FLINCHUM: The following is an unrehearsed interview with StateRepresentative Danny Ford who has represented Pulaski, Lincoln, and Rockcastle counties in the Eightieth District from 1982 to the present. The interview is conducted by Jessica Flinchum for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project, on Wednesday, June 21, 2006, in Mr. Ford's office, in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, at 8:30 AM. Representative Ford, what is your full name?
FORD: Danny Ray Ford.
FLINCHUM: Danny Ray Ford. Could you please tell me when and where yougrew up?
FORD: Well, actually--
FLINCHUM: --where you were born? Sorry. (laughs)
FORD: Okay. I was actually born at Berea but I have been raised inMount Vernon. My parents were--operated several businesses here in town and grew up among the public. They first ran a restaurant. From there went to a grocery store, service station, to a Laundromat. And 00:01:00had a background of dealing with the public from that standpoint.
FLINCHUM: What were your parents' names?
FORD: Robert Ford and Deanette (??) Ford.
FLINCHUM: Will you tell me about other relatives of yours? Grandparents,were they from this area?
FORD: All of the, all of my mother's family is from this area. She isfrom a family of ten. And her father and her brother both were active in politics. Her father served five terms as a county judge here in our county. And her brother served three terms as county court clerk. And my granddad, sort of, I guess inspired me about politics. He served the five terms but he never served a consecutive term. Back then, he was sort of an independent person, I guess you'd say. He done things the way he thought was best, and he make enough people mad that 00:02:00he couldn't win the second time around. (both laugh) So he'd set out a term then he would run again, and he'd win, you know. People liked the way he'd governed before. Under his leadership, we were able to get a court house built here and also a new library that he took great pride in both of those. And I think they certainly have meant a lot to our county. Back at that time, they floated an idea of a tax measure to build the courthouse and that failed; people voted it down. And yet, at one trial, there were so many people there that the floors were squeaking on the second floor. They're began to be a real safety concern. He convinced the fiscal court we needed one. And they bonded it, and went ahead and built it anyway. (laughs) And so, he done what he thought was right. Didn't it wasn't always maybe what was popular. My grandmother and he divorced after the children were pretty well 00:03:00grown. And a lot of my younger years I spent staying with her because she didn't have anyone there. And she had a great influence on my life. She showed that how important that people are. And how important it is to make sure that you treat people the way you want to be treated. And if you're working, that you give your employer a full day's work for a full day's pay. Instill some of those things in me every day. As I was growing up, she didn't drive and we would go on walks. And walk at least two mile a day from her house to go visit her neighbors, and so forth. And I mean it was an everyday ritual. It didn't get too bad for her. She often times would come and help my mother and dad in their restaurant. She walk from her House to the restaurant to work, not because she had to. Because Dad would have went and got her, or whatever, but she wanted to. And she's been a great influence on my 00:04:00life. And then my dad's family, Dad's father was killed when Dad was three years old, and he had a little sister that was six months old. He was among the first people to work for Kentucky Utilities. He was a supervisor, I guess you'd say, in putting the first utility lines throughout Kentucky. And he was killed in 1925. There was a call for a problem that was at Salvias (??) on one of the lines on a Sunday morning, and I've heard my grandmother tell many times about him going there. How he'd called a couple of guys, tried to get a couple of guys out, or whatever to go, and they couldn't go so he went his self. And like I say he got there. And no sooner he was up on the lines he was electrocuted. And so, she raised my dad and his sister. Later 00:05:00married probably five or six years and had three more children. They all live away from here. My grandmother on my dad's side, she lived in Ohio most of the time. Went there for jobs and those kinds of things. But back at that time, when he was killed, she did get some insurance money. Built a brand new house. It cost eighteen hundred dollars. Put the rest of her money in the bank. And went to talk to the banker like today--this was four years after his death. Nineteen twenty nine, time of the crash--and asked the banker, you know, told him that she heard that bank may be in trouble and did she need to move her money, or was her money safe, and all those things. He say, "Oh, your money is as safe here as it could be anywhere in the world." The next day they locked the doors on the bank and she lost everything she had. She would travel by train from here to Livingston, which is about ten miles south. And she'd sell Raleigh products, and Fuller Brush, and those 00:06:00kinds of things to make a living to raise my dad and his sister.
FLINCHUM: Very interesting.
FORD: Well, some of the stories that, you know, I've heard her say, theytalk about. There is a railroad bridge in Livingston and a lot of the people live on the other side of the railroad bridge. So she would walk across that railroad bridge to sell products, and so forth. And on her way back one day, she had the kids with her. And there was a train coming. So, she told them to hurry on home. And they did. And as she started to try to run and go on and her foot got caught in the crossties, running on the outside edge of the rails. And she didn't know what to do. So, she just lay down and the train ran right over the top. Never, never scratched her, you know. And just to see some of the times that people had, you know, the hardships that they endured and those kind of things, and how that they made it still. Heard my 00:07:00mother, she is like from a family of ten and talk about the walls of the house, how that they could see the snow blow in, and things like that, you know, when it would be bad weather. It makes you stop and appreciate what we have today.
FLINCHUM: Um-hm. They had some amazing stories to tell, didn't they?
FORD: Yeah, yes, it is.
FLINCHUM: Where did you go to school?
FORD: Went to school at Mount Vernon Elementary and high school. Itwas Mount Vernon then; it was before the consolidation of the schools. I graduated in 1970. And from there went on to Somerset Community College for two years and from there on to Eastern and graduated with a degree in business administration.
FLINCHUM: I went to Somerset Community College for two years, too.
FORD: Oh, is that right?
FLINCHUM: Great school.
FORD: It's a great school. I met my wife there. Of thirty-five yearswe will be in August, so.
FORD: Yeah, yeah, it's been a--Somerset was a good school for me.
FLINCHUM: Okay, I know that, that you work in real estate, you're an00:08:00auctioneer. When did you get started in that career?
