TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

April 15, 2014

Two running for judge-executive

Jamie Fuson to challenge incumbent Pat White Jr. in Whitley County


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

Two Williamsburg men have their hats in the ring for Whitley County’s top spot of Judge/Executive — the incumbent, Pat White Jr., 37, will face challenger, Jamie W. Fuson, 41, in the May 20 primary.

POSITION & QUALIFICATIONS

The county Judge/Executive position comprises many duties, according to the state’s Legislative Research Commission “Duties of Elected Officials” book.

“The Judge/Executive is specifically charged with executing all ordinances and resolutions of the fiscal court, all contracts entered into by the fiscal court, and all state laws subject to enforcement by the Judge/Executive or by officers under his or her supervision,” states the book, which references Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 67.710.

The Judge/Executive also is charged with annual budget preparation, oversight of county funds, financial reports to fiscal court, and fiscal record keeping.

Also, the Judge/Executive, according to KRS 67.710(7), has the authority to appoint, supervise, suspend and remove county personnel, with fiscal court approval, unless state law forbids it otherwise.

Constitutional age and residence requirements are the only qualifications for the Judge/Executive seat. Candidates must be age 24, a Kentucky citizen and resident for at least two years, and a resident of the county for at least one year.

CANDIDATE BACKGROUND

White graduated from Williamsburg High School as valedictorian in 1995. He then graduated from the the University of Kentucky College of Business in 1999, then earned a law degree from Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2003. He is currently Whitley County Judge/Executive.

Fuson graduated from Somerset Community College and Corbin Vocational School.

Fuson has been with the Whitley County School District for 22 years and is the school district’s communications manager. He is also the current 3rd District magistrate.

White is a member of the Kentucky County Judge/Executive’s Association; the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Advisory Board; the University of Kentucky Alumni Association; the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; the Kentucky Bar Association; and the Whitley County Cattlemen’s Association.

Fuson is a member of Masonic Lodge #490; a member of Clear Fork Baptist Church; past president of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Council; the Cattlemen’s Association; and a board member of the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association.

THE CHALLENGER

One of Fuson’s issues concerns communication. “My first priority will be to bring accountability to Whitley County,” Fuson said. “I will move immediately to fix communication problems.”

He feels his experience as magistrate allows him to see county issues. “After serving as 3rd District magistrate for the past three years, communication has been the Number 1 obstacle that we magistrates have tried to overcome with our Judge Executive.”

This, he feels, has led to problems.

“A lack of leadership has cost Whitley County tremendously—$180,000 more per year on liability insurance due to lawsuits,” Fuson said. “If elected, I will seek professional help from a risk management specialist.”

Another issue for Fuson concerns cutting down on wasteful spending and creating county growth. “I will bring agency heads together to establish clear plans for each department, including targets for cutting waste,” Fuson explained. “Growth is achieved most effectively and efficiently when everybody understands their roles and duties.”

He also seeks to improving the county work environment. “We will work to help our employees have security and a productive career during their employment with the county, including things such as built in salary schedules,” he said.

Roads are also an issue for Fuson. “I will immediately implement a county-wide ditching program to alleviate flooding and prevent costly damage to roads,” Fuson explained. “I will create a road assessment system and four-year road plan so road work is need-based instead of influenced by politics, which in the end will help everyone.”

He said the state recommends counties adopt a road plan. “This will show the public whose roads will be blacktopped four years in advance,” he said. “Pending funding, we could do more or less, but will follow the plan.”

He feels the county is ripe for change. “This election is an opportunity for change,” Fuson said, “The question is whether voters want the next four years to be like the last seven.”

He said teamwork is key.

“I offer a different leadership style — I believe in communication and teamwork,” he said. “If I’m elected Judge/Executive, I’ll work with all magistrates.”

He currently holds the 3rd District seat. “(I) have the experience to lead our magistrates and our county.” he explained. “I’ve seen how failing to include magistrates causes problems not only for us, but for the county.”

He feels the county needs goals to work toward. “Whitley County needs to have clear plans and goals, and the public needs to be part of shaping the future,” Fuson said. “Actually, I just publicly released my plan for my first six months in office — that plan includes having public meetings in each magistrate district within my first five months in office.”

He feels the magistrates “have good ideas.”

“I meet people all the time with great ideas, he said. “Because of a lack of communication with the Judge/Executive, a lot of good ideas are being ignored as well as opportunities for industry. I welcome ideas as much as I welcome criticism — I think that’s one quality of a leader.”

He wants to spend taxpayer money “responsibly.”

“It’s hard to say you’re spending taxpayer money responsibly when the yearly cost of liability insurance increased $180,000,” Fuson said. “I’m on record asking to form a committee or seek help from a risk management specialist to help us prevent costly lawsuits and lower our insurance costs — there’s been no effort to do that.

“If elected, reviewing the lawsuits and legal claims of the last seven years, along with improving policies, is something I WILL do within my first six months,” he added. “In what we paid extra for insurance this year, we could’ve bought two brand new ambulances.”

He also wants voters to know he’s “a highly qualified candidate.”

“I owned my own successful business for 15 years, and now, I’m approaching  the end of a successful management career in the Whitley County School System,” Fuson explained. “I’m a magistrate. I’ve received state education specific to local government issues. I’ve held strong positions on the county’s budget committee to reduce waste. Also, I’m on the board of directors for a group that represents more than 560 magistrates from across Kentucky’s 120 counties (Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association).”

