LKY 2017 in Hazard

Posted on: November 17, 2017
Tags: Leadership Kentucky

Author: Leslie Smart, KentuckyOne Health Foundations

Two days of perfect November weather, slightly chilly but simultaneously warm standing in the basting sun and complimented by vibrant yellow, red and orange colors with a steady stream of falling leaves, the Class of 2017 navigated the windy roads toward the Appalachian Mountains to one of Kentucky’s most scenic regions.

 

As the last bars of cell service began to fade on my phone, I quickly took full advantage of the opportunity to completely check out and listened to the soundtrack from Dances with Wolves as I winded my way to Buckhorn Lake State Park.  A perfect complement and on my final approach to the park, I was greeted by a rafter of turkeys and a tiny fawn.  Tom Kmetz spotted a black bear.  Clearly, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

 

The welcome appropriately kicked off overlooking the lake with Donnie Holland, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Parks and Regina Stivers, Deputy Secretary of Tourism, Arts and Heritage.  No doubt Kentucky has lagged behind maximizing tourism for the state compared to our neighbors, but despite these challenges Holland was optimistic for the future.  The beauty of Kentucky is a resource worthy of promoting and investing in, and it could be one key to economic stability.   However, our dinner speaker Ben Chandler, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, painted a sad picture of the health of the state.  Often referred to as the “Kentucky uglies,” we reviewed the grim rankings in cancer, obesity and drug use.  Depressing but it appropriately prepared us for the next day’s deep dive on healthcare and the Opioid epidemic.

 

The next morning began with a nail biting bus ride to Manchester and that was just the start of what proved to be a day of very mixed emotions about the critical challenges and needs to reverse what has become a crisis for Kentucky and the country.  Medical healthcare leaders painted a picture of gloom, doom and a ray of hope as we participated in an active day of tours, talks and discussions.  Fortunately, the late afternoon visit to the Challenger Center provided a much-needed lift and launched an evening of hands-on discovery about the assets eastern Kentucky can offer to the aerospace industry.   Finally, an economic development presentation followed by a tour of surface mine on Friday, left the Class of 2017 encouraged about our beloved Bluegrass state.

 

Other bonding highlights of the November session were bonfires, sticky roasted marshmallows, a five-gallon jar of cheese balls, and the musical talents of guitarists Julie Whitis and Tom Kmetz followed by the biggest surprise, Michael Kleinert, who serenaded the Class of 2017 into what will soon be the final session of the year.  Hard to believe Simsoc was so long ago.

 

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