FORD: Well, actually, I went to auction school between my junior andsenior year in high school in 1968. In Decatur, Indiana, which is up near Fort Wayne, it's Reppert School of Auctioneering. I went to school there. I was too young to get a license. You had to be eighteen to get a license. So, came back home and I worked at one of the local auction houses for a couple of years, doing, being the ground person. And that means lifting the furniture and handling the items that you're going to sell, catching bids, doing all those kind of things. And at the end of the sale, usually about eleven, eleven-thirty at night, I'd get to sell for fifteen to thirty minutes. Items, they'd let me, let me sell at that point. And the real estate, my brother had started the business in 1965 and then he went 00:09:00to auction or, excuse me--he went to the military in 1968. He was gone for two years, I guess it was. And when he came back in 1970, he opened the office fulltime. Of course, I was still in school and still in college. I'd work the auctions on the weekends, and then when I graduated come in the business in 1975 fulltime. I've been at it ever since. All I know how to do. (laughs)
FLINCHUM: You're probably very good at it.
FORD: Well, thank you.
FLINCHUM: And you have offices here in Mount Vernon--
FLINCHUM:--in Somerset ----------(??)?
FORD: This is where we started at, in Mount Vernon. And as time wenton--actually--nineteen eighty four, I guess we opened the office in Somerset and realized that we couldn't just have an office there with agents, we had to have a presence there as well. Being a small community, it was difficult for two or three families to make an 00:10:00adequate living in a small town, we felt. And so, I moved to Somerset- -didn't move there literally but worked in Somerset. So I'd drive back and forth from here to there every day, and then probably in '86, I opened our office in London. We bought an agency down there from a gentleman name of Ray Humphrey (??). Ray had been in the business for probably forty years. He was wanting to slow down. And it just worked out. And he still is with us. He is eighty-eight years old. Goes to work every day. Don't do as much as he used to but he is there. And he is just an icon of that community; everybody looks up to him. And really, really has a great degree of support from the community there in London. And that's helped us tremendously as well.
My nephew took that office over, probably ten years ago, as far as themanagement of it and running it. And he is there and that certainly 00:11:00helps to keep that office going well. My daughter joined us here at this office after she graduated. She works with Sam here in the Mount Vernon office and then my son works with me in our Somerset office. So, it's sort of just a family, family deal all the way around.
FLINCHUM: Family business.
[Pause in recording.]
FORD: Well, I mentioned that my wife and I met Somerset CommunityCollege. And we were married in 1971, and she is from a family of ten. Comes from McCreary County, Kentucky, which is right down next to the Tennessee border. And we have three children; Matt, Denetta, Angie. Angie is involved with the respiratory program at our local hospital here. And the other two are in the real estate business with me. We 00:12:00have two grandchildren, Ben and Bailey.
FLINCHUM: Ben and Bailey, how old are they?
FORD: Ben is eleven, Bailey is four. And they are just a lot of fun.And they can sort of take your mind off a lot of things that are going on when they're around. They are just a real pleasure to--we've been blessed to have grandchildren, and them be healthy, and those kinds of things. And like I say, they just mean a lot to us.
FLINCHUM: How did you first become interested in politics?
FORD: Well, I guess first interest in politics, my granddad being acounty judge had encouraged me to get in politics. I'd thought about it. Wasn't sure whether I wanted to or not. At the time that I first ran for office, there's was a gentleman by the name of Harold DeMarcus who had served Lincoln and Rockcastle County in the legislature for eighteen years. And he was getting close to the age of retirement, 00:13:00and I really thought hard about running in 1979. At that time, Joe Lambert, who is from our area as well, the chief justice of Kentucky Supreme Court, was thinking about running, and one day I ran in to Joe on my way back from the hospital--or excuse me--from the post office, and we started talking about that race, and Joe had told me that he was talking about running against Mr. DeMarcus and serving, trying to serve, or whatever. And so I said, "Well, Joe, if you're going to run this time, I'll sit out. If you don't make it, then I'll consider running next time." And so Joe did run and got real close but didn't manage to beat Mr. DeMarcus. Mr. DeMarcus had a lot of good contacts here in Rockcastle County, and, of course, that had to be Joe's base. And so, Mr. DeMarcus beat him by three or four hundred votes, I believe it was at that time. And so, two years later, actually I 00:14:00had gotten real interested in running. My granddad passed away in 1980. And I guess it was a combination of things. Nineteen eighty was when interest rates hit double digits, when inflation hit double digits. Real estate business was very slow. Had to have some way to support my family and wanted to do something that I thought would be beneficial to our community. And I guess my granddad's passing and the fact that he had encouraged me to run led to my deciding to run. And so, I announced in probably late '80, the first of '81 that I was going to run. And at that time the district was made up of Rockcastle, Lincoln, and five precincts over in Pulaski County. And so, I decided 00:15:00to take that challenge. And Mr. DeMarcus, in the meantime, decided he wasn't going to run; he retired. And so in my first race, I too had two different races; I had a primary and a general. First time, I was challenged by a gentleman who had been a circuit clerk here in Rockcastle for twenty-six years and had also served as a state representative, at that time. And then in the fall, I ran against a gentleman who was the past president of the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, the first one ever elected back to back. He had served as Chamber president, was re-elected, and they had not done that before, so he was a very thought, well thought of individual. He is also a banker. Just a super nice fellow. And I was fortunate to get out and work hard, and to be able to win. And run into a lot of people that had an influence on my life and have continued to have an influence 00:16:00on my life, their families, and so forth. There was one gentleman in particular that I think of that was in Lincoln County. His name was Daly Reed and Daly was a soil conservationist in Lincoln for many years. Now he'd retired. And as I began my campaign, I remembered I had talked to Mr. Reed a couple years before when Joe Lambert ran against Mr. DeMarcus at a rally and told him that if Joe didn't win that I was thinking about running the next time. And, of course, he had always been a supporter of Mr. DeMarcus, but he told then said, "Well, if you run," said, "if you run," he said, "I'll support you." And so, in March of 1981, I was driving through Lincoln County, and I saw a fellow mowing his yard. And I thought, Well, that's Mr. Reed 00:17:00that I had met, you know, the year before. And I decided to stop and talk to him. He got off his lawnmower and come over sat