Ron Daley, who serves on the East Kentucky Leadership Board of Directors, said he thinks this year’s meeting will be one of the largest gathering of political leaders the conference has seen in the past few years, and confirmations from leaders across the state who plan to attend are still coming in.
Among those who are scheduled to attend so far include Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, UK President Dr. Lee Todd, and Secretary of Finance Jonathan Miller among others. Daley noted that several other political leaders from Kentucky have been invited as well, including Senate President David Williams.
“It looks like we’re going to have more legislators than we’ve ever had,” Daley said.
This year’s conference will have a good mix of bipartisan leaders and leaders on a local level as well, Daley noted, and that’s a positive step in aiding the overall focus of the conference each year by stirring discussion on projects that can and will push the region forward.
“We don’t try to do projects per se,” Daley said. “The goal is to get people together and facilitate discussion and encourage things to happen.”
The conference is scheduled to open on Thursday, April 23 with early bird sessions at 10 a.m. that will include topics on mental health and aging and how to apply for Appalachian Regional Commission grants, and a session with P-16 on closing gaps in education attainment.
That evening the awards portion of the conference will include a speech from Gov. Beshear and a keynote speech from Dr. Ron Eller, a premier scholar on Appalachia who also contributed to the recent 20/20 report on Eastern Kentucky for ABC. Also recognized during the ceremony will include the United Way of Southeastern Kentucky with a special recognition of Hazard resident Gaylan Good and the country music duo David Tolliver and Chad Warrix of Halfway to Hazard who hail from Knott and Breathitt Counties.
Friday’s sessions will begin at 8:30 a.m., and will include topics on economic development, the future of coal, adventure tourism, and the need for a regional think tank, Daley added.
Last year’s conference was held in Morehead, and created during that conference was the East Kentucky Initiative, which Daley said was a work that noted what leaders need to do to improve quality of life in the region.
Daley, who resides in Hazard and works as the senior director for advancement and governmental relations for Hazard Community and Technical College, said he’s excited to have this year’s conference be hosted in Hazard because of the large collection of political leaders he thinks it will draw. But he also hopes that everyone who is community minded will find time to attend the two-day event as well.
“It’s not just about people that hold office,” he said. “It’s about anybody who wants to get involved in the community. If you’re interested in the community you’re a leader, and I invite everybody to come out and be a part of it.”