Four Republicans face off in Christian County primary election
Christian County will see four Republican candidates face off in the primary election for judge-executive, with Democratic incumbent Steve Tribble waiting to face the winner in fall’s general election.
Tommy McGraw, Jerry Gilliam, Katie Moyer and Dan Mason are the up-and-coming candidates in question.
Republican Tommy McGraw said his most immediate focus is growing Christian County to provide more employment opportunities for future generations, something he noted will require sustained time and effort to achieve.
“If kids get out of high school, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity here,” he said. “And if they go off to college, there’s really not a lot of opportunity for them to come back here, too.”
The way the county needs to grow, in his eyes, is with people. While he encourages the development of more business and industry, McGraw said the county already has plenty of unfilled jobs available. Instead, the county should focus on solving what he calls “a workforce problem” by attracting working class people to fill said jobs with the building of affordable homes for purchase, not for rent.
“We are really behind the curve on this because we could’ve been capitalizing off Nashville and Clarksville’s (in Tennessee) growth for the last five or six years, but the truth of the matter is we got some pretty wealthy people that have always ran Christian County that do not want it to grow,” he said.
McGraw said the current rate at which houses are built in Christian County can’t support the growth he envisions. Although he isn’t aiming to mimic the explosive growth of Clarksville, his goal is to secure a brighter future for his grandchildren and others by increasing the median income in the county.
Beyond population growth, McGraw hopes to work with the Hopkinsville Planning Commission to secure ideal outcomes for the city, bolster volunteer fire departments in the county by incentivizing membership and move fiscal court meetings to evenings to accommodate more community involvement
“It’s awful convenient to have a meeting at 8:30 in the morning when the majority of your population is at work,” he said. “So for you to go to the fiscal court and complain about something, you’ve got to take off work and lose some of your money that you’d be making.”
A firefighter of 19 years, McGraw operated Freight Masters Inc. in Hopkinsville from 1997 to 2009, accruing approximately $1.4 million in sales annually. He said this business experience will guide him as he makes decisions for the county.
“I want people to vote for me because they think I’ve got the right ideas, and they think I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do and hopefully do something for your kids,” he said. “This isn’t a five-year process. This is a 10-, 15-, 20-year process.”
Republican Jerry Gilliam said his platform aims to “revolutionize” how people look at local government in Christian County by bolstering the economy, developing housing and through collaboration. While he appreciates the community’s smallness, Gilliam wants to reverse persistent population loss in Hopkinsville if he’s elected.
“Long-term, the measure of success is the culture — the reduction of apathy and the desire for young people to come back to Hopkinsville or stay in Hopkinsville and be a part of this community,” Gilliam said. “One of the reasons I’m running is to help build a place that my kids will be proud of and want to live in.”
To this end, Gilliam wants to diversify industry and small businesses in Christian County to protect against economic instability in the long-term.
“[Small businesses] may not create a lot of jobs, but they may create an opportunity for other small businesses,” he said. “The more small businesses we have creates more diversity in our economic climate. Unfortunately, our manufacturing is vitally important, but, if a recession happens, the first thing the American population stops doing is purchasing cars, so that would directly impact our local workforce.”
Gilliam is currently in his fourth year as the magistrate for the 7th District, which he said has provided him with insight regarding the inner-workings of local government. This is why he’d like to create a program to educate county residents on these matters – like the City of Paducah does – in the hopes of not only informing county residents how the local government works, but potentially inspiring more people to go into public service.
Agriculture is another major facet of Gilliam’s career. Now a finance lending agent for AgQuest, he grew up working on many of the farms in Christian County before studying agriculture technology in college.
“The county judge’s responsibility is understanding the big picture, especially when it comes to economic development,” he said. “Having that experience working with area economic developers, working with companies, understanding what they need to be successful has allowed me that big picture view.”
Describing himself as a fresh face with a business approach to government, Gilliam intends to evaluate the goals of the county and its stakeholders to identify what could be improved to grow the community in the future.
“You don’t always have to spend money to improve things,” he said. “Sometimes, you can even improve things and reduce spending.”
