MADISONVILLE, KY (2/7/13)—I met David Jackson before he was the mayor of Madisonville. It was a little over two years ago. At the time, and up until recently, I interacted with David as more of a “traditional” news reporter. However, in retrospect—and regardless of how silly it might sound to some reading this—I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to witness and recount several notable events in his life. In essence, I was recording a part of what will become our city’s history, as well as a prominent portion of a man’s life.
I wrote a “candidate profile” about David that focused on his political stances soon after he announced that he would be running against former mayor, Will Cox; I attended and covered several speeches that he gave while campaigning; I photographed and reported on his official swearing-in ceremony at Living Waters Church several months after he won the race; I analyzed his creation of several community-based subcommittees; I hounded him about changes to city policies and ordinances; I hassled him about funding and budget changes; I spoke with him about city events and community projects like Friday Night Live and 4th Fest; I attended City Hall committee meetings and heard him speak; I heard him advocate new economic developments and investments; I was there when he first announced the city’s plans to construct a Veterans Memorial; and I can’t count the times that people asked me what he had planned for the city. And that’s just scratching the surface, believe it or not. Yet, for all the time I spent recording David’s words, thoughts, and decisions, I never really got to know who he was and what his life had been like.
Of course, I knew some basics about his past and present situation, but most of what I learned was filtered through a certain personal distance between us—a direct result of my hunt for the proverbial “scoop,” no doubt. I can say this, though: David always came across like a happy, personable, and thankful person each I talked to him.
But I wanted to know why; I wanted to find out what made David tick. What made him who he is today? And then I wanted to share what I found with the community. Thankfully, I now have the freedom to do that as a writer, and that’s exactly what this piece is all about.
How did this all come about, you ask? Myself, fellow writer, Jessica Dockrey, and photographer, Jeff Harp, got the opportunity to sit down and talk with David in his office last week. While I was expecting to learn a lot about where he came from, his goals, and what his passions are during our interview, I never figured I would live to see a Madisonville Mayor—much less an accomplished accountant and longtime pastor—pull out a guitar, tune it up using an iPhone app, and jam an original song from behind his executive desk. And if that weren’t enough to make an impression, when we were just beginning to leave after an hour-or-so of talking, Dave proceeded to hand me his 60th anniversary, US-made Fender Stratocaster. He wanted to lend it to me. Was this a dream? Nope. I was just finally getting to know who David—the human being—was.
Beyond his love for music, family, and God, though, we also touched on some key city issues during the conversation. He spoke about the city’s relationship with China, his vision for the future of downtown Madisonville, his take on the former Hopkins County Library buildings, his Reagan-inspired approach to the community we live in, and much more—and it was all told through his own eyes.
So who is David? Though I don’t claim to know everything about the guy, the insightful interview we have transcribed below is well worth reading. Plus, I think it’s safe to say that each member of the Sugg Street Post left the interview thinking of David as a real friend.
Want to know a little about who Dave is? Read on. You might just be surprised.
Luke Short: Where are you and your family from originally? Do you know much about your family’s genealogy?
David Jackson: Honestly, I don’t really know much about my family’s history. My grandparents all passed away when I was young. My dad [Kenneth Jackson] was the youngest of 16 kids, so his parents were older, and they were deceased by the time I was born. My mom’s dad had passed away by that point, too. Then my grandmother passed away when I was about five or six-years-old. So, I grew up not really having grandparents, which is kind of interesting; it was a unique way to grow up. But when I married my wife [Leigh Ann Jackson], and both of her grandparents were alive, I got to experience what it was like to have grandparents. That has been a neat experience for me. My mom and dad, Kenneth and Esther Jackson, were originally from Connersville, Indiana. My dad passed away in 2009, but my mom still lives in Sebree, KY. That’s why I say Louisville like ‘Loo-ee-vile’ instead of ‘Loo-uh-vull.’ I say a lot of things differently, because my parents lived in Indiana for most of their lives, so they both spoke like Hoosiers. I actually noticed it again when I was at the annual [Madisonville-Hopkins County] Chamber of Commerce luncheon this year, and I was giving my speech and said ‘Loo-ee-ville.’ Everyone there kind of looked at me funny, so I said, ‘I mean Loo-uh-vull. It’s right beside Loo-ee-ville’ [laughs]. It was kind of funny, because growing up around people in Kentucky I sounded like a Hoosier, but when I’d visit my family in Indiana they’d call me a ‘Briar,’ and tell me that I sounded like a Kentuckian. The way I talked just never fit in; it was like I was in limbo [laughs].
