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Newcomer challenges incumbent McLean judge-executive in Republican primary election

(From top) Erica Tapp and Curtis Dame are running for McLean County judge-executive.
Derek Operle

May’s primary election will effectively decide the next McLean County judge-executive, as a Republican incumbent and a political newcomer vie for the GOP nomination with no Democrat having filed for the race.

Incumbent Curtis Dame is running for a second term in office, this time facing Erica Tapp for the Republican nomination in the May 17 primary.

Curtis Dame

He plans to continue enforcing increased fiscal oversight.

“It has paid dividends to be able to manage about every cent that we have,” Dame said. “ Being able to do that has put us in a very positive situation to where we can leverage these dollars in a way that we can capitalize on future opportunities. I feel very strong about that because it’s allowed us to retain our 911 service, our EMS services and also be ready to do these salary adjustments that I think most sectors of the economy are facing.”

After the special election in 2019, the county was facing three overdue audits, painting an inaccurate picture of its financial standing. Since then, Dame said the audits and other inefficiencies have been addressed.

“In doing so, that has really firmed up that foundation for solid financial practices in our county,” he said. “Because we don’t have a lot of dollars, and we don’t really have a lot of industry. We’re a strong, agriculture-based economy.”

Dame said managing the county’s financial situation has also inspired trust in residents. This is important to him because accountability, transparency and honesty were major facets of his platform when he first ran.

“We livestream about every fiscal court meeting we have now,” he said. “When I go door to door, for example, a lot of citizens will tell me, ‘Oh, I know what you’re doing. I watch every meeting.’ And a lot of them have said that they know more now about their county than what they had in the last 30 years.”

Formerly an agriculture extension agent for the University of Kentucky in Hopkins County, Dame said he possesses farming and statistical skills that prove useful every day as a judge-executive. He also feels well acquainted with the community.

“If you have a good way of getting in touch with the average citizen and know what their problems are, it’s a good way to get started on this path,” he said.

While he reiterated the importance of monitoring expenditures, Dame noted he’s just as interested in developing the “core family value mindset” in McLean County by expanding lesser funded senior services and enhancing McLean County’s tourism industry by using a recent series of federal grants, with special focus on “trail town” Liverpool.

“If we get the family unit right and help to really support that here in our county, it can lead to decreasing the issues of our jail population,” he said.

Erica Tapp

Newcomer Tapp is hinging her platform partly on enhancing certain county-owned services. This would include preventing the privatization of the ambulance and strengthening the senior citizens’ group.

“The senior group delivers meals to those who cannot get out, helps file taxes, helps with Medicare benefits, provides companionship, and so many more services,” Tapp said.

Having worked as an advanced emergency medical technician for the McLean County ambulance services, Tapp intends to communicate with various county services to identify the struggles they face and offer solutions. Residents would have the opportunity to speak with her at planned monthly town hall meetings.

“Working with the people and not against the people is something that is on my list,” Tapp said. “The current administration works with a few big names and doesn't approach issues or decisions for the county as a whole. I want to work with all the citizens and each smaller community within the county. We need to clean up some of these places so that people and businesses want to come to our county.”

Tapp is interested in economic development to ensure county residents won’t need to travel beyond McLean’s borders to seek employment, which she described as a common occurrence in the community.

“I am a very bluntly honest person and will ask for help and opinions when needed,” she said. “I will run this county with true transparency — no closed-door fiscal court meetings.”

Now an agriculture educator at the Owensboro Catholic High School, Tapp has no prior experience in politics but said this could actually give her an edge over her opponent. She noted she’s developed leadership skills from teaching and gotten to know the people of McLean County through ambulance work.

“With both of these positions I have had to make difficult decisions,” she said. “My first year at the high school I raised about $100,000 for a greenhouse for my students. This included writing grants. There are many grants out there to benefit our county services and part of my plan is to apply for them. This would take the financial burden off the county.”

Above all, Tapp’s goal is to help the county she’s grown to love flourish in all aspects.

“I'm not from McLean County, but I chose to live here,” she said. “We need a change in this county, and I am that change.”

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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