FORUM: Magistrate hopefuls discuss salaries, merging government

Published 8:57 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Among the seats on the Clark County Fiscal Court, the May primary will decide who fills one seat, whether a current magistrate will continue her campaign and who will face incumbents in November.

Second district Magistrate Pam Blackburn is facing challenger Kevin Warner in the Democratic primary.

One recent issue around the fiscal court involves the vote to increase salaries for the magistrates taking office in 2019, which will cost the county more than $46,000 annually.

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“I voted for those increases as it doesn’t start until January 2019,” Blackburn said. “The magistrate increases in 2006-10 cost a lot more than it will in 2019. I’d hate to think I approved a pay plan and didn’t include the magistrates.”

Warner said the salary was secondary to the position.

“It’s really a volunteer job,” he said. “We try to support our families with a main job. If you look at pay raises for some of our county employees…. they need pay raises too. We could use that $45,000 for other things.”

Both said they would not support efforts to merge the city and county governments, but split slightly on supporting the health department’s needle exchange program.

“It is a good program to exchange needles for the issue of disease,” Warner said, but not for giving addicts new needles to further the habit. “It’s hard to differentiate between the two.”

Blackburn, who works at Clark Regional Medical Center, said she supports it wholeheartedly.

“If we can cut back on (hepatitis) C and some of the diseases, we have to do what we can,” she said. “It’s a continuous problem and we have to do everything we can so our kids are safe and we are safe.”

The other sitting magistrate in Tuesday’s forum, Greg Elkins, faced candidate Kenneth Anderson. Both are Republicans running for the district 4 magistrate seat. As no Democrats filed, the primary will decide the race.

In his opening statement, Anderson pledged that, if elected, he would return the increased magistrate salary to the county for other uses.

“I believe in public service not self service,” he said. “Control of department heads is not part of the magistrate’s job description.”

Elkins, who was appointed in December 2016 to fill an unexpired term, said he will continue to use his business experience to guide his efforts on the court and the county’s budget.

“I found our jail was costing our county and taxpayers about $900,000 annually,” he said. By working with the jail and the county to cut expenses and increase revenue, Elkins said he helped bring that cost down to $400,000 a year.

Anderson said his hope was “to secure the services for Clark County’s citizens. The county employees have gone too long not getting their fair share.”

Elkins said he saw the magistrate’s role on the fiscal court as managing the county finances and setting laws and ordinances.

“My 25 years of budget experience lends itself to approving balanced budgets for the county,” he said.

For Anderson, it is about service to the residents.

“The role of magistrate is to see employees are paid well, services are provided and that department heads live within their budget,” he said. “Farmers get paid once or twice a year so we have to manage our money quite well.”

In the third district, the Democratic primary features former state representative and rural road commissioner Don Pasley and farmer Mike Sosby.

“We can do a better job marketing our industrial park and our community,” Pasley said. “We need to provide a track for our young people to a good job, not idleness and drug abuse.”

“I am a farmer,” Sosby said. “I am not a politician. I want to make a difference. I believe in getting things done.”

Pasley said he thinks being a magistrate requires a legislator’s mindset.

“It is the legislative body of the county,” he said. “You need the perspective of a legislator. As rural road commissioner, I worked in every county in Kentucky and every city for five years.”

Sosby promised to be accessible in the community and meet people where they are to seek their thoughts.

“I think we need to work with everybody in the county,” he said. “I want to work with the government. I want to learn the programs and do right for our community.”

The final debate of the night was between James Nisbet and Michael Hack, Republican candidates for the district 6 magistrate seat.

“It’s my time to step in and improve the community,” Hack said. “We do have issues, especially the drug issue. We have roads that need to be worked on. Winchester can be a lot better than what it is today.”

Nisbet said he wanted to work to bring unity to county government.

“A divided community can not stand,” he said. “Once we have … synergy on the fiscal court, that will spread and we can accomplish all kinds of things.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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