LS: For those who don’t know anything about your background, could you give me a quick overview of your life and how it has led you to where you are today?
David: I was born in Henderson, KY at the Community Methodist Hospital, but I grew up in Sebree. I went to high school here in Madisonville at Life Christian Academy out on Princeton Pike. From there, I went to the University of Kentucky and graduated in three years with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I worked really hard while I was there. I wanted to get on with my life. Then, I ended up working for Ford Motor Credit right out of college. I would audit dealerships, and one of the dealerships I would audit was Parkway Ford here in Madisonville. At the time, a guy named Danny Renshaw owned the place and he hired me away from Ford. I worked for him for about eight years. Through that, I discovered that I really enjoyed accounting, and I got involved in that aspect of their dealerships. I would travel around to their different dealerships with the vice president of accounting. As a result, I decided to go get enough accounting credits at Murray State University to take the CPA [certified public accountant] exam. Well, I passed the exam and became a CPA. Once I became certified in 1998, I went into public accounting and I’ve been involved with that ever since then. It’s been a very good career for me. Today, I have my own firm. I’ve had my own firm since 2004, and it’s nice. I love the relationship I have with my clients. I feel like it keeps me rooted, or grounded, in both the livelihood of individuals and the business community. Sometimes, I think people get into government and get into this vacuum, and they think, ‘It’s just another tax; it’s not that much,’ but, until you’re out there dealing with people—particularly with their taxes and financial situations—you really don’t see how taxes can affect families. Keeping that in mind, myself, and everyone I work with, have tried to do anything we can to make government more efficient. That’s kind of a quick overview of my life.
LS: Tell me a little bit about your children, Chloe and Jordan, and the story behind how you came together as a family.
David: Leigh Ann and I adopted two children from Guatemala: Jordan, who is 17-years-old, and Chloe, who is 11-years-old. We were able to get both of them when they were eight-months-old, and it was an experience in itself just being in Guatemala. When we adopted Jordan, we were told that we’d be there for ten days, but we got down there and the paperwork wasn’t in order—and the wheels of the government grind really slowly in Central America—so we ended up being there for 30 days. We lived in a Marriott [Hotel] for thirty days, which was fun in its own way, but it was also expensive. Leigh Ann is a diabetic, and she actually got very ill while we were there, so she had to fly home and go directly into the hospital. So, here I was, dealing with my first baby all alone; I’m the only one. I’m ‘Mister Mom’ down in Guatemala for about a week. I actually got a PhD in changing diapers during that period of time [laughs]. It was amazing. We made some really good friends while we were there, I spoke at a few churches down there, and we got to meet the family members of some coffee exporters who have since sent their kids up here to live with us for three or four months at a time so they can learn English. Being that they are successful exporters, their family is very wealthy, and the kids’ dad had been to London through their business to learn English. Well, like I said, he sent his children to Kentucky to learn English. So, when I was talking with him, I explained that those are two totally different languages. Now they know all about pie and biscuits and gravy down in Guatemala [laughs].
Jessica Dockrey: How did you come to the decision that adoption was the way you wanted to go?
David: We really kind of worked it backwards. Most of the time you start with an adoption agency, they work with a country, and they eventually locate a child. Well, the pastor my wife’s family knew in Muhlenberg County, told her family about a missionary in Guatemala who had found out about a young woman who was about to have a baby and planned on giving it up. From there, we found an adoption agency and told them that we had everything set up and kind of laid out, so they worked it from there. It was really kind of neat how it all came together. Today, we still stay in touch with Jordan’s foster family. They are a really wonderful, working-class Christian family down there. They are awesome people. As a matter of fact, they just had a grandson and I got to see photos of him on Facebook yesterday. So it’s really a pretty neat scenario; we kind of have this whole group of people that we’ve created a deep relationship with. They’ve really become a piece of the fabric of our life in a short period of time.
LS: Was there a similar story with your daughter, Chloe?
