When the Clinton County Fiscal Court holds its next meeting, there will be two new members serving on the court. One of those magistrates will be 55-year-old Hershell Key, who had the luxury of running unopposed in the November general election.
Key, a life long resident of Clinton County, was elected by the Republican Party Executive Committee as the nominee to run to fill the two-year unexpired term of now Clinton County Schools Superintendent Charlotte Bernard, also a Republican, who resigned from the court in April.
There was no Democrat nominee chosen to run for the seat, which includes the Speck and Illwill precincts in the 5th Magisterial District.
Key has lived all his life in the Lettered Oak Community, attended a two-room school in the 1960s and is a 1975 graduate of Clinton County High School.
The new magistrate has also worked in Albany and Clinton County his entire life, starting out at Sutton Shirt Corporation just out of high school in 1975, where he was employed until the plant’s closing in 1992. He then worked about 10 years for McWhorter Brothers Farm Store, and another three years for Clinton Farm and Home before becoming Outreach Specialist for the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency in 2005. He had to resign that position after getting into the political arena.
Although a first timer as a candidate, Key is nothing new to politics, being heavily involved in the local Republican party since an early age, including serving as precinct youth chairman, president of the Young Republicans Club and a brief stint as County Chairman in the late 80s and early 90s.
“I’ve always wanted to get into politics (as a candidate) and I’m not getting any younger,” Key said during an interview last Friday.
The new magistrate, who expected to be sworn in this week, said an asset he feels he can bring to the table is that he has knowledge about the way the system works and that working with the Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency, he has seen a lot of what the county needs–with the highest priority being employment, or jobs for the people.
“We need something for people to work at, more things for our youth and senior citizens to do,” Key added.
Having kept up with fiscal court and county government happenings, the incoming magistrate is well aware that the most pressing issue facing the county over the next couple of years is the budget and lack of revenue. He said he had seen a copy of last year’s fiscal year budget but hadn’t yet studied it extensively.
Key did note that the two biggest services putting the largest strain on the county’s finances is the jail and ambulance service. And, he added, “Overhead expenses are killing us (county government).”
Key said about the only way to control the budget would be to cut back on a few services or raise taxes. However, the latter option is not one the new magistrate is willing to accept, saying “people are already paying to much tax,” but understands the county is operating on about the same revenues as they were 10 years ago. He also said that taking the optional compensating (tax) rate each year would “still be a tax.”
Key believes the county is somewhat top heavy on salaries and needs to scale back, but again added “we can’t keep raising taxes” to fix the problems. He also believes that both the jail and ambulance service can’t sustain themselves at the rate they are now going, having to gain operating revenue throughout the year in way of the occupational tax fund.
“How to maintain the jail is an issue the fiscal court will have to look at,” Key said, noting the Department of Corrections is apparently doing a study on the cost of keeping the jail open as opposed to it being closed, or possibly making it a hold-over facility rather than a full-time Life Safety facility.
Key said the primary duties of a member of the fiscal court is to work to establish a working balanced budget, maintaining county roads within each magistrates’ district and other matters but emphasized working to help get any kind of industry into the county. “We need more revenue created from jobs…you can’t keep taxing people to death.”
The new squire said that at this point, he planned to seek a full term on the fiscal court in the next county election in 2014.
When asked what he felt was the county’s biggest asset, Key said, “it’s people. When they (people) set their mind to it, they can do anything they want to do.” He added that tourism is another huge asset that should be promoted at every opportunity, saying Clinton County was setting in one of the best parts of the country–between Dale Hollow Lake and Lake Cumberland.
Key said he wished to thank everyone who had supported him throughout the years and would try to do his best for the 5th District and Clinton County, concluding that as a member of the fiscal court, he would “spend the county’s money like it was coming out of my own pocket.”