down on the porch, talk to me, gave me some pointers, gave me some ideas and thoughts. And asked me, he said, "Well, where are you headed?" And I said, "Well, I'm just going to go out and see some more people. And try to make some contact." He said, "Well, let me go with you." And I said, "Well, you're mowing," you know. He said, "No, I'll put my mower up." So he put his mower up. We left there probably about three o'clock in the afternoon. At about six o'clock, I said, "Mr. Reed, I better get you back home, you know. It's your supper time, I'm sure," whatever. He said, "We need--we can eat anytime," he says, "We got to work now." (Flinchum laughs) And that was the first day that we actually worked together. Finally, that night about nine-thirty, I took him home. When I got there, his wife had supper cooked. Wouldn't have any other way but for me to eat with them. Got ready to leave, and he say, "What are you doing tomorrow?" "Well," I say, "I'll probably make some more contact." He said, "Well come on back over here." And from that day until the primary election, I was with 00:18:00him almost every day except Sundays, and maybe a couple of other days that I spent campaigning in Mount Vernon and Pulaski County. Went to Pulaski County. And I had known a lot of people over there because I'd worked over there, done sales, and those kinds of things in the area that I was going to be running in. Run into a couple of guys and they said, "What are you doing?" And I told them, and they said, "Well, look, we are for you. We are a 100 percent for you. You go on to Lincoln County and campaign where you are not known. You work down there; we'll take care of Pulaski County." And, you know, being new to politics and not knowing a lot about it that caused me some concern, but I knew those people, and I knew they were straight and honest people. And so, I listened to them. I didn't go back to that part of Pulaski County during that whole campaign. Run some ads, and sent some letters out, and so forth, but I got like 85 percent of the vote 00:19:00in those precincts in Pulaski County. So they done everything that they said they would do. Won the primary and didn't campaign a lot in Rockcastle. Mr. Reed had been very involved politically over the years, and he said, "You know, people there know you. They're either going to vote for you or not. You still need to spend your time, you know, over here." So, done that and won the primary, and then started back up probably in--of course, went to a lot of functions in between but actually campaigning, started campaigning again about the first of September. All my time spent in Lincoln County, he was with me every day. And we carried Lincoln County, which was unheard of not by a lot, but we carried, we carried the county. Got to Frankfort and had been there two weeks when they started talking about redistricting. And I was twenty-nine years old. Didn't know a lot about politics, didn't know a lot about government. And had to learn fast. So, the first 00:20:00two weeks they started talking about redistricting, and I wasn't sure what all that meant, but I was told that if my district in population was like 1.9--or excuse me--if was 5 percent under over I'd be okay. That they wouldn't change my district. Well, I was 1.9 percent over on population. So, I thought, Well, I've got it made. There won't be any changes. What they didn't tell me was that if some of the members in the majority party wanted to change their districts, then that could have an effect on mine. And so, the majority party saw an opportunity they thought to pick up an additional seat. So, Joe Clarke, who represented Boyle County, they took Washington County--I believe it was--away from him and told him then, you know, 'Decide where you want,' you know, 'where you want to pick up your other numbers at.' 00:21:00So he chose Lincoln County. And with that plan, he took away from my district about two-thirds of the people that I represented in Lincoln County. So they had to find somewhere else to put me. Couldn't just serve the people in Rockcastle and that third of Lincoln because the way we serve is based upon population. And so, there was a plan that the majority party had come up with which would have taken me and put me in more in Pulaski County. I'd have had about half the county. And it would have taken the representative who was in Pulaski County and put him in McCreary County. Well, he didn't know anyone in McCreary County. He thought it was very unfair that they'd take his people away from him and put him in another county, but didn't know, you know, we were both new, didn't know what we could do about it. The 00:22:00speaker of the House at this time was Bobby Richardson. And Bobby had told everyone, "If you can change your districts to where it meets the population demands and everybody that is affected by it agrees to it, we'll let you do that." We worked on all kinds of plans to see if we could find a way that would work and didn't have any luck until the night before we were going to vote. And it was a fellow from Inez, Kentucky, who was looking at the numbers, and he says, "Well, wait a minute, Danny," he says, "Instead of Tommy losing all of his people in Pulaski County and his base where he is from, let Tommy pick up most of those, you go around the southeastern edge of Pulaski and you go into McCreary County." Well, McCreary County is a long way from Mount Vernon, but what they didn't realize was that, that's where my wife was from. (Flinchum laughs) And she was from a family of ten. Her brother-in-law had just ran for school board, which that can be 00:23:00a very political race, very divisive race in a lot of instances, but he ran for school board and ran on a write-in ticket and got more votes than anyone else in the county. And so that worked out well for me. We presented that and it was approved. So, for the next several years, I served Rockcastle, southeastern Pulaski, and McCreary County. And I think having that connection with the family there helped me to realize the concerns of McCreary County, helped me realize of the needs that were there, and all those kind of things. And we were able to work with the Congressional delegation, and so forth. Got some roads improved. You know, nobody knew those roads better than I did. I had been driving them from the time I had been dating my wife, all the way up until then, and knew the danger of the roads, and all. 00:24:00And so, there was a vote that was coming up on a gas tax and that was to increase our gas tax, and I was approached about that. And I'm a conservative, physically; I am not for a lot of new taxes and those kinds of things. But talked to the congressman. Congressman Rogers and he told me that if we were to get that gas tax passed that that would give the state enough money to match with federal dollars that we could get Highway 27 rebuilt in the McCreary County. And so that convinced me that, that was a good vote. Did vote for the gas tax. Never had any repercussion from it because people saw the needs and we solved some things down--461, which was another road going from here to Somerset, that was a deplorable trail to take. A lot of curves, a lot of deaths on the road because of accidents, and those kinds of things. And so, through that we were able to get 461 and Highway 27 built. 00:25:00
FLINCHUM: What were some of your first impressions when you went toFrankfort, other than the re-districting? You mentioned you had to learn fast with that. Did anything else surprise you?