David: No, getting Chloe took five days [laughs]. We were in and out. It was really great. We actually spent a couple extra days there just because we wanted to visit with everyone. All her paperwork was in order, and that was a result of what we’d learned before—get your paperwork together before you go to Central America. So it was all laid out really well and the adoption agency did a great job. We didn’t get stuck like we did before, which is kind of a scary situation to be in. With Jordan, they told us that we could go back to the US and come back to get him later, but we decided to tough it out. We had already laid our hands on him, so we weren’t going to let go. It was well worth it; it was a great life experience.
LS: Was there anything about Guatemala that really stood out to you?
David: If I could have brought home a plane-load of kids home, I would have. Just seeing the poverty there was striking. You would see children that were eight or nine-years-old on the streets shining shoes for a living. A lot of them didn’t have rags, and their little hands would be jet black from putting polish on them. It was really sad in that sense, but Guatemala is a beautiful country. We’ve gone back to maintain our relationships with our friends, so we’ve been able to see several different parts of the country. Lake Atitlan is an amazing place. It’s a lake that was formed by volcanoes that are situated all around it, some of which are still active. It was almost prehistoric just seeing the mist over the lake and smoke rising out of the volcanoes in the morning time. Interestingly, while Jordan and I were stuck in the hotel the first time we were there, the current Miss Universe came through and we got to meet her, so that was an interesting experience [laughs]. Like I said, it’s all been very life-changing, and I’m so proud of our kids. I thank God for them every day.
LS: What are some of the things Jordan and Chloe like to do?
David: Jordan likes video games, of course. Chloe never has gravitated toward those too much, though. Jordan just started working at the Sonic [Drive-In restaurant] on North Main Street now. I’m really proud of him. He works a couple days a week there. Chloe is one of those girls that love to dress up, but she loves to be out, playing in the dirt, too.
LS: What were some of the things you were into as a kid?
David: I was into a lot. Our family wasn’t very wealthy, so we had to work hard for everything we had. I sold a lot of stuff; I was just into selling things as a kid. I sold newspapers, seeds, greeting cards—just anything I could do to make a little extra money. I also liked to enter contests where you’d have to write a speech or some kind of paper. So, I did that, and I was actually pretty successful. I actually won a trip to Washington, DC when I was a sophomore in high school for writing a paper. It worked out pretty well, but it was always a matter of being creative. If you wanted something, you had to work for it, and you might have to come up with a creative way of making it happen. I think that was good. Most of the time, we want our kids to have it better than the way we had it, but, at the same time, some of those experiences make you stronger and more adaptable to situations that you’ll run into during life.
LS: I know you play a little bit of guitar from time to time, too. Did that start when you were young?
David: I actually started playing guitar when I was 12-years-old. My mom and dad bought a guitar for me, and that’s been a part of my life ever since. I’ve written some songs—nothing that was ever published anywhere—but I keep a guitar here in my office [at City Hall]. I’ve had people come in and play, too. [Local country performer] Ray Ligon came in and brought his guitar one time, and I’ve had a couple others come by with guitars so that we could have had a little jam session. I wrote a song that I sang and me and my wife’s wedding. I’ve worked on this other song forever, which I’ll play for you here in a second. It’s called, “God Bless the Children.” I’ve never written a second verse, though. [Dave walks to a bookshelf in his office, grabs a colorful Esteban brand guitar from a soft case, and begins to tune it behind his desk using a smartphone app. He mentions that he also has a collectible, US-made Fender Stratocaster in the office as well] Playing guitar is something I wanted to get into on my own. We lived out in the country in Sebree, so I would take my guitar outside and play for hours, just writing songs. It really became a part of my life, and I still play at my church, Living Waters, where I’m a pastor. I’ve been there for about 13 years now. Ok, this is the song here [Dave begins to play and sing his heartfelt song, “God Bless the Children,” much to our delight. Applause ensues].
LS: Wow, you’re a great singer and player. You’ve actually played at a couple city-sponsored events, too, haven’t you?
David: I played at [Madisonville’s monthly summer festival] Friday Night Live. They couldn’t find anybody else, and I love to do it, so I was happy to help out. I usually perform Christian rock or praise and worship music with a few friends. But again, I love to play and it’s a big part of my life. I usually play a Takamine, which is a little more of a higher-quality, studio-type guitar. Garth Brooks always played Takamines, so that’s part of the reason I got it. I guess it’s as old as Living Waters now. I got it when we opened up and it’s been a great guitar.