Roads are also an issue for Fuson, as it is with many magistrate candidates.

“How we maintain county roads highlights communication problems and the lack of a team atmosphere,” Fuson said. “For the three years I’ve been magistrate, every month my fellow magistrates and I have had problems getting road work done, or done correctly.

“We’ve suggested a streamlined communication process where requests are received and automatically work orders are generated and progress reports are sent back to the magistrates,” he added.

He continued on the issue of Whitley County roads.

“In 2013 my fellow magistrates and I voted to require all road resurfacing projects be debated in open court and approved before the public,” Fuson explained. “Now magistrates have a say in what roads receive attention instead of the Judge/Executive having sole discretion. Magistrates are selected by the people of their districts, and they know their districts best. If elected Judge/Executive, I want to work with each magistrate on roads and other issues.

“Five people can do more work than one,” he added. “As a team, we’re stronger and can get things done more effectively and efficiently.

Ditch lines along roads also appears to be a widely debated issue. “Ditching was a problem when I decided to run for Magistrate in 2010. My fellow magistrates and I have pushed and pushed, but clogged and flooded ditches remain a problem,” Fuson explained. “I will clear ditches along county roads. I have a plan, and it’ll work with what equipment we have right now. I will implement a county wide plan during my first month in office and not wait seven years.

“Keeping our ditches cleared to prevent flooding that endangers drivers and damages roads comes down to having the right leadership,” Fuson added. “When you look at how much money our county gets for roads, and then you account for repairing damage caused by clogged ditches, flooded roads and the repeated trips back to repair the same problems over and over, we’re wasting money and time away from other projects playing catch up.”

He said he wants to be “proactive.”

“If elected, my administration will be proactive,” he said. “Whitley County can’t afford to keep playing catch up. And the only way to be proactive is to have clear plans and good communication.”

He’s hopeful for a unified governing body. “I have worked hard with the budget committee to spend our money wisely and cut the county debt. I feel that since the beginning (the past 7 years) of the first disbursement of the occupational tax of almost $2.5 million that we should have made more progress.

“We need to get our house in order so everybody’s on the same page, working to reduce wasteful spending and making Whitley County an attractive place for new business,” he added. “I will work with and support all elected officials that our people elect, and to be the best stewards of your tax dollars.”

THE INCUMBENT

White looks to bring business to the county. “We need more employers that pay better,” he explained. “Over the last couple of years we have seen growth when much of the nation has declined.”

This trend, he feels, could continue. “As we come out of the great recession, Whitley County is poised for commercial growth at both I-75 Exits 11 and 25, with lots available for development and current projects under way,” White said. “Also, the county owns a 100-acre site in Savoy that I plan on continuing to seek funding for so that we can have locations to offer businesses. Laurel County began that process 20 years ago and has seen tremendous growth because of it.

“It’s our turn.”

He takes pride in the county’s work ethic.

“A strong work ethic is something Whitley County should be proud of,” said White. “In my next term, I will continue working to recruit business and industry into our county. Part of that work includes my relationship with our legislative and state leaders. I am very proud of the relationships I’ve built with our state leaders. I serve on the Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, both of which, provide me the opportunity to talk with leaders around the state and nation about issues that could improve the lives of people in Whitley County.”

He also sees roads as an issue in the county. “Over the last seven years our county has seen road improvements in every community, but there is still plenty to do,” White said. “I want to equip a full time crew, with specialized equipment, for ditch maintenance. I will continue seeking grants for blacktop projects, bridge projects and mountain slide repairs.”

Water is also an issue. “I will work to see that every house that needs it has access to clean water,” White said. “We have expanded water service to more than 90 percent of our county.

“Everyone deserves a good road home and clean water to drink.”

He said he’s taking on as a goal, if re-elected.

“Clean drinking water is a major goal,” said White. “I take great pride in the many water projects that have been completed during my time in office. I will continue that work, if re-elected, to make sure that every community in our county has clean water.”

He also said he is a proponent of transarency. “Over the last few years our county has opened up its records like never before,” he said. “And our good audits have been the result.”

He also mentioned the county’s website. “(It) offers access to the county’s budget, audits, contact information for its departments, meeting records, meeting and event schedules, and even offers on-demand video of our fiscal court meetings,” White explained. “I will work to continue involving the public in county government.”

“Part of my plan for the next four years includes continuing to improve our road department,” said Judge/Executive Pat White, Jr. “Our road department has the best equipment they have ever had. In my next term, I would like to purchase more specialized equipment to help our crews clean out ditches. I have been researching equipment that would allow our road department to clean out our ditch lines more efficiently and with less man power.”

He feels as Whitley’s Judge/Executive, he’s taken it on as a job. “Since day one in this office, I have approached this job just like any other,” said White. “I work hard every day to make sure our county is moving forward. During my time in office the county’s debt has been cut nearly in half. I plan to work to keep the county on this course and make sure that your tax dollars are used wisely and in the best interest of our citizens.”

He said it’s family that keeps him going.

“Being Whitley County Judge/Executive has been one of the greatest challenges and joys I’ve experienced in my professional career,” said White. “My two young boys and my wife are what drive me to work hard everyday. I want to continue my work as Judge/Executive to make sure that my children and yours have a prosperous and safe place to grow up and raise families of their own.”