the last 17 years in Anderson, Shelby and Franklin counties. Stevens retired 2001, after which he moved into a new profession.
“I bought a building in Taylorsville, and ran Lake Town Motors for 7 years along with my brother and cousins at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets,” Stevens said. “After that, I moved to Lawrenceburg, and I’m still selling used cars.”
Stevens has experience in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 2009-2010, during which he was state representative for the 55th district which included: Anderson county, Mercer County and two precincts in Spencer, Mt. Eden and Camp Branch.
Stevens believes the three most prevalent issues facing the district are the same as they have been for a long time: the economy, affordable health care and education.
“People used to have jobs, not anymore, at least not the good paying jobs they had,” Stevens said. “Pretty hard to raise a family on a job that doesn’t pay much. I remember a poem from a long time ago. If health were something that money could buy the rich would live and the poor would die but God in his wisdom made it so that the rich and poor together going to go.”
Stevens said times have changed for American citizens.
“We have gotten away from that, if you have good insurance, you have a better chance,” he said. “We all need good affordable health care.”
Stevens also focused on the importance of education.
“Kids are our future. I was able to do what I wanted to do because of education,” he said. “I want any child to be able to live their dream.”
Stevens said that the plans to achieve his goals are simple.
“I can support bills aimed at what I just said,” he noted. “I can support educational bills. Having been a representative I played a big part of representing Mercer County regarding the expansion at Corning, where we ensured the project stayed in Kentucky.”
With respect to the current legislature, Stevens said it was hard to grade the actions of a group he is not part of.
“I’m not there, it is easy to pass judgement when you are not there,” he said. “As a former representative, there were a whole lot of things I wanted to happen that didn’t happen. We are looking at the whole commonwealth. When you look at the total picture, it is hard to give it a grade. All legislators would have done a lot more. Main problem is not enough (money) to do everything everyone wants to do.”
Stevens said his view of the budget is that the tax system is in serious need of modification.
“The current system we have is outdated for generating revenue,” he said. “When times are good you can expect the state to be doing much better. In recent years, we don’t have people making as much money as they used to. Not as much being generated as there used to be.”
Stevens said specifically that education and programs for the elderly should remain fully funded.
“Education is something I do not want to cut,” he said. “I don’t want to touch programs that deal with our senior citizens. Those people deserve to be taken care of.”
Stevens said his platform is to be a voice of the people.
“You have to be able to work with all aspects,” he said. “You have to stay in close contact with fiscal court. I have tried my best to be available to everybody.”
Stevens agreed roads are an important issue in Spencer County.
“You can’t operate without good roads,” he said. “During 2009 to 2010 I represented a small part of Spencer County, and I got a good chunk of money.”
Stevens said that communication and planning are the winning strategy to ensure funds from the state.
“You have to have a plan and you have to communicate with fiscal court,” he said. “The way the game goes, you come up with a needs list. If you are strong enough and work hard enough, you can expect to get some of the pie. Sometimes in order to get what you want you have to give a little bit.”
In closing Stevens had this to say about his candidacy:
“I am Kent Stevens from Van Buren, that is who is I am, I am a natural fit (for the position),” he said. “I grew up a hop skip and a jump from here. I know how to get things done. Hope you vote for me in May.”

James Tipton says focus should be on modernizing state tax system
James Allen Tipton is a Taylorsville High School graduate who was also the first member of his family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Kentucky. Tipton also holds a masters in vocational education from UK. For many years, Tipton taught vocational agriculture but saw an opportunity to return to the family farm.
“My father Owen Tipton and I owned a 100 cow Holstein operation, we eventually downsized the farm and sold dairy operation in 1999, Tipton said.
He added that he continues to farm part time, “I have about 40 beef cows. I love being in the country and in nature.”
In 1999 Tipton changed career fields when he received his real estate license.
“I am in my 15th year practicing real estate,” he said. “In 2007, a business partner and I formed a new company called Premier Realtors and I am the principal broker in that business.”
Tipton said that he has run for magistrate twice in the Little Mount and Mountain Eden district but has not held public office previously.
Tipton said that he sees people’s lack of faith in government as one of the biggest issues currently.
“They don’t feel like government works for them,” he said. “The one thing I can bring is hard work, don’t mind putting in the time to get the job done.”
Like the other candidates, Tipton believes that the economy and jobs are foremost on people’s minds.
“Unemployment is at 7.8 percent in Kentucky,” he pointed out. “Only four states have a higher rate than Kentucky does, that is unacceptable.”
Tipton focused on tax reform and tax modernization as a way to help jump start the economy.