LS: Is the Takamine the oldest guitar you have?
David: No, I actually still own my very first guitar. It’s an Epiphone. You just don’t get rid of these things; they’re you’re friends. I’ll lend them out sometimes, and sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. I have a Fender acoustic that was like that. I lent it out to my second cousin’s son, and he actually plays now; lending him the guitar actually got him involved. I’ve tried to get my kids involved, but they just haven’t taken to the guitar yet.
LS: When you were 12, was there something specific that made you want to play?
David: We went to church here in Madisonville at Life Temple on Park Avenue, and it was a church that was really involved in music. There was a southern gospel group from Madisonville called The Happy Goodman Family, and they were a nationally touring gospel music band. Mixing that with the church’s involvement with music, I just naturally gravitated toward it—toward playing guitar and music in general. Playing guitar is just a great outlet. Every once in a while, I’ll drag people in here and say, “Let’s sing! Let’s jam!” It really breaks down a lot of barriers, too.
LS: Have you always sang and played simultaneously?
David: I’ve always done both. I don’t do either one very well, but I’ve always really enjoyed it.
LS: Who taught you how to play?
David: A guy that played guitar at our church taught me how to play. He would write out the chords to a song, and as soon as I learned that song, he would give me another song. The way he did it was really good; he figured out how to motivate me. He didn’t just give me a whole bunch of songs and say, “Here, work on these.” He said, “Here’s a song. If you come back and play this for me, I’ll give you another one.” That’s really how I learned.
LS: What kind of music is your favorite? Who do you listen to the most?
David: I kind of have an eclectic taste in music; I like all kinds. If I had to pick out the kind of music I like the most, I’d say jazz. My absolute favorite jazz performer is Diana Krall, hands down. She’s a Canadian artist, and she and Tony Bennett did a “Two For the Road” tour a few years ago that was great. She’s awesome; she’s a piano player. She’s just amazing, and she has an amazing voice. She’s married to Elvis Costello—you may know him. If you ever get a chance to go see her or listen to her music, you’ll see why she’s so great. Then, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra are my other favorites, so that’s the kind of jazz I like. I like some of the newer artists, too, like Michael Bublé. I listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music as well.
LS: Other than playing music and writing for contests, was there anything else you liked as a kid? Any sports?
David: When I was in elementary school, I played basketball. I know it’s hard for you to believe, but I did [laughs, pointing out his height]. I was number “3” on the team, and the “3” would go down into my shorts—it was back when we tucked our jerseys in—so I looked like I was a backwards “C” [laughs]. It was like that was my number. I was one of those guys that got put in the game when were like 50 points ahead and there was a minute left in the game. They were like, “Get in there, Dave. This is your moment!” I was the only kid that gained weight during little league [laughs]. I’d sit there and eat at the concession stand; I basically had a frequent flyer card with the concession stand, so they loved me. I supported little league in that way [laughs]. Needless to say, I never was a great athlete.
LS: Is there anything athletic that you do today?
David: I went through a period of time where I’d swim a mile every day down at the YMCA, and I loved the folks there. I also ride bikes a lot. I have a road bike. I ride it and train on it quite a bit. It’s one of the only exercises that I’ve been able to stay with, because I can do it indoors and at odd hours. I do have a mountain bike, but I’ve never tried going off-road too much. I’d like to try sometime. They say the trails out at Grapevine Lake are pretty awesome. The Pennyrile Area Cyclists group was instrumental in fixing the lake trails up, and I do ride with them. They’re a great group. I used to run a little, but now, at 46, I jog. There’s more I’d like to do, too.
LS: Tell me about how you met your wife, Leigh Ann?
David: We met at church. I was away at the University of Kentucky—it was my freshman year—and my dad of all people calls, and he says, “There’s this brown-eyed girl that just started coming to church. You’ve got to come and meet her.” So, of course, I came home that weekend and met her [laughs], and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve been together now for 26 years. It’s been, and still is, a good marriage. She’s my partner in everything I do. She works with me at the [David W. Jackson] CPA firm and I feel like she does a great job as the First Lady of Madisonville. She helps at the church, too; she’s very involved in the ministry. She’s truly been my partner in everything that we’ve done through life.
LS: At what point did you decide to go into politics? And why?
