Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller is known for his bluntness. He can afford to be. He’s had his job for the past thirty five years. Miller’s county, formed in 1842 by cutting off a portion of Calloway County is named after the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall. It boasts an enviable blend of tourism on Kentucky Lake and manufacturing and chemical factories in and around Calvert City.
I had a chance to interview Miller on Friday evening at the Marshall County Bean Soup Supper. Even huddled over a trash can with a recorder running, Miller was interrupted often by well wishers.
Q. What is Marshall County’s greatest need?
Miller: One of the biggest things we are battling right now is economic development with the loss of jobs. For the first time since 1985, we’re over 10% in unemployment here in the county.
Another need we have is potable water. We were assuming that the stimulus funds were going to be used for what they call “shovel ready projects”. We have pipe on the ground. We’re ready to start laying water lines
Then all of a sudden, we are using that money to balance the state budget. Now, you’re putting a patch on that thing. You’re not going to solve problems by using stimulus money to balance the budget. Now I’m sure that we’re going to receive something- maybe.
But there are so many needs. You look around the state. Counties are wallowing in jail costs. I’m fortunate. I don’t have to subsidize our jail. Hardin County subsidizes their jail about as much as 4 billion dollars a year. Jail costs keep going up and up. We keep crying for relief and getting promises.
Q. Can counties go directly to the federal government for stimulus funds?
Miller: Well, most of the stimulus dollars flow through the state. We are doing what we can. We are putting in applications and doing all we can to access federal dollars.
Miller said the Governor has promised one million dollars for their local health department.
Q. How long have you been working on that health department project?
Miller: We received funding from the Patton administration and when the Fletcher administration came in, they took our funds away and gave it to another county.
We did receive a ½ million from a state community development block grant and if we get an additional million, we can break ground on a new health department which is desperately needed.
Q. What jobs have left Marshall County?
Miller: When Fleetwood went into bankruptcy back in February, 140 jobs were lost. Things have happened around us Then when Continental General went down, that was 100 Marshall County jobs. Mattel in Murray’s closing meant 180 Marshall Countians lost their jobs.
For the first time in a long time, we’ve had lay offs in Calvert City. But jobs seem to be coming back there. The chemical industry, thank goodness has remained stable, volatile, but stable.
We continue to develop our riverport down on the Tennessee River. We have land under option. We’re looking at a tremendous project. There are private ports, but we would like to have a Marshall County - Calvert City public port.
Q. Politically, have you taken a stand in the Democratic Senate primary?
Miller: I will probably support Dan Mongiardo. I made a commitment to Lt. Gov. Mongiardo before I knew the Attorney General was in the race. I have nothing bad to say about the Attorney General. But once I make a commitment, I stick to it.
Q. What about your political future?
Miller: Well, it all depends on my health. I’ve had some health problems and have another surgery to go. If things continue to improve, I will run for re-election next year.