FORD: Well, yeah, I would say that there was a lot thing surprise me.I guess there were things that really pleased me and that was the comradery. The getting to know people from all across the state, finding out what their concerns and needs were. Finding out how that working together you can meet some of those needs and that it'll be good for the area, but it will be good for the state as well. And forming coalitions that could put together thoughts, and ideas, and projects, and so forth, that would help everyone. And, you know, the legislature--I tell everybody--you know, there is some bad in anything that you go at. You know, there's some bad auctioneers who give all auctioneers a bad name. There is bad service station attendants, you 00:26:00know, they go out here on the roads, and they charge people extra, and all those kinds of things, but 90 percent of the people, or more, I think are good, honest, hardworking people and I found that in the legislature as well. A lot of people think, Well, it's just a bunch of crooks, and et cetera, et cetera, and they are all on the take. And I didn't find that. Matter of fact, we, when I was there in 1990--I believe it's the right date, year--that's when BOPTROT was found out. You know, there was people there that you suspected were not being straight and honest with people, but you didn't have any proof of that. And by the same token, it's good, I mean, it's easy to look at things and think, Well that's not right, or that's, that shouldn't be that way, et cetera, et cetera, but you don't have anything to base those things on. And I think that many of us were caught by surprise 00:27:00when BOPTROT unfolded. And we found that there were people that were willing to take money or whatever to sell their vote, and that was a very difficult time in the General Assembly. It was difficult that we saw people who were willing to sacrifice their principles for a few dollars, or whatever it might be. By the same token, it showed that again 90 percent probably were a-okay, and there wasn't those kinds of problems. But it, again I would say there is a lot of good people. I don't think they'd be elected if they weren't. People known 'em in the communities. By the same token, there can be a few bad apples slip into the bunch sometime. And I think the legislature has really improved over the years, as far as the quality of individuals that are willing to give of their time and serve. You know, it's not something that--you can't do it for the money. There is no way that, 00:28:00that would entice people I don't think to run. And the fact that we have a legislature that is a--I guess I'm trying to think of the term that I want to use but--we have a legislature that is not a fulltime legislature but it has people from all walks of life. We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have real estate agents, we have farmers, we have housewives; we have all kinds of people that are serving the people of Kentucky. And I think that's what it takes to make up a legislature as it should be. Because then you have expertise in all levels. It's not just people that are retired, and they don't have anything else to do, and that's the reason they're serving. It's not people that are rich. And so, they're serving because of re--we have people that serve 00:29:00because they get a self-gratification from serving. I tell a lot of people that maybe it's a bad way to compare but serving a legislature is sort of my golf game. I'm not a golfer, but, you know, if you have a good day on a golf course, you feel good when you come in; you have a bad day, it's tough. Legislature is the same way. You have a good day in the legislature, if you can help someone that's got a problem. If you can get a project that helps your area, you know, you've had a good day. And by the same token, there are things that you know should happen and ought to happen that don't happen because of the political ramifications, or whatever, makes for a bad day.
FLINCHUM: Have you seen many changes in the independence of thelegislature since your--
FLINCHUM:--term of office, or?
FORD: Actually, when I started serving war, when the independence of thelegislature was really in its infancy. That was under Governor Brown. And Governor Brown did not-as I've heard stories about prior Governors 00:30:00who were very involved, who they'd send a list out stating that, 'We want this bill pass, this bill passed, vote against this bill,' et cetera, et cetera. Governor Brown never done that, at least to the minority caucus that I know of. And since that time, I have not seen any Governor do that. They're, each Governor has their own agendas and have their priorities. And of course, they'll get behind those, and support those, and ask for legislative help, and so forth, but yes, I think the legislature has become a very independent body. We find that no one has control like they did at one time. Now, I will say that sometimes the, I guess the leaderships have their agendas that they 00:31:00push among their members. And while those initiatives I'm sure are with good intent, it's not always I don't think in the best interest of the state or interest of those individual members because, you know, we need to look at each issue. Determine how it affects the constituents that we serve, and how it affects the state as a whole, and vote that way. And the thing that I have found that's most disturbing is the parliamentary things that are done and the things to promote a political initiative can hinder legislation from being passed.
FLINCHUM: What's your opinion of the committee system as it is today,with the interim committee meetings? Does it contribute to a lot, greater efficiency?
FORD: I think that the interim committee system is not utilized as well00:32:00as it could be. I think the fact that we don't have actual ability, or authority, or power during the interim takes away from the legislative committee process. You know, we will have hearings during the interim that are informative. They're good to have, et cetera, et cetera, in a lot of ways, but the same information that we receive during the interim, we go back to the session, and you hear it again. It's the same thing over. So, while I think it's educational and informative in ways, I think it's duplicative in ways as well. And I think that we have gotten to where there is a lot of emphasis that's put on the interim meetings. And then when we actually get into session, a lot 00:33:00of that is not considered. We go a different route, you know, for whatever reason. But I do think the committee system, the committee system in the legislature while we're in session is very good. It allows for us to have those discussions and do things. The biggest problem I see with the committee system--and I guess there has to be some control--but the committee chairmen a lot of times have too much authority, too much power. They can cause a bill not to be heard, or to be heard, you know, either way, just at their own discretion. You can have good legislation, but you got one person that's against it, and that bill gets derailed. Or, you can have--I'm trying to think of something in particular--committee chairs who are biased and it 00:34:00can be a liberal or a conservative that says, you know, 'We just don't want that,' and so it's never heard. And it denies the other members the opportunity to discussion of voting on or whatever it might be. And so, from that standpoint I think they can be abusive. I think too powerful sometimes. There is a mentality in Frankfort that if you buck the system, or buck the committee chair, or whatever it might be, then that is going to hinder you in the future from getting legislation heard because you went against that committee chairperson or who, it's never really made a lot of difference in my life, I always done what--if I felt like that we need to have a hearing on something, I'd make that known. I think that, again, going back to leadership, when you have a committee chairperson, or you have leadership that have such 00:35:00control over the system, that's not a good situation. We ought to let the people vote. Every member of that legislature was elected by the same number of people. We all represent the same number of people. And it ought to all be treated the same, in my opinion. Now, some will argue, 'Well, if we do that and we hear every bill, then, you know, we'd never get anywhere.' Well, I think there's a way to avoid the issues that don't need to be heard. And, you know, that could be done by committee saying, 'Do you want to discuss this?' Taking a vote from the committee as to whether we did or didn't discuss it rather than having one person make that situation. [telephone rings]
[Pause in recording.]
