Though it was not that long ago, many Bullitt Countians might not remember how splintered and ignored the county once was in the state legislature.
In 2011 David Strange started a “Unite Bullitt County” movement to get better House and Senate districts for our county. At that time, the districts were many, and widely splintered. Virtually none of the seats had a significant enough portion of the county to cause any officeholder (beyond their good nature) to be responsive to our needs.
David created and promoted a Facebook page to promote the issue, and made numerous calls and contacts. Thanks to his past work all around the region, many good people responded to the call. Within 24-hours or so, a large working group consisting of leaders in both political parties and other organizations, gathered in front of the county courthouse to express support and generate publicity. It was a good day.
Working with both parties, we were pleased to find a good cooperative spirit by House and Senate members. But it was difficult work. Powerful people bluntly argued that it was technically impossible. But we were prepared for that challenge. David Strange, along with Scott Wantland (who was most knowledgeable in redistricting regulations), were the very first non-government people to gain access to the official state districting computers in Frankfort.
In fact, David and Scott had to wait while the technicians figured out how to make it work for non-officials. Together, in one day, David and Scott managed to learn the program well enough to draw a working redistricting plan that proved, on the government’s own computers, that yes, it COULD be done.
So, the next issue was convincing legislative leaders that it SHOULD be done.
Fortunately, due in great part to the quiet groundwork of building trust with leaders of both parties (both state and local), normally-conflicting sides came together. Senator Paul Hornback, Reps Dwight Butler, Jeff Greer, Linda Belcher, and David Floyd — all of whom could have seen conflicts to their self-interest – came together and supported the effort.
Such organizational work was almost unprecedented, let alone successful.
It was a two-year effort. Local party officials came together, each working with their counterparts in Frankfort, to make it happen.
The result was that in 2013 two House districts were created in which for the first time, anyone elected to those seats had to be responsive to Bullitt Countians. One of the two was entirely in the county. A third district includes a small portion of eastern Bullitt County.
The Senate borders were equally responsive, changing from being spread out over three counties into a district made up of all of Bullitt plus a little of southern Jefferson.
The exact borders of the district were not exactly what we wanted. The final details were modified by powers-that-be in the Senate and House.
But the overall result was history-making, for the first time in living memory creating Senate and House seats that owed election and allegiance to the voters of Bullitt County.
Because of the already long writing here, we just briefly mention the next two examples of organizational results.
Bullitt County History Museum
In 2004, some very good people with the Bullitt County Genealogical Society had obtained authorization from Bullitt County Fiscal Court to organize a first-ever county history museum in the courthouse. But they were badly needing someone with the skills to actually set it up and run it. There was little money. Many people were skeptical that it would ever really come together.
David Strange offered his services and in October 2004, the museum doors were opened. Under David’s innovative leadership, the museum developed an excellent force of devoted volunteers. Nearly $150,000 was raised and trust in the program grew. Often-conflicting points of view were brought together into a cohesive body. Within just a few years, the Bullitt County History Museum earned ten state-wide awards, standing up to the largest museums in Kentucky. But David’s fondest recognition was when state government officials came to the courthouse one day. Noticing the museum displays, they energetically proclaimed the little museum “the best front door of any courthouse in the state”.
Highway 44 has been a problem for at least forty years, and continues to be. In an effort to keep a focus on the problem, a few years ago David Strange created the “Improve Highway 44 in Bullitt and Spencer Counties” Facebook page.
Involvement in that page now ranges around 2,000 people. There is much, much yet to do, but David has made a real, solid effort to bring people together beyond just words.