Modern Kentucky Governors: A Study in Failure of Command
Trying to make sense out of Frankfort politics is like watching three people fighting each other to seize control of the surf board they are standing on, as it races toward the beach during a hurricane.
This image is fine if you are watching a rerun of the Three Stooges. However, this scenario is deadly if you want elected leaders to provide leadership during this era of wave after wave of political, social, military, and economic storms.
Gone are the old days of Frankfort insider power figures keeping control on the local situation with a little blacktop here and a few low skilled and paying patronage jobs there.
Governor Fletcher is trying to put down as much black top to even rival Paul Patton. Fletcher has also taken a page out of Patton’s play book by throwing out large cardboard checks for local projects in every part of the state. It’s not important that the community needs or wants the project, as long as the local media spells Fletcher’s name right.
Soon, blacktop and patronage jobs will be trumped by really ugly issues that will not go gently into the night. Local government costs; collapse or failure of local infrastructure; lack of jobs; plight of an aging population held captive by rural geography; lack of opportunities; failure to prepare our young for world class jobs; state budget shortages; retiring state workers and loss of institutional memory; pollution and destruction of Kentucky’s water resources; and the health care crisis will define the public issue debate for most of the next governor’s administration.
The act and art of governance in 2008 through 2012 demands a new breed of politicians who fully understand issue leadership.
Issue leaders are driven by civic and community needs rather than political positioning and political agendas. Most Kentucky Democratic governors since 1980, and now the only Republican governor during this time, have failed to provide issue leadership. Their legacy, for the most part, has been of “failure of command.”
These governors dealt with contracts rather than issues. Roads, blacktop, and rewards to the loyal framed gubernatorial policy more then Kentucky’s failing social and economic infrastructure needs.
Both Governor Fletcher and former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear have a chance to end this disgrace of high public office in Kentucky. Many professional politicians in both Democratic and Republican Parties see this next administration as a return to the “good ole’ days” of political spoils. Ordinary citizens pray that this time the next administration will balance the push and pull of politics with preparing Kentucky’s urban and rural communities for the 21st Century.
The next Governor of Kentucky must load his cabinet with high minded public servants and private sector leaders. He must also recruit a strong secondary team of politically smart and issue savvy managers who know the ins and outs of Kentucky state government.
Kentucky’s future will demand that both types of individuals be in place with the next administration if the state is ever to pull itself up by its bootstrap and overcome 20 years of mismanagement by previous governors.
This will take bold and powerful leadership skills from our new governor in 2008. He will roll the “governmental dice” for the future or for the past. Only time will tell.