Rhonda Allen Barnett
For anyone who has spent time in the courthouse, there has always been a sense of family for the folks who work in our local government. We lift each other up like family, we gossip like family, and we fight like family. But perhaps, no one who has ever occupied the halls of that building has ever been more committed to the idea of family than our next inductee.
Rhonda Allen Barnett served for years as a deputy clerk, before rolling the dice and running for the office herself. On election day, she won not only the race, but the hearts and minds of Powell County in the process. To visit her office felt far more like visiting your Aunt Rhonda than it ever felt like a business transaction. Not to mention the fact that she registered an entire generation to vote.
Rhonda didn’t just remember your name, but the name of your spouse, parents, and probably even the family dog. From 1994-2017, Rhonda Allen Barnett was the heart of local government and as a friend once said, “the Muhammad Ali of Powell County Politics.”
It truly is our honor to induct the woman who gave so much of her heart and souls not just to her work, but to our party and our county.
Bernard “Nig” Billings
Unfortunately, many of our wonderful Democrats of Powell County have their stories lost through failure to keep their memory and accomplishments alive. We at the Powell County Democrat Executive Committee strive to keep the memory of great Powell County Democrats of yesteryear alive. One such valuable and important Democrat in Powell County was Bernard E. “Nig” Billings. Billings was part of a large and prominent family in Powell County which dedicated their lives to serving others. Billings was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1964 to serve the 73rd District, which included Powell County. Billings served in the House until 1966, before being elected to the 28th District of the Kentucky Senate in 1970. He served in the Senate until 1973. He and his wife Polly Billngs Tuttle were well- respected members of the community and successful business entrepreneurs, opening such beloved Powell County businesses as Billings Drugs and the All-N-All shop. Today, we honor the late Senator Billings.
In so many ways, politics is a sport. With local, state, and federal government on the line, we bat the ball back and forth, with occasional Hall of Famers popping up to leave a real legacy to be enshrined for years to come. Its hard to imagine someone who embodied both in the way Charlie Childers did.
As Mayor of Stanton, Mayor Childers put his fellow citizens above himself and gave his time to build a better community. Charlie and his beloved wife, Rose, who was an entire staple of the community unto herself. Never had children of their own, but selflessly gave their lives to the kids fortunate enough to grow up in their era.
Charlie served our community as a teacher, a coach, a superintendent, and today our Powell County Pirates play baseball on a field that bears his name. Mr. Childers never sought a high profile, nor did he ever want recognition. Quietly, he rode in on his white horse, with nothing but pure intentions.
A working- class hero is something to be, as John Lennon said. And in Charlie Childers we were blessed to have one.
Before terms like “community organizer” and “grass roots campaigns” became common political terminology, candidates knew that if they wanted to reach voters in the west end of the county, they needed to talk to Darnell Fletcher. He had the respect of all his neighbors and friends. A veteran of the United States Air Force, and eventual retiree from El Paso Energy, Darnell was also a Sunday school teacher and superintendent with Pine Grove CME Church. He passed on his knowledge of the candidates in local elections, and even gave rides to the polls when needed. He was a fixture in our community and a proud Democrat. Darnell placed a high value on his family and left a legacy of education, civic responsibility, and spirituality. According to his son, who spoke at his induction, Darnell tried to make sure that even if didn’t hold office, he always tried to make sure the right people did.
Few people have every invoked a more endearing image of Powell County as a “Mayberry” like town than our own Scotty Frazier. Scotty was no stranger to public service, having served as, at that time, the state’s youngest election official at the age of 18. Scotty was an accomplished barber and an all-around beloved friend to everyone he met. After some tumultuous years had hit the office of the Powell County Clerk’s Office, Scotty Frazier stepped up to the plate and became the new Powell County Clerk in 1994. Scotty served in that position and led us into the new millennium, retiring in 2002. Scotty is looked upon by all that knew him as a kind-hearted genuine man of God, and today we honor him for the beloved figure he is, he was always there to serve us whether it was giving us a Kojak or a car tag, Mr. Scotty Frazier.
One thing I can tell you about Bobby Ginter, is that you never quite knew where you stood with him. And if you knew Bobby, you know how funny that first statement was.
Honestly, Bobby never had much of a passion for politics, he had a passion for people. He had a fire that burned for what was right, and he was a relentless fighter for his community and for Clay City. When too many held office just to benefit themselves, Bobby Ginter never once thought of himself, only what he could leverage for his neighbors.
Bobby was the mark of a man. A coach, a father, a husband, and a tireless public servant who never once failed to tell you exactly how he felt and why you should seriously consider feeling the same way. He opened himself up to us all, just like the buttons on his shirt, and he pointed us in the right direction like the weather-vane bill of his baseball cap.
Mr. Ginter prided himself on integrity, and as one of the longest serving members of the Powell County Fiscal Court, his works will be forever bound in the legacy of our county. He believed in this county, he believed in its people, and those who worked in local government always knew that he believed in them.
When Bobby passed away, an important era ended in our county. But I would like to leave you with a quote from the Clay City Times, which so perfectly memorialized the man. “He had common sense answers to difficult questions, a quick humor and often times his harsh response to situations made him an interesting figure in politics. It also made him no one to forget.”
