By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Appreciation — that was the single-agenda item for the day during the Second Annual Business Appreciation Luncheon held at the Corbin Center Wednesday.
“This is a small token of our appreciation,” said Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney to the group of more than 200 people.
McBurney hosted the event Wednesday, which featured State Auditor Adam Edelen as guest speaker. City commissioners Bruce Hodge, Ed Tye, Joe Shelton and Suzie Razmus were also in attendance — McBurney said other commissioners were unable to attend the event.
Edelen took the podium and shared a story about his son and homework — due to circumstances Edelen said his son had an extra day or so to finish some homework for elementary school.
When he pressed his son to complete the work anyway because “we Edelens get things done,” the state auditor said his son looked at him with a raised brow.
The young man said that if he was forced to do that homework, he would get in front of the television cameras and say, “He’s mean to me — he’ll be mean to you too.”
And that generation is for whom Edelen works.
“The government has to run efficiently, effectively and honestly to make it to the next generation,” Edelen said, calling himself “the taxpayer watchdog.”
He said that every day in his capacity as state auditor, he gets to “skin his knuckles” fighting what he says has been holding Kentucky back for 200 years.
For one, Edelen said Kentucky is a poor state.
“We don’t have the luxury to make dumb decisions,” he said. “(Our) education system should enable (our residents) to realize the American dream — that’s the first thing I tackle every day.”
The second problem Edelen says holds Kentucky back is “the culture of political corruption…in some pockets of Kentucky.”
“It’s bad to waste resources,” he said to the crowd. “Government needs to run like your businesses do.”
Concerning state government, Edelen said “we gotta do better.”
“Our leaders have to look us in the eye and say ‘We have big challenges (to face),’” the auditor said, adding that living in “our bullet-train world” requires decisions be made at a fast pace. “Government needs to be in a position (to do that).”
Edelen also said that more Kentucky residents receive Medicaid benefits than are registered in the state’s public school system.
“We are manufacturing an uneducated, unhealthy (workforce),” he said, adding that two decades ago, states often followed the “thank God for Mississippi” attitude when it came to educational scoring. That’s also the time when Kentucky decided to provide equal funding for all the state’s students, regardless of geographic location, he said.
Edelen added that local and state leadership has become better in Kentucky. “(They’re not) the disgrace the federal government has become in this country,” he said. “These jokers (can’t even) get a budget passed to keep the government open.”
Edelen said while school funds once didn’t get much attention — that has now changed.
“(We have) a moral obligation (to see that) every kid gets a quality education,” he said, adding that the limited school monies need to go toward classroom education rather than “ever-increasing bureaucracies.”
So far Edelen said 15 of the state’s school districts have been audited — and he said his office “has seen troubling things.”
But since 40 percent of the state’s budget is slated for education — he feels the auditor’s office should monitor those monies as well.
Edelen feels schools must be subsidized for the betterment of the students — including raises for teachers.
“We need to run efficient school districts,” he said. “(That way) we can make sure they get the best because that’s what they deserve.”
Applause erupted in the Corbin Center after that statement.
Edelen also discussed the state’s myriad of special taxing districts — on which he launched an investigation shortly after entering office.
More than 1,200 of those type of districts exist across the state, according to the auditor, which have approximately $2.7 billion of taxpayer monies — more than $500 million of which is unaudited cash.
And those districts Edelen vowed will continue to remain under review.
Once Edelen finished speaking, McBurney introduced the next speaker, Bob Terrell, who is a retired Corbin businessman and community activist.
Terrell was tapped to present the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Corbin native Don Root, 92, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s luncheon for health reasons.
Terrell said Root was a football player for Corbin High School in those days, and that after high school he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corp.
Terrell said that Root fought during eight of the most difficult and deadly battles of World War II in the South Pacific. He also said that Root fought in the Korean War — at times in temperatures well below zero.
Root’s great-nephew Timothy Don Root accepted the plaque for his uncle.
The younger Root said that his uncle remains an active man — he still mows his grass, and has bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. He added that veterans of WWII “have that grit” in facing day-to-day life.
Timothy Root also said his uncle earned two Presidential Citations of Valor for his military service during those wars.
It was also learned that the elder Root became an expert on jet engines for war aircraft, and eventually lectured on their functions and operations. He also served with astronauts Allen Shepherd and Jerry Carr at the U.S. Navy Experimental Jet base in Maryland.
He enjoyed a 65-year marriage to his wife Sarah Bunch, who passed away earlier this year. The former carrier for The Times-Tribune has two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He resides in Smyrna, Ga.
Also presented was the first annual Corbin Business Professional award for service to the community. City Manager Marlon Sams presented Maggie J’s Dress Shop owner Maxine Von Gruenigen the award during the Wednesday luncheon.
She is very active with her church, First Baptist, a board member of Whitaker Bank, and has had many hands in all things Corbin, including the Nibroc Festival.
“Isn’t it great to live in Corbin,” Von Gruenigen said after her award.
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
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