FORD: Leadership, and votes, and those kinds of things, you know, the00:36:00part that probably frustrates me more than anything--give you a good example: two years ago, when we were discussing the ban on same sex marriage, it ended up I think the vote was like eighty-nine to eleven, in favor of the ban. But we went through weeks there of leadership trying to cover up, trying to make amends, to make a few, that few, that eleven that voted against the ban to make them happy. And the primary reason for that is they wanted votes when it come leadership election time. And I think that does a great disservice to the legislative process. They even sent the bill back to a committee. It's been told that they had asked some members not to come to the committee meetings so they couldn't get the bill out of committee. They amended a bill that made the constitutional amendment deal with like three 00:37:00different subjects, knowing that if they done that, that the courts would declare it unconstitutional because a bill can't, that is about a constitutional amendment can't deal but with one subject matter. And so, it was all a ploy to try to appease that eighty-nine members to satisfy that eleven that voted against the ban. And leadership done that, nobody else. And that went on for weeks with us trying to get a vote. And finally, after some of the members were taking heat in their districts back home, the sad part was that a lot of those people that we're talking about are the good, honest, quality people. They get caught up, I think, in protecting their leadership. And are afraid 00:38:00to vote against the leadership because they are afraid that they will lose a committee assignment, a committee chairmanship, afraid that they will be punished in some way for voting against the leadership. And so, there were all kinds of parliamentary procedures to prevent that from ever being voted upon. And it really caused a lot of problems for a lot of their members, good conservative members who believe the same as the vote came out in the end, eighty-nine to eleven. And it finally took some of those members going to them and saying, 'Look, if you don't bring this to a vote, we're sorry but we're going to go the other direction, and we're going to see it. We're going with the opposing side, and we're going to support this ban regardless of what the leadership says.' So, when a few of their members done that, they realized that they had some problems, and that's the reason they allowed it to come up for a vote. But they even had asked some 00:39:00people not to come to committees, so they wouldn't have enough votes to get the bill out. And the sad part is that some of their members believed that there was nothing wrong with that. 'If I'm just not there, I'm not voted against the ban. I'm not voted for the ban.' And, you know, that's a sad day when people, in my opinion, run from their responsibilities to protect a few in leadership because they're afraid they're going to lose the committee chairmanship, or whatever it might be. I wish there was some way to control that. They use that as a discipline to keep people doing what they want them to do. And again, while I say there's a lot of people that would have never voted against that ban, but they voted for some of those parliamentary procedures, which in essence was voting against the ban as well. But leadership 00:40:00convinced them that if that was what we done, it would have a very impacting effect on elections, and get people out to vote--and it did, thank goodness it did. When I came to the legislature there were nineteen Republicans; there's forty-four now. You know, and it's just about Rep--you know, how many Republicans, how many Democrats, no, it's not. It's about who's there to serve the people, and who is willing to stand up when things get tough, when leadership threatens you, when you're told that, you know, you'll lose your chairmanship, being man enough, or woman enough to stand up and say, 'If you want to take my chairmanship because I'm voting for what's right, go ahead and do it.'
FLINCHUM: Do you think things might change in the future, as far as thepower of committee chairs goes?
FORD: I think things are changing. I think as far as the powers of thecommittee chair, I think that if people see that some of these votes 00:41:00are causing members to lose elections, they're going to rethink their positions. You know, we just had one of the most powerful committee chairperson was defeated in the most recent election. And he and I would agree on probably 90 percent of the issues that are there. But that 10 percent that we didn't agree on, I think probably had a big effect in his election because of people back home. When they found that, you know, he was the person that didn't allow that vote; he was the person who blocked legislation from being heard. And when that message is out there, I think that, you know, the people are going to make decisions for him. As far as the committee chairs and how much power they have, I don't know whether we will see that change in the near future. I would like to see it where the committee itself can 00:42:00decide whether or not to hear an issue. And I think that, again, that may be difficult to get passed because you have a lot of people that don't want to take a stand, publicly. You know, there's not any of us that are in Frankfort that at some time another wished that we had not had to take a stand, including myself. There's issues that, you know, I just soon not vote on, but the people sent me there to vote. And the people sent me there to make the tough decisions. And if I can't s-- you know, if I can't stand up and do that, then I am doing a disservice to my people.
FLINCHUM: You mentioned earlier some issues not being so much a matterof Republicans versus Democrats. I notice the Republican Party is pretty strong in this area, and some other parts of Kentucky, you will see people voting Democrats in local elections and switching to 00:43:00Republican at the national level. What are some of your thoughts on that? How do you explain that?
FORD: Well, I think it goes back to the fact that the people have beenuninformed. People running for office, it is not always made a point of bringing person's voting record out. Showing how they voted on particular issues. Kentucky is a conservative state. And I think that when you see the national party that is open to any and every kind of issue, and you have a state that is conservative, that the people's going to vote for a party that is more inclined to be conservative. More inclined not to say, 'Well, we have to have everybody.' Are more inclined to say, you know, 'These are issues that are important to us, and we know this person how they stand. So we're not going to vote for 00:44:00them, or we are going to vote for them because of their stands.' On the local race, however, I think that many times the person that is doing the challenging doesn't get their message out very clear, or if they do get it out, it can be distorted by the other party, whichever party that is, you know. But I think when you show voting records, when you show tapes of what someone said in the committee, you do those kinds of things, that people listen. And I'm not sure that, I'm not sure that on a state level that we're getting that out. As an example, I can sit here and think of people over the years who proclaimed to be one way, but when it come to vote, they voted another way. And for the most part, no one ever informed their constituency as to how they really 00:45:00voted. And so, they get in a public forum, and they say, 'I'm,'--as an example--'against abortion.' But when they get to taking that issue on, they don't vote that way, or they'll vote a parliamentary vote that doesn't allow that to be considered. And I think when the people find those things out, they're going to say, you know, 'We don't want any more of this. You told us one thing.' I can think of two people who were very strong chairs, chairmen in committees that have gotten beaten recently, basically because their areas are conservative anti-abortion areas that those people always voted the other way. And I think that, that word got out. People found out how they really had voted and says, 'You're not, you're not telling us the whole story.'
[Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.]
FORD: I think emotionally charged issues gets people's interest. And00:46:00they realize that, you know, if I want my position to be represented in Frankfort, then I've got to vote this way or that way. And if they're informed, they can better make a decision as to who to vote for.
