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Fulton Co. judge-executive running for third term unopposed

Fulton County Courthouse (1).jpg

Fulton County’s incumbent judge-executive will be uncontested as he makes a run for this third term in the top county seat.

Democrat Jim Martin has nearly 50 years in public service under his belt – as a Fulton City Manager, Fulton mayor and now judge-executive in addition to his work in economic development with the state’s economic development cabinet and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He hopes his long history of service will convince constituents to continue their support of him.

The two big things Martin wants to accomplish are to recover from December’s tornado outbreak and take advantage of a new pathway to economic success recently announced by the federal government.

The Fulton County community became a part of a new USDA-led program called the Rural Partners Network (RPN) in April. RPN is a collaborative effort between federal agencies and localities designed to create new jobs, enhance infrastructure and maintain economic stability. One or more RPN agents will be placed in Fulton County for an indefinite period of time to connect local organizations with relevant federal agencies for funding requests.

Martin says Fulton is one of the poorest counties in the state and this program could help the community find some much needed stability and, down the line, growth.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for these communities that have suffered from persistent poverty. In Fulton County’s case, we’ve been on economic decline for 70 years,” Martin said. “That’s going to be top of mind for us in Fulton County, not necessarily for the next couple of years, but for the next decade. This is going to be a decade-long economic recovery effort that is built around this partnership with these communities with the federal government.”

Martin aims to use this program to address problems throughout the community, hopefully improving conditions for students in the local school system, food insecurity in the county, improving water and sewer infrastructure and increasing the quality of life for county residents through financial growth.

Hundreds of homes were lost by west Kentucky residents – with many coming in Fulton County – during the late fall tornado outbreak. The small community of Cayce lost nearly a hundred on its own. Martin says the county has yet to fully rebuild a single one of them in the nearly six months since the storm. This has the judge-executive concerned about future disasters and the threat of a long-lasting, slow-going recovery.

“It may not necessarily be a tornado next time and I don’t believe that we were ready. I don’t believe we were equipped to deal with this,” Martin said. “We have to prepare a regional response mechanism that is going to put us in a better position to respond to disasters. We’ve got to streamline this process so we can be better prepared to take advantage of our resources.”

During his first two terms, Martin helped the county to create an ambulance service network for the area after its former provider left and formed partnerships “in areas where there was no history of successful partnerships” locally, he said.

This resulted in the county’s establishment of a new E911 service and an economic development partnership with Hickman County. He wants to continue working alongside other counties to foster more economic growth.

“We have bridged the gap of being able to work with our neighbors and still compete in high school athletics,” Martin said. “In everything that we can feasibly collaborate on, we are collaborating on. And that is a big step. Regional collaboration in these rural areas is at the absolute root of success.”

Martin is unopposed for the Democratic nomination and no Republican has filed to face him in fall’s general election.

The 2022 primary elections will take place on May 17. Learn more about races in the region in our Primary Election Voter Guide.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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