Darren Doyle, story and photo:
While in the mood for some good BBQ I looked down at my watch. It said 5:47pm. "Uh-oh, I hope Walden's hasn't run out of pork shoulder today," I thought. The demand for the local restaurant's specialties is continually on the rise and I knew it wouldn't be long before they'd be closing down as they ran out of the day's dishes.
I saw only a handful of vehicles in the parking lot but the "open" sign was still brightly lit. The good news was there was still freshly smoked pork shoulder but what first caught my eye were the friendly waves of four elected county officials who were seated inside: Judge Executive Wil Cannon, County Clerk Kevin Alexander, Sheriff Shane Doyle, and County Attorney Greg Vincent.
Now, before you read any further, please understand that the rest of this is my account and contains my opinions, something that I realize in which many people aren't that interested. Please feel free to take it with a grain of salt, or in this case, a dab of BBQ sauce.
"What is this all about?" I thought to myself. I'd never seen four elected officials sitting together at the same place after business hours. "Have I missed something? What are they talking about?" These are things you think of when you try to cover the local news. I placed my order and sat down at a different table as I checked my phone messages.
"Don't sit over there, come over here with us," said Judge Cannon. I told him I didn't want to interrupt anything and they assured me there was really nothing going on, and seeing how relaxed everyone was, it appeared to me that they were just eating BBQ together. (some more than others, but anyway,)...
I started working on my plate as the others were finishing up. County Clerk Alexander was checking his phone and began to update everyone on the latest University of Kentucky basketball recruits. After a short discussion about that, County Attorney Vincent shared a funny story about an old classmate. That reminded Judge Cannon about a story when he was in the Kentucky State Police Academy, and the laughs just kept going around the table.
At some point, still seeing this as a bit odd, I simply asked the question, "Ok, so is this an official after-hour meeting here with four local government officials or what's the deal?"
"Nah, we just get together every now and then and talk about what's going on in our offices, how we can keep trying to improve things here in the county," said Sheriff Doyle.
"Nothing official," said Attorney Vincent as he finished his supper. "Our offices really try to work together on everything and this is a good way for us to keep the lines of communication open."
Judge Cannon agreed. "I've been around a long time," he said. "I've never seen county offices working together like they are right now and we want to make sure we keep that up. I'm not saying this just because I'm in this office, but I truly believe that every one of our elected officials are doing their jobs because they are trying to put the county and its residents first. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and we'll continue to have bumps in the road, but I really believe everyone is doing it for the right reasons."
Attorney Vincent grinned. "I can tell you, I've seen plenty of times when it wasn't like this, and let me tell you, this is MUCH better."
County Clerk Alexander had to leave a little early but he encouraged the others sitting at the table to call him the next time they'd like to get together and wanted to make sure even more officials were invited on the next evening "meeting." He exited with a box of donuts that he said he was bringing to his two young sons; however, we could not confirm whether or not the donuts safely reached their destination.
Vincent said, "I'm certainly not saying this is the first time good people have been in office, but in times past, different offices had difficulty communicating with other offices and that wasn't good. It's not about having the attitude 'if you disagree with me you're wrong,' it's about doing what's in the best interest of the people in Edmonson County."
Sheriff Doyle said communication was key. "If all of us as officials can communicate regularly on a personal level, it helps us in our work environments, too."
Magistrate Mark Woosley came in and grabbed an order to go while stopping at the table. I don't even remember what was said while he was there, but he shared some laughs, too.
Several more funny stories were exchanged between them and I had forgotten that I'd tried to wiggle into a political conversation. What little politics or county business that was discussed was much more boring than the funny stories Judge Cannon had shared from his past.
Restaurant personnel started locking the doors, taking out the trash, and turning out the lights. Everyone started clearing their plates and began discussing their busy schedules for the next day as we all headed out the door. In some form or fashion, the schedules all connected with each other. I had nothing to write about except fly swatters, police academy sergeants, BBQ recipes, and mystery items found inside the walls of an old house.
I thought to myself, "This didn't have anything to do with local politics." But maybe that's why all these guys get along. If sharing some laughs at the local restaurant helps what happens the next day, then I applaud it. Under the current administrations, Clerk Alexander's office has turned over more money to the county than any other Edmonson County Clerk in history, the Sheriff's office has already made more arrests than any other administration, Judge Cannon has tackled some uncomfortable issues that many would not, and Greg Vincent has hit the ground running since returning as County Attorney in February.
No doubt, some will think, "they're all in it together," or "it's just another clique." You can call it whatever you want, but results are results, and so far, despite their faults, these offices have achieved results.
I'm not endorsing any of them, and I'm not asking you to, either. I'm just telling you that Edmonson County is a great place, with Edmonson County people making decisions for Edmonson County voters, and sharing a good meal at an Edmonson County restaurant seemed like a good place to see these guys at 5:47pm on a Tuesday evening.