“We need to modernize the tax system,” he opined. “We are competing with other companies and states. We have to have tools in place to attract jobs. We need to continue to work to bring in higher paying jobs.”
Tipton said this begins with the educational system.
“When companies come in they are looking for a properly equipped work force,” he said. “Research has shown we need more emphasis on education. How good a job are we doing? We need an analysis of how effective common core is. We also need more emphasis on vocational and technical education. Every kid doesn’t need or maybe even want to go to college.”
Tipton said that his current review of the legislative session results in him giving the legislature a C grade.
“I have been in Frankfort quite a bit this year sitting in on committee meetings,” he said. “They did get a budget approved, but I think there were a lot of issues unresolved. Blame is on both sides.”
Tipton pointed to issues in what he called “show bills” lowering the confidence of the citizens in the process.
“Some bills are introduced for no reason, for show. Kentucky is tired and fed up with show bills. Need to focus on issues that effect people. We have to put that behind us to work for the good of all people.”
The state’s financial issues are also very apparent to Tipton.
“As our population grows there is an increased demand for services. 88 percent goes to education, Medicaid and the correctional system,” he said. One in four will be on the Medicaid system. This is an indictment of failed the economic system in our state.”
Tipton said that the state pension program is in serious trouble as well but that hope remains for the future.
“We have to generate more revenue and perhaps make several cuts to several state agencies,” he said. “When I am in business I have to make cuts. We have to make a choice where our priorities are. The best thing to generate revenue will be to grow the economy to grow jobs.”
Tipton said that two issues are of prime importance to him.
“I am 100% pro life and I will defend the Second Amendment rights of the citizens in Kentucky,” he stated. “To create jobs we need to reform the tax system. Not necessarily talking about tax increases, we need to reform the system itself.”
Tipton also suggested a change in wage and right to work laws.
“We also need to look at how prevailing wage laws are handled and right to work laws,” he said. “Look at those states that have right to work, they are having success at bringing business into their state.”
Tipton said his plan to improve the infrastructure in Spencer County begins in Frankfort.
“I have to be a voice for citizens in Frankfort,” he said. “We have to have a united voice in the community. Can’t send mixed signals to the state. It means coming up with a plan. and being unified with the plan.”
Tipton closed by saying, “Between now and Nov. 4, I plan to see as people as I can, don’t be surprised if I knock on your door. I want to use the next six months for us to get to know each other. I have ideas on how we can move our state forward. We can come up with right answers. One of my strengths is I care about people. I couldn’t think of a better way than to be their voice in Frankfort.”

Stewart Gritton believes education,agriculture are most important issues
Stewart Gritton, a graduate of Anderson County High School, who also completed course work at Kentucky State University, served eight years in the 1980s as a magistrate on the Anderson County fiscal court. Gritton said he also worked for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture for several years. Prior to his experience with the KDA he was a full time farmer in Anderson County.
Gritton said the recurring issue in every legislative district is dealing with state government revenue issues.
Gritton added that education and agriculture are significant issues facing the state currently.
“Agriculture is a significant part of every county in Kentucky,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize it is still our largest industry.”
Gritton said he has several plans in mind to help the citizens of the commonwealth.
“ I will be working with economic development to try to expand employment opportunities,” he said. “On the revenue side, I’ll be looking at tax reform. We need to try to expand revenue bases, don’t want to increase of income taxes.”
Gritton said that Kentucky’s economy like many states nationwide has become more of a service economy in recent years.
“I think we should look at expanding gambling, which is certainly a controversial issue to a lot of people. I think it is an area of potential funding to some degree.”
Gritton also wanted to look closely at a number of issues currently facing local school districts.
“I want to see that teachers are adequately paid,” he noted. “It is a travesty they have to take money out of their own pockets for supplies. We need an adequate supply of textbooks. We also need to ensure that the core curriculum meets students needs and prepares them for college.”
Gritton said he would give the current legislature a B plus.
“The thing that concerns me about the legislature is there are too many issues that come before the body that are not addressed in a timely matter,” he said. “They are not addressed until the last few days. (The legislature) has done a lot better than past legislatures. Communicating between the parties is better. There are still areas to work on in communications and philosophical differences. Should be able to resolve all of the issues in the 60 day period.”
Gritton said that while he had some complaints he wanted to be clear that his grade is based upon the overall body of work of the group.
In discussing the budget Gritton saidthe people of the state of Kentucky have suffered enough.