FLINCHUM: What have been some of your top priorities in representingyour district? There's lots of issues. (laughs)
FORD: Yeah! That's a--
FLINCHUM: If you can make a list of the top three or so.
FORD: Yeah, that's a tough one. You know, one of the things thatI think is very important to any areas is that we promote jobs and tourism, and those kind of things. And in my area, tourism has been a big part because we have Renfro Valley. Renfro Valley brings a lot of people to our state. Brings it to this community locally. I would like to see it expanded where it got people here that would stay longer than just a day or two, and we had more activities for them, and 00:47:00things of that nature. But as far as the other issues, you know, I am a conservative. I believe in conservative principles. I'm a pro-life legislator. I feel that we have to do everything to protect the unborn and the sanctity of life. I think that we have to certainly provide education to our areas. I think we've made real improvements over the past few years in education with you and know, I was an opponent of KERA. And KERA, I think has really had some good aspects of it, but I think it's got some things that have hindered, too. And I think if you talk to the teachers out here today that they're going to tell you the same. It caused a lot of hardship in a lot of ways, but overall, 00:48:00I think we've seen improvements because of KERA. Now I think we've seen some areas that need to be changed. But, you know, anytime the legislature meets, the big issues are education, healthcare, jobs creation, and those kinds of things. Healthcare has been a battle since I guess '94, I believe, when we passed House Bill 250. At that time, Kentucky wanted to be an example. Wanted to say, 'Hey, we're going to provide healthcare for everybody and nobody is going to get turned down,' et cetera, et cetera. And we caused a catastrophe. We caused people that were able to afford insurance not to be able to afford it anymore. We've really created a crisis. And I know we have a national crisis in healthcare, but we have a state crisis that's even been more. Now we've been making some improvements over the last 00:49:00couple of sessions, but we've got a long way to go. I have a fellow who works with me part-time. Just he alone to provide health insurance is eight hundred-some dollars a month. You know, that's just something that's very difficult to live with. And I guess one of the biggest disappointments I ever had is after that was passed, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, didn't make any difference who you talked to, one of the things that I was certain is that we would go back to Frankfort, and we would change the effects of House Bill 250 to where it would make it more affordable, and make to where people would be able to afford insurance. And so, the Governor at that time, Governor Patton called a special session--I believe that was in '96--to try to correct some of the problems that we had. But we met. I was in leadership then. And so, we met two and three times a week 00:50:00at the Governor's mansion to discuss healthcare issues. And we felt that we had a plan worked out. Governor Fletcher was serving in the legislature then. I appointed him to this task force as well as others that helped serve. And we met many times over a couple of months period, and we thought we had a plan that was going to work out. And then all of the sudden, the Senate, more liberal faction of the Senate decided that they didn't want anything else to do with it, and they weren't going to change, and they walked away from the table. Governor Patton, of course, his hands were tied at that point. And he said, you know, he was not going to support the bill that we worked on so hard. And all that effort was going down the drain, and that was just very disappointing because I thought we were on to something that would give some people some relief, and so forth. Again, we had forty-something 00:51:00companies that were writing health insurance in Kentucky at the time that passed. We got down to where there was only one. Now we've got to where there's probably four or five companies. And that's not all because of House Bill 250 but part of it is. Part of it is because of consolidation, part of it is because companies went out of business, et cetera, et cetera. But a lot of it was over House Bill 250, and we made it so restrictive that companies couldn't do business in Kentucky. And therefore, we hurt the people that we serve the most. You got to have competition. Competition makes for better rates, competition makes for better benefits. And we're gradually recovering, and hopefully getting some companies back that will help with some of those. But then again, you look at the national level and see the problems that we have. It's not an easy fix. Education, I mentioned education, 65 to 70 percent 00:52:00of our state budget goes to education. And yet, we rank, we're ranking better and that's the reason I say there is a lot of aspects of KERA that no doubt have been good, but there's areas that we can improve in. And one of the things that is frustrating sometimes is you find those who were involved in passing a particular major piece of legislation, and even though improvements need to be made, they manage to convince leadership, or its leadership themselves that says, 'We are not going to make any changes,' because they fathered it, and they don't want to see anything done to it. And so, we have people that still suffer.
FLINCHUM: What do you think are some of the strength and the weaknessesof KERA?
FORD: Um, that's a good one.
FLINCHUM: Where's the biggest room for improvement?
FORD: Well, I think that we see-again, this nationally, too-- is math,science have really dropped, and we need to have an emphasis on those. 00:53:00I think that when you teach a child, or an adult, or whoever it is that you're teaching that there is no wrong answer. That we're telling them wrong because we're preparing them for life, and they're going to have to realize, 'Yes, sometimes there is a wrong answer, and you need to work through that and need to resolve it, whatever it might be.' But to tell them that, 'You can't be wrong,' or whatever, and I understand a lot of philosophy of KERA is that, that's what we do teach. I think the writing portfolios have, are good and bad in that they take a lot of time. I've had a lot of educators who have indicated to me that the time that they spend on those, is time that they're taking away from other areas. And yet, by the same token, I think our writing skills have improved. So, you know, there's got to be a balance. 00:54:00There's got to be some way to make it balance. I think that we have put an extreme hardship on the teachers in a lot of cases because of the workload that we cause through KERA, without compensating them adequately, and hopefully we're making some changes there as well. This last legislative session we gave some increases that should help tremendously with that part of it. But, you know, we are--we're not holding accountable, I don't think, as much as we should those that are in positions either. We need to look at, you know, is that teacher prepared when she goes into that classroom? And what I mean by prepared, was she prepared through college to meet those challenges? We're graduating people from high school that aren't ready for college. And that's sad because it is our future. And if we don't have them 00:55:00ready when they're leaving high school to go to college, then, you know, are they going to succeed? Where they going to be at? And I think that part of the reason that they're not ready is again, if we go back to, you know, nothing's wrong. That we will see that you work, 'We want to see that you do this, and that, and the other,' but there's no accountability for that work, then we got a bit of a problem.
FLINCHUM: What about higher education, do you think we're doing betterin that area?