David: I’ve always been kind of interested in doing something like this and it probably goes back to writing speeches as a child. Some of them were at the level of policy and things like that. Then, the trip I mentioned earlier—the trip to Washington, DC that I won when I was in high school and wrote a paper for the Henderson Union Rural Electric Cooperative—probably had something to do with it. They had a contest where you had to write an essay entitled, “Our Power is Our People.” It was kind of neat for me, because I had written a lot of patriotic pieces before, so it was kind of a synthesis of a lot of things. I won the trip and the first thing we did was meet the governor and lieutenant governor. We actually went and ate lunch at the lieutenant governor’s house. We got to meet our state senators and our state representatives. For a kid in high school, that was a pretty big deal. Then, I got selected out of that group to go and represent Kentucky in Washington, DC. The trip was just full of great experiences. One of the coolest experiences was when we got to tour the White House. While we were there, these guys came in and said, “Hey we’ve got a really special, but unplanned, treat for you. If you will gather on the South Lawn of the White House, the president will be landing in just a few minutes in his helicopter and he’ll great you as he’s going by.” It was President [Ronald] Reagan. It was really neat, because we watched as the helicopter came into view and everything. The secret service said, “From the moment the helicopter comes into view until the moment he’s inside the White House, don’t be silly; don’t make any sudden movements.” As the helicopter came in, and the wind was beating the secret service men’s’ jackets, you could see an Uzi [firearm] under each of their arms. Needless to say, everyone stood really still; we didn’t even breathe I don’t think [laughs]. That was great, and I actually got to meet some of the president’s cabinet. It was just a different era back then in DC. They basically turned us loose in the senate office and the congressional office buildings, and we got autographs and other things like that. I just happened to run into [US Secretary of Transportation] Drew Lewis and some other members of President Reagan’s cabinet, and I just stood there and visited with them. They talked with us. That really piqued my interest. You know, these guys ran the country, but they were willing to talk to a high school student from Kentucky that wrote an essay. That kind of got me going, and I’ve always loved President Reagan. He’s obviously my political hero. I kind of idolize him and I’ve studied a lot about his life.
LS: What are some of the reasons that you like President Reagan, and how do you relate his political philosophies to Madisonville?
David: The thing that I like the most about President Reagan was that he always talked about America as “the shining city on a hill,” which falls under the term of “American Exceptionalism.” As a country, we’d gone through a pretty tough recession at the end of the ‘70s—and he came in during 1980—and we’d gone through the Iran “hostage crisis,” so a lot of people thought that America was past its prime at that point in time. But President Reagan came in and said, “We’re still the shining city on the hill that the rest of the world looks to. We have to provide leadership,” and there’s kind of a correlation with that and Madisonville. Madisonville is an exceptional community. Even the slogan says, “We’re the Best Town on Earth.” We don’t say we’re an “average town,” we say we’re the “best town on Earth.” That shows that same concept of exceptionalism, and I really believe that’s propelled Madisonville forward—not just since I’ve been Mayor, but through all the preceding administrations. We think we can be the best, so we strive toward that. That’s the way I look at Madisonville and what we can be. Amazingly, since I’ve had the opportunity to be the Mayor, we’ve had a lot of regional cities that we’ve reached out to and helped. We had the Mayor of Paducah [Gayle Kaler] and their city commissioners visit Madisonville a week ago to look at our iRecycle program to see how they could get that started in Paducah. We got to present information on the iRecycle program and Madisonville’s GoMadisonville [customer service project] at one of Governor Steve Beshear’s “local issues” conferences last year. So, here’s Madisonville, this relatively small town of about 19,000 people—we’re about the 20th largest city in the state of Kentucky—showing innovation and leading the way on some issues. I think if you consider your community or your country as being exceptional, then you do things to try and realize that dream. I think that has really helped Madisonville. What you guys are doing [with the SuggStreetPost.com] is exceptional, too. To have a news project that kind of goes against the grain is great. Most news is bad news; most news is based around sensationalism; most news organizations try to sell papers by running people down; most news organizations try to sell you costly advertising; but what you guys are doing with the Sugg Street Post is uplifting. That’s pretty neat, and, like I said, it’s exceptional. That’s how I want to view the world. I want to do everything I can to continue that legacy of being the “Best Town on Earth” in Madisonville, of being exceptional.