“We don’t need to put any more burden on the working people of Kentucky by raising personal income tax rates,” he said. “Where the state has fallen down is that the taxing structure does not follow where our economy is. We went from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. We have shipped jobs overseas and have become more of a service sector.”
Gritton also said the state needs to look closely into inefficiencies.
“Definitely inefficiencies in state government,” he opined. “We have vital programs that need to be fully funded, such as education and public protection. All the programs that affect the lives of people, we need to make sure are adequately funded and we need to make sure there are not major inefficiencies in those programs.”
Gritton said his three pronged platform would include education, agriculture and economic development.
“If elected I would ask leadership to be put on two of those committees,” he said. “One of the issues for revenue is expanded gaming. Lots of people on both sides of that issue. Every session, we hear about new legislation. Why not put it on the ballot to decide the issue once and for all. Expanded gaming will not be the end to all our problems, but why can’t we get it on the ballot and let the people decide it one way or another.”
On county roads, Gritton said it all comes back to the gasoline tax.
“I would make sure Spencer County is receiving its fair share of gasoline tax moneys,” he said. “I would look into the long term road plan to make sure that roads leading into Taylorsville and Spencer County are decent roads. I would work hard to see that county is receiving adequate funds for roads by helping to develop a local long term road plan to be submitted to district garages.”
Gritton said that a solid infrastructure produces other positive effects.
“It provides jobs and resources,” he said. “Sometimes we hear that there is too much government involvement. Where would we be without the federal highway system?”
In closing Gritton said, “I appreciate the opportunity to share an idea into my views. I would hope they (voters) would give me an opportunity and they will find out I’ll be very responsive. I invite people to talk to the Spencer County Fair Board about me and get their views, don’t just listen to me. While I’m from Anderson county. I’ll be available to all residents, and I’ll work as hard for Spencer and Bullit as I do for Anderson.”

Donna Drury says her focus will be on community service, tourism and schools
Donna Drury of Anderson county has spent the better part of her life working in the community service sector. Drury holds a bachelor of arts in organizational management from Midway College in Midway, Ken. She is also currently working on her masters in executive leadership from Liberty University.
“I am continuing to train in leadership programs and courses related to charity work and community service,” she said.
A retired state employee, Drury currently works as a full-time volunteer citizen advocate, meeting with state legislators to discuss issues. She also leads a charity organization known as Helping Hands, Heart of Community.
“We help anyone in the community that is in need,” she said.
Drury currently serves on the school board in Anderson County and recently sought the position of county judge executive in Anderson County.
“I ran for Anderson County School Board and began serving there last fall for a four year term,” she said.
As a member of the school board she was also recently elected to the Local School Board Members Advisory Council, where she works directly with the Kentucky Commissioner of Education.
Drury said that she is aware of five significant issues facing the district but named the two most important as economic development and education.
“We need to bring businesses to our community to provide jobs for people locally,” she said. “We can do this by increasing tourism. The two counties and two precincts in Bullitt are in need of tourism improvements.”
On education, Drury said she wanted to provide opportunities for people of all ages to succeed.
“With the recent budget cuts school districts are facing, it is making it hard for counties to provide the best education possible, and as a school board member I see it first hand,” she said.
“If elected I would speak up for more money to be provided and work with legislators and persuade them as to the importance of the issue. It is simply a matter of being heard and speaking up. We’ve not really had that representation in the past.”
Drury said that in her mind the most recent legislative session deserves a C grade.
“I followed the legislation that was put out there,” she noted. “I was frustrated that education funds were cut. That is something that is critical for all of our children. I felt like they failed our children.”
On the issue of the budget, Drury said that she didn’t think cuts were necessary.
“I don’t think we need cuts, I think we need to evaluate the spending,” she said. “Having worked in state government and I’ve seen waste that does need to be cut. I support expanded gaming, only if funding goes to education or economic development.”
Drury said that her platform would include needed infrastructure improvements.
“Infrastructure for our counties is very important,” Drury said. “Locally we don’t have the funds, state should provide funds. That would include everything from nursing homes, hospitals, bridges etc. We need to give closer attention to that. Legislators should make an extra effort to get input from officials and citizens. Legislators need to spend more time communicating with citizens and local officials. Health insurance is a concern of mine, particularly people who have diseases. The state should get involved in health care coverage for people with chronic terminal illnesses.”
In closing Drury said, “Being the vocal person that I am now, I would continue my advocacy and up it a little bit more. I would work with the local leaders in working with Department for Community Development. Their primary role is to match industry and business with the communities. I would encourage local officials to meet with those people.
“I would emphasize I am not a politician, I am a public servant.”