FORD: I think higher education could stand some certainly improvements,and I think, there again, one of the key issues there is when we prepare our educators to be educators, we need to make sure when they're going into that classroom that they are ready for that. I 00:56:00think that the advancements that we're making in higher education are super. I think we need to continue to work that. And we're going to no doubt, if we're going to have the top research institutes and those kinds of things, it has to have money but it takes more than money. It takes a commitment. It takes, you know, a vision, a dream to make those things happen. I do think that we're seeing some improvements, and I hope that those improvements will continue.
FLINCHUM: Taking kind of a step back, do you have some favoritePresidents or Governors, or not so favorite Presidents or Governors?
FORD: Well, you know, I think most everyone would have to say thatPresident Reagan in my lifetime has been one of the greatest that I can 00:57:00think of. A great communicator, he was the one who got us on the right path to the challenges that we faced globally. To seeing some of those challenges remove, such as Russia, you know, as far as a real force to deal with. I think that he implemented some economic policies that we see today that we're benefiting from. I think our present President, he doesn't look at the polls to decide what's good, what's bad, he does what he thinks is right. Do I agree on everything? No. But, you know, my wife don't agree with me on everything. (laughs) So, I think that he's been an outstanding, outstanding President. I, you know, again, not wanting to look political, but when I think of people like Bill Clinton who set a moral standard in our country on a decline, that 00:58:00causes me a great deal of concern that our morals in this country are not near what they once were or what they should be. And I have a--I don't have a dislike for him in any way. You know, so many people look at our economies and they try to determine whether our President has been good or bad because of the economy, and, of course, our economy flourished under Bill Clinton, and, you know, I give credit to where credit is due. I think most of that though was because of Reaganomics that had, you know, started taking effect, and he got the credit for it. So, you know, I don't care who get the credit as long as people get the benefit, that's always been my philosophy. But I think that, as far as Governors, I've served under a lot of Governors. I think our present Governor, in spite of all the things that has been done 00:59:00to assassinate his character, is a very moral upstanding gentleman who has had to deal with things that nobody should have to deal with. When you've been in Frankfort as long as I have and you knew for--I've been there twenty-five years and for twenty-two of those years, if there was a job that was being offered in a community, I didn't have people coming to me asking me for jobs because I knew that wasn't where to go. They went to the patronage person in that county. They went to the patronage person at the regional office, or wherever it might be. I had a person who used to be a patronage person who made a statement one day, he said, "Well, you know, nothing is different now than what it's ever been; we just didn't have e-mails." You know, and that's sad that someone's character is assassinated because of the things 01:00:00that they've said here. I think that as far as public relations, I don't think that we could have had--I don't think that we could have paid anybody to do a bad PR that would have done any worse than what's been done during this administration. And I think that I don't know how you salvage that. I know that the Governor plans to, you know, his ideas are to put himself around people that would do a good job, et cetera, et cetera. But when you go into office and you have the major media that is already opposed to you. And they get opportunities to fire, they're going to fire; there's no question about it. But I do think that Governor Fletcher is a very honorable person. I don't 01:01:00think he looks at the politics of anything. I've been, you know, as a Republican who has served the twenty-five years in office, I'd have to say, if anything, over the hiring practice, you know, I probably been more disappointed as a Republican, because I thought that there would be opportunities for Republicans that have not been there. And, you know, I understand the merit system, I understand all that. I think that the thing about the merit system, if we were going to do things different, as far as hiring, if we're going to change the merit system, then we need to look at it and say, 'Hey, from this day forward, these practices are not going to be, or whatever it might, you know, be with regard to that. But I think something has been taken out of context as far as the hirings are concerned. Someone found out that some of the hires that he made were Republican, or whatever, and maybe had 01:02:00Republican even written on the application, or to the sign--I don't know if that's the case, but I am just saying that's some of the things that you hear--does that mean that person was hired because they were Republican? I don't think so at all. I think they look at the application and see whether they were qualified and then, if they're qualified and everything is good, and everything else is equal, sure! I think they are going to give the advantage to the Republican, and I think that Democrats are going to do the same thing, if it's a Democrat administration. So, I think he has been unjustifiably criticized from that standpoint. Greg Stumbo, I served with for many years. I like Greg as a person. But I know that when it comes to politics, Greg is a master. He knows how to do it and do it to its best. And I don't think he really gets concerned about who is in the way of that or how 01:03:00it affects those people. And I think that's sad for Kentucky. And then when you get that coupled with the media that is willing to do anything to get a story, to bring down an individual, that's what's attributed to a great deal of what we got going on now. Paul Patton was one of my favorite Governors. You know, he had his concerns. He had his problems that I don't agree with in any respect at all of his personal issues, but one of the things I heard when Governor Patton was elected--and I was serving as a minority leader then--was that we were really in for some tough times because he was that mountain politician. And that if we opposed his initiatives that we would pay and pay dearly. In the time that I served, Governor Patton never and I did oppose him on many issues. When we were dividing the--doing the higher 01:04:00education reforms and dividing the community colleges off from UK and all that, being alumni of Somerset and working in the Somerset area, the people there didn't want that. And so, I was trying to represent my people and I opposed that initiative right up until the end. By the way, Representative Stumbo done the same thing until we got to the last day or so. And I got a call about three or four o'clock in the morning that he had reached a compromise with the Governor on that particular issue. To my surprise when I got there, I don't think anybody else had reached that compromise but he and Greg. But Governor Patton treated me fairly, honestly. He didn't tell me that he'd do something and then not do it. Now he didn't do everything I wanted him to do, but he didn't misrepresent or didn't lie to me about anything. And I've said 01:05:00in every place that I've been where he's there, I give him credit for being fair and honest and never resorting to retaliation against those of us who opposed some of his ideas, even though we had been told that would be the case. Brereton Jones, I think is a fine individual that I was able to serve under. And again, I felt a friendship, you might say, to him as a person. I don't see him today but what, you know, he is very complimentary, and very open, and treats me as he would anybody else as you know, that is of his party. Politically, you know, I don't think he'd let those issues affect how he governed. And he done again 01:06:00everything that he told me that he would do. The other Governors that I've served under, John Y. Brown, you know, I was new to the legislature at that time; I was a freshman. We didn't have a lot of communication. I think John Y. didn't really have a lot of communications with any of the legislature. He done his thing, what he thought was right, governed the way he thought was right. Run it as a business, and that was his motto. Governor Wilkinson, I never really got to know until close to the end of his term. He was a very personable fellow but never someone that I could have established a working relationship with. It didn't, you know, for some reason we didn't. But, you know, some of the people that he surrounded his self with I thought--I 01:07:00didn't--I had a concern with James Carville as an example. You know, he talked about the members of the legislature, and he used words that Brent Hall couldn't think of. And, you know, Brent Hall just lost his job over some things that he said, which he should not have said, was totally uncalled for. But James Carville, Brett Hall looked like a saint compared to him. And I just didn't want to associate with that and tried to stay away. Martha Layne Collins, again, I was young when she was there but voted for some of the most controversial legislation of my entire career I guess. It was under her Governorship that I voted for the gas tax. I voted for Toyota. I think we all see, and 01:08:00that was really a difficult vote at the time. We had a lot of veterans who were opposing the bill because they had fought in Japan, and, you know, they were concerned about bringing an industry like that to Kentucky. But, you know, I saw it as an opportunity. I felt like if we could get a plant like that would employ that many people, and we'd make those Toyotas in Kentucky rather than in Japan, it was going to be a good vote. And I did take some flak from for that, but it's one of those votes that I am glad I made and I think that she done a good job.
