Leadership Kentucky visits Somerset-Pulaski County

Posted on: September 28, 2023
LKY 2023 Somerset

Written by John Bevington, Director, Business & Economic Development, LG&E and KU, Leadership Kentucky Class of 2023


As the 2023 Leadership Kentucky Class continues to grow closer and build long-lasting bonds, it also is experiencing some of Kentucky’s greatest attributes and is exposed to challenges and opportunities.  The fourth session marks the halfway point of the journey and placed the class in beautiful Somerset.  Somerset is well known for its adjacency and proximity to Lake Cumberland, which attracts visitors from all over Kentucky and the U.S. every year and has a shoreline that is longer than the Florida mainland coastline.  However, there was so much more to explore in Somerset as the class learned during the session.

The class boarded the bus on day one and embarked upon two visits to highlight the area's agri-tourism industry, which is what it says: tourist attractions built around agriculture.  Bear Wallow farm, in Nancy, Kentucky was up first and is where Wesley and Alicia Logsdon have taken a farm turned local tourist attraction into a regional hub of family fun.  Alicia greeted the class with locally made popcorn and bottled water and gave the history of how their attraction started and continues to grow.  From pig racing to corn mazes to apple blasters, a pumpkin launcher, and games galore, it’s easy to see how this section of the family farm brings people from all over the region to have a good time.  Next, the class traveled to nearby Haney’s Appledale Farm to hear from a fifth-generation family member about how they’ve not only maintained their successful business but how they continue to utilize old cultivation techniques with more modern ways of doing business.  Without a doubt, the highlight of the visit to Haney’s was the fried apple pies the class was able to enjoy thanks to the generous donation by Teresa Hail, Leadership Kentucky Class of 2008 and the 2019 LKY Board Chair!

The class then traveled back into Somerset and set off on a scavenger hunt through the downtown arts and historic districts of Somerset.  Teams of classmates trekked through the city spotting and snapping pictures of historic landmarks, visiting local businesses, and sampling local fare.  A winning team emerged, checking all of the scavenger boxes.  The rest of the class will continue to remind them that they had a particularly talented classmate on their team…and that the rest of the class isn’t bitter. HA

The final stop of the first day was at The Virginia Theatre, a historic spot where citizens of the community have been entertained for generations, and which has recently been renovated thanks to vision from the community and an outpouring of support.  Here, we also learned about how Somerset is thriving in the economic development space from Chris Girdler, President and CEO of SPEDA (the Somerset-Pulaski County Economic Development Authority).  It was clear from Chris and John Alexander, the community's Public Information Officer, that it truly is a visionary leadership team and community buy-in that is creating the success that Somerset is enjoying.

Day two began with the class visiting Trifecta Houseboats, which is world-renowned for the hand-crafted marvels that give Somerset the title of “Houseboat Capitol of the World.”  It was fascinating to see boats as long as 122 feet come together in luxury fashion, which will be shipped all over the United States.  While the industry was once in decline, more visionary leadership led to the merger of three companies into one, taking on the name of a famous horse racing bet. 

The afternoon was spent at Rocky Hollow Park, learning about Lake Cumberland and the agencies that create tourist opportunities and market the region to potential visitors, and a panel led by classmate Amy Stroud introduced more initiatives that are making Somerset a great place to live.  After some group work and a great classmate panel discussion on the banking and financing industry, everyone marched to City Hall to have a truly unique experience.  The Somerset Police Department educated the class on real-world scenarios and put several classmates into actual training situations that personified the challenges and sacrifices that our law enforcement professionals engage in daily.  One aspect involved simulated video training where the trainer could modify the scenario based on verbal communication from the training participant.  The other was a simulated traffic stop, with a class member trainee equipped with a paintball gun and an actual police officer posing as an unruly citizen being stopped for a normal traffic violation.  Multiple scenarios challenged the class member/trainee with how to control the situation and in some cases protect themselves from harm.  It was truly a memorable experience.

After the intensity of the Police training, it was nice to end day two on a houseboat, on Lake Cumberland for dinner and great fellowship. 

The final day started with a nice breakfast at the Somerset Farmer’s Market, a very impressive venue that further personified the community’s willingness to invest in beneficial assets.  Brenda Russell provided the breakfast message and relayed all the positive developments with the God’s Pantry food bank including the importance of being in the right place at the right time and embracing opportunities.  She was followed by a truly remarkable message from Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles.  Commissioner Quarles shared a three-pronged message that gave his biography and family history in farming; an explanation of all the functions that the Department of Agriculture is responsible for (weights and measures???); and a message about leadership and the role that leadership has played in his life and how hard he works to embody it throughout his travels.  The day and session ended with a panel, including yours truly, that left the class hanging on every word.  The panel discussed current challenges and opportunities facing the utility industry and how decisions currently facing the Commonwealth may help shape its future.

Amidst all of these great learning experiences, our friendships continue to grow and I know we’re all looking forward to seeing more and doing more together in Bowling Green!

Norton Healthcare
Pikeville Medical Center
Kentucky Power
US Bank
RunSwitch PR
Stites & Harbison, PLLC
Republic Bank
Whitaker Bank
Putting Kentuckians First and Reentry with the Kentucky Office Of Adult Education and the Education and Labor Cabinet
CHI St Joseph Healthcare
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
University of Louisville
Delta Dental
Kentucky Association of Health Plans
Whitaker Bank Foundation
St. Elizabeth Healthcare
Tennessee Valley Authority
Appalachian Regional Healthcare