Republican Katie Moyer said she is running for Christian County judge-executive to ensure taxpayer money is utilized most effectively, something she believes hasn’t been the case as of late.
“I don’t think that is any one thing, any one particular bad guy or anything like that,” Moyer said. “We’ve just been sliding through expenditures without really discussing them, without looking into it and without comparing our expenditures to fair market values of things for so long. I think the people of Christian County are ready for a change.”
To make this happen, Moyer wants the county to review each expenditure in detail. She said recent meetings have been lacking in such thorough examination, citing the $348,000 bid on the new roof of the courthouse as especially expensive.
“It was like three times as much as what a normal roof would cost,” she said. “Nobody’s asking any questions. Nobody’s asking to compare prices. I think there’s a lot of little details, but how much money could we save if we simply took a deeper look at everything we’re spending?”
From what Moyer has observed while door-knocking, some people in the county don’t feel appropriately represented by their leaders, particularly those in smaller communities such as Oak Grove, Lafayette and Crofton.
“They feel it’s all very focused on Hopkinsville,” she said. “That’s where all our leaders are. That’s where the money is getting spent. Again, that’s how it’s always been done.”
As the owner of Kentucky Hemp Works — and a former western Kentucky field representative for the governor — Moyer feels particularly well equipped to navigate the world of taxes and regulations in this region.
Moyer said voters are looking for a leader whom they can trust. In this regard, she believes she’s proven herself “time and time again,” and her engagement in government will encourage others to get involved.
“As somebody who is willing to work for my neighbors, serve my neighbors, help my community — and whether that means lobbying in Frankfort for issues in which we believe or pushing back against government — I always say the world is run by those who show up,” she said. “Even if it’s truth to power, and even if my voice shakes, I’m still willing to stand up and do what’s right for the people in my community and for myself and for my industry.”
Republican Dan Mason said the basis of his platform is seeking accountability in local government. A major catalyst that compelled him to run was what he felt was a lack of transparency regarding the now-canceled meat processor deal slated for Pembroke last year.
“Any time we asked a question, the answer that we got with any kind of elected official was, ‘Well, we can’t talk about it. We signed non-disclosure agreements,’” Mason said. “But this deal was already in the eleventh hour to where the company was ready to finalize moving in and getting set up.”
Mason was similarly concerned by the fiscal court’s decision to build a new road — Mike Foster Way by the James E. Bruce Convention Center — instead of fixing potholes in existing roads. He said the fiscal court has often shifted this responsibility onto other agencies, ultimately resulting in inaction.
As such, Mason wants to not only keep the public informed of ongoing decisions but also make more relevant decisions in the future. Some priorities of his are improving road and broadband infrastructure so that farms, schools and other institutions can operate more efficiently.
“Big companies won’t come here if we don’t have high-speed available,” Mason said. “Just like electricity was a revolution toward industry, high-speed internet is the next form of electricity that’s coming to the industry, and we have to be able to compete.”
If elected, Mason intends to share information packets detailing the steps and requirements for companies bidding on jobs, a comprehensive list of government contacts for community questions and more on the county website. He also wants to livestream county meetings on a variety of social media platforms so that more county residents can get a sense of what’s going on in their local government.
Formerly a process engineer for Toyota, Mason said he has experience devising cost-saving and efficient solutions to problems. As a nurse, he said he cares for members of the community regardless of their political affiliation.
“It’s right down the alleyway of being able to look at things in an analytical type of way and being able to figure out where we are losing money, what is considered not value added to the process, eliminating those things and passing that savings along to the taxpayer,” he said.
Democratic incumbent Steve Tribble opted not to speak with WKMS at this time because he won’t be involved in a primary. First taking office as judge-executive in 1994, Tribble recently said in a statement to news publications that serving the people of Christian County has been one of the great privileges and honors of his life.
“Accordingly, I have worked tirelessly for the people I am honored to represent,” he said. “I have always maintained an ‘open door policy,’ willing to talk to anyone at any time about any concern or suggestion any citizen of Christian County may have regarding our community, our county government or any service provided by county government.”