Hershell Key has always enjoyed being involved in politics, but in the past, his involvement has been either from the outside looking in, or in the organizational mode.
This year, Key has shifted gears and is instead working the political arena as a candidate.
This year, he has decided to throw his hat in the ring and run for Fifth District Magistrate during an upcoming special election. That district covers the Illwill and Speck Communities.
Key will be running as the Republican party’s candidate, chosen to appear on the ballot to fill the unexpired term that was vacated when second term fifth district magistrate Charlotte Bernard resigned the position after being hired as the Clinton County Superintendent of Schools.
Now, the fifth district magisterial postion is involving yet another resignation as well, as Key had to resign from his position as Outreach Specialist for Clinton County.
Key’s resignation comes as a part of the Hatch Act which restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.
“It would be a conflict of interest,” Key said. “Under the Hatch Act, you can not seek an office that is partisan.”
In the position, Key would be able to run for city council or the school board because those seats are non-partisan. The magisterial position he seeks, however, is partisan because a candidate has to be elected representing a political party.
“I’ve always wanted to be in politics,” Key said. “I’ve always wanted to run and I ain’t getting any younger. Gayle Smith got me into politics. He gave me tickets to go to my first political rally. He had them and he and Barb couldn’t go. He said he had these and you can go as long as you take Ira (Key) with you. I was 19 years old … Louie Nunn was running his second time for governor we went out there to the rally at the high school.”
In the 1980s, Key was the president of the Young Republican’s Club prior to later serving as the Chairman of the Clinton County Republican party.
In addition to being involved in politics and his job as Outreach Specialist for Clinton County, Key has also been a member of the Clinton County Fair Board, which is a volunteer organization, for more than 20 years and is now vice-president.
“I’ve also been on the board of directors at Farm Bureau for more than 20 years,” Key said.
Key started his job at the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency on October 5, 2005. Ever since, he has brought help for those in need.
“I just love helping people,” Key said. “We help low income people with heating assistance. That’s one of our big projects.”
Other than heating, Key’s job also deals with weatherization programs, garden programs, scholarships for youth and referrals to other offices.
“We refer our clients somewhere else for help in other areas,” Key said. “We can do a referral in order to help them get assistance with food or anything we can help them with.”
Including all the programs offered at the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency, Key offers aid to around 2,800 people each year.
“With the weatherization program, an energy audit is done on people’s houses. They check where the leaks are and stuff like that,” Key said. “They check out their heating system and make sure it’s all in working condition. Sometimes they put in new windows, doors and heating systems under the stimulus packages. We were under it for a couple of years. It really helped a lot.”
During the spring months, Key also helps with the garden program which provides a $30 – $40 voucher for garden items for people to grow gardens and sell their produce.
“We have one lady who puts out a big garden and sells a lot of stuff,” Key said. “It helps pay her electric and stuff throughout the year. There are a lot of people who subsidize their income through garden products.”
The office is funded by state and federal grants according to Key, so the amount of good deeds he is able to do all depends on funding through those grants.
“Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency is a non-profit organization,” Key said.
“After working here, I’ve learned a lot about the county and what we need here,” Key said. “I’ve learned a lot and I’m very appreciative of having this job. I enjoy working and helping people. They are really grateful for the help. Ninety-nine percent of them will get up, shake your hand and say ‘thank you’.”
Although Key will resign from his position as Outreach Specialist, he said he is going to continue to help people who need assistance.
“I told Bro. (Bobby) Grant I would continue to help him with commodities,” Key said. “I will help with anything I can around here.”
As for Key’s political ambitions of serving in a local office, this first attempt has already been a successful effort.
During a recent meeting of the Clinton County Democratic Party Executive Committee, the party did not select a candidate to run for the fifth district magistrate position in this November’s election, meaning Key will be unopposed on the ballot and will be sworn in to the office following the election.