There have been so many good people in my life; people who made possible so much of what I am about to tell you. But for this election, I am expected to tell you about me, so please bear with me as I share a little of my record of service and a few of my accomplishments from over the years.
My heart has been with serving others for as long as I can remember; certainly, since high school days so long ago when I was part of several organizations. I don’t know where this comes from. I was fortunate to have several excellent teachers for role models such as Miss Clara Newman. But I suspect it comes mostly from my Dad, Melvin “Dawson” Strange who, through his personal experience of childhood poverty, has spent much of his adult life most happy when he is making others smile. He has been a faithful and active member of both his Masonic Lodge and a beloved country preacher at several churches.
As for me…
- I suppose my earliest service outside of high school was as a Sunday School teacher, starting at the age of 16 and continuing on and off ever since. I am a trustee of my church and have worked on various committees there over the years.
- A few years after my wife and I were married in 1972, we moved out to our Bullitt County home that we built and live in still today.
- Soon after that, I looked for something to become involved in and was asked to become a board member of my local fire district, of which I served as secretary for some years and eventually as chairman. I learned a great deal there, often from my mistakes. While in those posts, I helped bring all the fire departments in the county together, cooperatively creating the beginnings of the first-ever central fire training center in the county. That small facility is gone now, dwarfed by the successes of our modern fire department leaders. But it was in that effort that I learned that I had some gift in getting real things done.
- As my two children were born and grew through school, both Bonnie and I served as volunteers at Cedar Grove Elementary School, the old Shepherdsville Middle School, and then at Bullitt Central High School where I helped form the first PTA there and served as a parent member on the Site Based Decision Making council during the first years of that KERA-directed program. I also served on various county-wide education counsels such as a technology council that helped create the first full-fledged computer programs in the system.
- Over the ensuing years, I volunteered and served in many capacities including as member of the Bullitt County Public Library system and the Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce. For over thirty years, I regularly attended not only Fiscal Court meetings but also many city council meetings of all eight cities.
- This is a relatively small thing, but about as real as you can get: Have you ever noticed the black metal park benches around the grounds of the County Courthouse campus? I saw the need for those and spoke with several good people who contributed to pay for them. Those benches are not cheap, but they are quality. They are lasting well, fill a real need, and add to the atmosphere that a good courthouse should have.
- Ever visit “The Old Stone Jail” next to the county courthouse? Preservation work had been done on it before by people such as Charlie Long, but by 2000, it had become run down and dirty. Nothing was being done with it and there was talk about tearing it down. I asked then Judge/Executive Kenneth Rigdon if he would allow me to work on it. I felt good that he had come to trust me enough that he turned it over to me to do basically whatever I thought best. I spent a year, supported by several good people and businesses such as New Way Rental and the welding class of our county technical school, restoring the old jail and creating automatic presentation displays. Together we steam-cleaned the entire building inside and out, cleaning as much as an inch of crud off its floors. Today, the little jail is a tourism focal point with an automatic sound presentation when you walk in. It is often used for photo shots and speaker backgrounds such as when then Governor Ernie Fletcher came to town.
- The Bullitt County History Museum. While restoring the Old Stone Jail, the Bullitt County Genealogical Society was working to organize a history museum in the county courthouse. The goal was good, but the realities of organization were becoming a problem. I stepped in and offered to take on the role of Executive Director of the museum idea and help make it a reality. I served in that role for ten years, during which time we grew the museum from an idea to something that has received numerous state-wide awards, put up against the biggest museums in the state. One of my favorite memories at the museum was when a group of state-level officials came to the courthouse for other business one day and asked to see “the person who is directing the museum”, saying that our little museum created “The best front door of any courthouse in the state.” Creating a positive reputation for our county has always been in the forefront of my mind.
- While leading the Bullitt County History Museum, I had many opportunities to promote Bullitt County. One huge opportunity was, of all things, an old 1912 “Eighth Grade Exam”. Found in a local attic, that exam seemed so difficult that it drew international interest, going viral on the internet. The intense interest, fueled by my promotional efforts, ended up with me being interviewed on national news, both Fox News and NBC News. NBC even came to Bullitt County for a full day, talking about the exam…and about our people. I was even interviewed by a newspaper in Germany and in Japan. It was a good time for our county.
- Along with co-author Charles Hartley, for several years I wrote a weekly column about Bullitt County in the Pioneer News, and then in the Courier-Journal. Called “Bullitt County Memories” the stories we wrote for the column eventually became two books. Those stores went state-wide and often nationwide, again putting a positive light on our communities and our history.
- While serving on the Bullitt County Library Board of Directors, I helped push, and successfully built, the fine new library building on Highway 61 in Lebanon Junction. I also led a push to get a library branch at Nichols in western Bullitt County. Though I failed to get the full branch library at that time, I did manage to get a special library book drop off / pick-up box on the grounds of Nichols Elementary school. I believe those seeds have paid off in the new Nichols branch library that is now starting to become reality at long last.
- I have served in all offices of local Lions Clubs, a community service organization which I truly love. I also served at the state district level at one time.
- Though a poor attendee, I have been a supportive member of The Grand Lodge of Kentucky, F&AM, for 44 years.
- There are many other examples of service to our county that I could go on about, such as work restoring cemeteries, the historic Bowman’s Valley School, and just helping people get through the maze of government and their feeling of being ignored by officials. I am regularly contacted by citizens having trouble with everything from potholes to interstate lighting trouble, and I am proud that usually, even with no title or authority of my own beyond reputation, I could get the problems solved.
* Now I would just like to see what I could do for our communities WITH a title and a little official authority.