With this honor today, I hope we can cement that all generations will never forget the man we all knew. The unforgettable Bobby Ginter.
Powell County may not have been a place where a lot of coal was mined, but we were lucky enough to mine a coal miner’s daughter. Growing up in a large family in Cabin Creek, West Virginia, Karen Graham came up spending scrip in the company store, hearing stories of the labor wars from those who were there, and making friends on abandoned gun turrets from when the Pinkerton Guards came to take their pound of flesh from the people of Kanawha County.
She could tell you more about mining, about work, about family, or about why we’re all here today celebrating democracy, than most. Karen is a trailblazing woman who started from nothing and built her reputation on grit, determination, ethics, and pride in her life, her family, and her party. She was one of the first female members of our Executive Committee, and served as secretary for years, until taking the reigns as Powell County Clerk.
If any word sums her up, its humility. We all know that she’s too humble to stand here. We all know that her accomplishments, her legacy, and her unforgettable mark on this community are never things she would want us to mention. So, we’ll induct her with a story we know that she would approve of: Last month, as ring bearer for a wedding, her grandson, Charleston Allen Jolly Graham, (who is 5 years old, mind you), was asked to name his favorite president. This wedding, I should say, was populated with almost exclusive Republicans. Without missing a beat, Charlie loudly and proudly announced, “Barack Obama!” And then proceeded to defend his opinion well into the reception. It is our pleasure to induct Charlie’s Grandma, Karen Sue Graham.
Carlton “Bezel” Hall
Carlton “Bezel” Hall was one of the most genuinely interesting people to ever hold court, whether it was in the courtroom, or the diner. To Bezel, politics was never a job. It was just who he was. HE embraced his life, and in his life, he wrapped his public service. He was both larger than the community around him, and at the same time, the quiet humility of country life.
To Bezel, the hills that wrapped his family were greater than the roadways he curated as Deputy Judge. His commitment to the environment was born in the years protecting our state’s natural resources as an officer for Fish and Wildlife, and in his work toward building a recycling program in Powell County, which has become the envy of the state.
He never took “no” for an answer. When it seemed impossible to build a zero waste Powell County, Bezel refused to accept that. When he worked to sway a vote over lunch, he refused to accept that too.
More than anything, Bezel Hall was everyone’s grandfather. We talk about those people who seem to be community parents, but in a time when we need them more than ever, Bezel never let you feel alone. He never failed, nor did he ever flinch, to grab you by the shoulder and remind you the you were appreciated, and that you mattered. Today, with this induction, we hope he knows how much he mattered to all of us.
Billy Joe Martin
Milestones are frequently marked in Powell County by signage bearing the names of important Powell Countians. Proudly displayed at our courthouse is the name of one of Powell county’s public servants: Billy Joe Martin. Billy Joe Martin first entered the political arena in 1970 when he won the office of Powell County Sheriff. He served in that capacity until 1974, when he was elected County Judge. Billy Joe has the unique distinction of being both the last County Judge and the first Powell County Judge Executive. Billy Joe was known for being able to tackle difficult situations and charge head-on. After the Kentucky government instituted the so called “New Court” in 1975, drastic changes took place in both judicial and county governance. No longer were county leaders allowed to hold court and hear cases, that task now went to the newly created judicial system. The position of “County Judge” became the “County Judge Executive” and the position took on a more county-based, legislative and executive role.
Billy Joe took on the position head on in 1978 and secured Powell County a new courthouse, which is still in use today. Though the name of the “Billy Joe Martin Government Center” might not have stuck, the memory of this great Powell County Public servant lives on through his family: His son, the late Joe Martin, served as Powell County Sheriff from 2002-2006; his son-in-law, Timmy Tipton, is currently serving magistrate; his grandsons, Marty Tipton, Chief of Police in Clay City, and Hunter Martin, Deputy Jailer at the Powell County Jail. Though Billy Joe’s smiling face, (with a toothpick sticking out) might not be seen in the halls of the courthouse anymore, his legacy and honorable accomplishments live on.
Carl Wells, Sr.
One of the most genuine and kind-hearted servants of Powell County was the late Carl Wells, Sr. Carl Wells was, for most of us, the only Powell County coroner many of us can remember coming to us in our time of sorrow. Carl served nobly in the position of Powell County Coroner for an astonishing 44 years. Carl Wells was active in his community serving as a member of the Powell County Lions Club, Boy Scout Troop Leader, Charter Member of the Powell County Flying Club and the Beachfork Golf Club, a Mason and member of the Order of Eastern Star. Carl had a gift for being able to take a family in their time of need and comfort them as only he could. Though Mr. Well’s is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through his family and their public service to this county. We at the Powell County Democratic Executive Board know Mr. Wells would be beaming with pride as we will elect this November not only a fine Democrat but also the first female coroner in Powell County history, his granddaughter, Megan Wells Davis. Join us in a round of applause as we honor the legacy of the late Carl Wells, Sr. by inducting him into the Powell County Democrats Hall of fame, class of 2018.