LS: That relates back to a question I was going to ask you actually. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as the Mayor?
David: The thing I’m absolutely the proudest of that I’ve gotten to be a part of as Mayor is the Veterans Memorial [on North Center Street]. When I came into office, I felt like that was something I wanted to accomplish. As you know, we have a very patriotic community, and the community has shown their support for it by donating about 200,000 dollars. Actually, when you throw in the “in-kind” donations, we’ve raised in excess of that amount. It looks great and it’s a point of pride. I was coming into the office on Thanksgiving Day to pick something up and, as I was driving by the memorial, I noticed an elderly gentleman with a walker, and walking right beside him was either a grandson or a great-grandson. I didn’t have a camera with me, but I wish I had. I just thought, “That is why we built this thing,” to transfer that understanding from one generation to another that freedom isn’t free, that the freedoms we enjoy are possible because someone, somewhere, paid the price—or are paying the price—for them, and that we really owe our veterans a huge debt of gratitude. That’s something I’m really happy to have been a part of, and I hope that it is, in some way, a legacy for our administration. Also, some of the day-to-day things we do, such as GoMadisonville.com, help in reaching out to our citizens as customers instead of just taxpayers. We are trying to show that we recognize our obligation to them, and that we are accountable.
LS: Though this is your first of possibly two terms, do you have any plans in mind for your post-Mayor years?
David: No, not at this point in time. I’m planning on running again at the end of this term and I’m having a great time. I love being involved. Even when it’s difficult, through tough decisions and hard times, simply getting to be a part of those tough decisions is a great honor and opportunity. I’m pretty happy. We cut the budget when I first came in by working closely with the Madisonville City Council, which is a great group of people. I love all of them. We were able to cut the city’s budget by about 4 million dollars that first year; we cut about 700,000 dollars out of the general fund. Now, two years later, we’ve paid down 4 million dollars in debt and, as a result, we were able to purchase a lot of new equipment last year. We got some heavy equipment, like the new trucks with snow plows and some other stuff like that, and we just wrote checks for it. We didn’t, and still don’t, have to go out and borrow money for purchases like that. The City of Madisonville is in really, really good condition financially. We have about 80 days of cash on-hand in the general fund, as well as a few million dollars in other funds. So, we really are in good shape. And, again, that shows that exceptionalism I was talking about. When a lot of cities are facing economic trials and difficulties, we are blessed to be where we are, and it’s because of the community we have. Everyone works hard and that supports the services of the city.
LS: I’m sure your background in accounting has figured into that scenario, too.
David: It has. It’s given me a certain comfort level with working on the budgeting process. I didn’t want to do a budget adjustment where you just add or take two percent from last year. We do what’s known as “zero base” budgeting where we have to go through and justify every single line. It takes a lot longer and it’s a lot more grueling, but the end product is good because sometimes you have to increase the lines in some parts of the budget, but, overall, you hope to continue in putting downward pressure to decrease the burden put on taxpayers. So far, we’ve been pretty fortunate to do that. Plus, we keep getting great job announcements for our community, which adds to those tax rolls in the right way—not by increasing taxes, but by increasing jobs and opportunity. With that, I think we will see even brighter days ahead. There are some other great things we’re working on, too.
LS: One of those things is our city’s ongoing relationship with business leaders in China. Tell me a little bit about your recent Sister Cities-based trip to Dongying and what may soon come of it.
David: Our trip to China was awesome. It was probably the most grueling seven days of my life [laughs], especially considering I’d never dealt with a 14-hour time difference and jetlag that was just unbelievable. But it was a great opportunity. Presenting Madisonville on a world stage was incredible. As a result of our ongoing relationship and our recent trip there, several business leaders from the Shendong Equipment Group, as well as representatives from several other manufacturers, are planning on coming to Madisonville toward the end of February or March with the mindset of, “How we can work together?” and “How can we create some manufacturing opportunities?” So there are some really good opportunities here, and I really anticipate that we’ll get something good out of the deal.
LS: What would you tell someone who is unsure of Madisonville dealing with a foreign country like China?