FLINCHUM: What are some of the most important changes you've seen inthat state over the decades, the past few decades?
FORD: Well, I think the fact that we have a legislature that is notcontrolled by any particular party. And what I mean by that is that we have Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats controlling 01:09:00the House. When I went in, there were nineteen Republicans; there is forty-four now in the House. The Senate was controlled by the Democrats. The Governor's office was controlled by the Democrats. Any tax issue, any type of initiative about KERA, whatever, it didn't really make a lot of difference what anybody said because those votes got lined up. And they knew that they had the votes before they ever brought it out, you know, to be voted upon. And I think that's not a good situation for Kentucky. I think that you need to have open debate. You need to discuss the issues. You need to see, you know, what is really in the best interest of Kentuckians. And not because any party has control over the whole process. That shouldn't be what governs what passes and what doesn't pass.
FLINCHUM: What are some of the changes that you would like to see thathaven't been taking place over the years? 01:10:00
FORD: Well, I think probably the things that I like to see most is thatthere would be some way that we could find that leadership didn't have the controls that it has over individual members. And I think, again, by saying on committees, for an example, if there is a bill and it's been brought to that committee's attention, let that committee vote whether or not it's to be voted upon. Let them decide whether they want to take that issue up or not. Sort of like the Supreme Court does, you know. They don't take all cases up; they review it; they decide which ones they're going to hear, which ones they are not. Let the committee system do that. That way the entire legislature is not going to be bogged down with every piece of legislation, but the committees are going to have that opportunity to look at those and see. I think that's the way to let the interim work more effectively. Let that interim committee look at those, if it decides it's not going to take an issue up for that next session, that's it. It's void; you 01:11:00don't take it up. But not allowing, you know, chairpersons to have so much influence or leadership, I think is the thing that I would like to see most in the legislative process. You know, like I said, when I got there, we were very small in number as far as Republicans. I think that I'd like to see the House controlled by Republicans one time. I'd like to see what that would feel like. I'd like to see what it means. Would there be a difference? Would we resort to some of the same tactics that leadership has in the time that I've been serving? I would hope we wouldn't. I would hope that--as an example, we had a member who recently changed parties because he felt that his philosophy and the majority philosophy wasn't coinciding, so he changed parties. 01:12:00You know, he didn't do anything to anybody individually, as far as the legislature is concerned. He just changed his party because he felt that, that's where he wanted to be! And they have stripped him of every committee. They have put him in an office that's not much bigger than a restroom. Just really done everything--won't allow his bills to be heard that has his name on him. I just have a real problem with that because he was elected by the same number of people that every member of that legislature was elected by. And nobody should be treated that way. Now if you want to run someone and beat him in election, that's fine. But if they won that seat, they ought to be treated that way. They talk about seniority. And how the things are based on seniority. There is new offices that are being completed in Frankfort right now, as we speak. During the session, there was probably ten or fifteen offices that were completed, or bigger offices, and, you know, et 01:13:00cetera, et cetera. Do you think that anybody in the minority party was offered any of those offices? Not one time. I'm probably seventh in seniority. I didn't know anything about when the offices going to be ready until I already found out that someone had moved in, and I don't, I'm not looking for an office, so that's not anything to do with it. I think that, again, leadership when one or two individuals have so much control and so much say, I just don't think it's good for our system.
FLINCHUM: Do you have any closing remarks? If it's something that I havejust failed to bring up or advice to Kentuckians in the future?
FORD: Well I think that the most important thing is that we keep acitizen legislature. And what I mean by that is that we keep people in all walks of life. We don't make it to where people can't afford 01:14:00to go serve in legislature. You know, I'm twenty-five years, I'm near my end. I don't know when that's going to be, but, you know, I'm not gone to serve another twenty-five years, I can promise you that. I'm not going to try to outlive anybody's record of being there. But I think that keeping a citizen legislature where we have people all walks of life involved is very important. Because people have expertise on a number of different levels. And when you have that, I think the people of Kentucky benefit more. I would hope that, again, we would be more open to having a legislature that would listen to people's concerns. Let the committees work as best they can to move Kentucky forward. And I think that, again, I just reiterate that I think that most of those members--and when I say most I'm talking about 01:15:0090 percent of them--have the people of Kentucky at heart. They want to do what's right for Kentucky. And if there were some way that we could fix it to where, regardless of what party is in, regardless of who's chairperson of any committee or whatever, that there would not be parliamentary maneuvers that would keep good legislation from being heard or bad legislation from being defeated. I think that those are some things that, I, for one would like to see. I think that we have to concentrate on continuing to improve in the educational field, so that we do turn out the students that can excel, can exceed, and can succeed in whatever area of life that they go in. That they are given 01:16:00the proper tools to work with. By the same token, I think we have to remember that the people that we serve only have so much that they can give to the state. And that we need to be good stewards of what we have. Spend that money wisely. And not just throw money at problems, but try to find solutions to the problems that we face.
FLINCHUM: Okay, thank you very much.
FORD: All right!
[Tape 1, side 2 ends.]
[End of interview.]