David: You know, people have asked me—and it’s a legitimate question—“Why would we deal with a communist country?” The bottom line of it is that the Chinese, as investors, have made the decision to manufacture in North America. That decision is based on the cost of transportation and the costs of increasing wages in Asia. They are starting to see those wages rise. So, now, the pendulum is swinging back, and it’s actually becoming better for them to manufacture products in North America. With that in mind, the question we have to ask as a community is, “Do we want those jobs here or do we want them to go to Clarksville, or Owensboro, or Henderson, or Hopkinsville, or somewhere like that?” And the way I look at it, is that these jobs—that will hopefully be created—are going to be governed by American labor laws. Plus, the businesses will have to offer competitive wages and benefits to compete in our job markets. That being said, I’d like to have those jobs here for our people. We have to diversify our economy. I love coal and I’m a supporter of the coal industry, but, unfortunately, coal doesn’t get the same support from Washington that we would like to see it get. So, if coal continues to have that pressure put upon it, we really need to diversify our economy. Now, at the same time, I’m all for opening up the export markets, which is part of what we’re doing with China, to keep the coal industry safe and healthy. At the same time, I’m hopeful that administrations realize that there are clean ways to burn coal that don’t harm the environment, and that we should take advantage of such a great natural resource. That’s kind of what we’re working toward. My prayer is that coal remains really strong, and if that happens—and we’ve also managed to add a larger manufacturing base into Madisonville’s economy—then we’re just going to be better off. On that topic, I’d like to diversify in the food market, too. I’d like for us to add more food manufacturing, because that kind of works as an “anti-recessionary” tool. If you go through a recession, food usually stays pretty strong. People are still going to eat even when they have to give up some of the other luxuries in life. I’d also like to see [the local development project] Mid-Town Commons completed. That’s another great opportunity for us. I’d like to see the area north of Mid-Town Commons become a light industrial zone. In fact, I’d love to see it become what’s known as a foreign trade zone; an area where we could attract businesses outside of the US. If we can create the environment for foreign investors and businesses to come in and operate economically, then we can create even more jobs here.
LS: Is there anything you’d like to see change in downtown Madisonville in the future?
David: My real hope for downtown Madisonville is that we can develop it into a restaurant, entertainment, and professional district. I think that’s the real hope for the future. With the potential advent of numerous second-floor living arrangements, I really think specialty shops could be supported in our city’s downtown environment. I’d also love to see the old City Hall building come down. It has several structural issues, so if we could replace it with a permanent stage, we could open up the downtown Madisonville area to more events. When we do Friday Night Live, we have to rent the stage and it takes another day just to get it all prepared. If we could get a permanent stage downtown, similar to what they have in Greenville, KY—Greenville is doing a great job with this by the way—we could tie in a lot of aspects of our city’s commerce with entertainment. I’d like to see us move in that direction. I think there’s a lot of potential there.
LS: What’s your take on the former Hopkins County Library buildings? Should they be saved or destroyed?
David: I’d love to see the former library buildings saved. The reason I’ve been banging the drum and holding public meetings is because I don’t want to see those buildings go to waste if we can prevent it. Of course, though, public safety is my over-arching concern. Fortunately, it’s looking like they can be saved. To hear our city’s building inspector come in and say that the buildings need to be condemned, and that we were probably going to have to bring them down, really made my blood run cold. I agree with the gentleman who came from the Kentucky Historic Trust to assess the buildings. Taking the buildings down would be like “Madisonville getting its front teeth knocked out.” That’s exactly what it would be like. Again though, our main concern is safety as a city. So, if we can get those buildings safe, where they don’t pose a hazard to people or other properties, I’m certainly hopeful that we could restore them and make them usable.
LS: Here’s a quick “favorites” line of questioning to close this out with. What’s your favorite food?
David: Let me see. I just like so much, but my favorite food to cook is biscuits and gravy. My favorite drink is sweat tea. I’m a sweet tea fan. You always know when you’re in the south, because you can get sweet tea. If you go somewhere else and ask for sweet tea, they might look at you kind of funny.
LS: Favorite movie?
David: Well, I don’t watch a lot of movies or TV. I do watch some documentaries. Going back to President Reagan, I’ll say that the two-part documentary, The American Experience: Ronald Reagan, is one of my favorites.
LS: Favorite book?
David: It would have to be the Bible. Being a longtime minister, and a pastor at Living Waters today, the relationship I have with God allows for a lot of great things to flow.
Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo by Jeff Harp