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Oldham’s elected officials lead the Commonwealth

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By Tracy Harris

In an event as rare as horse racing’s Triple Crown, three Oldham County elected officials are serving as presidents of their respective state organizations.

Julie Barr, county clerk, takes office as president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association in November. Already in office are Mike Simpson, jailer, and Steve Sparrow, sheriff.

Simpson is on his second term as president of the Kentucky Jailer’s Association. Likewise, Sparrow is fulfilling a second term as president, although his first was in 2005.

It is a historic first — to the best of anyone’s memory, no county’s officials have ever served as president of all three simultaneously.

In fact, it’s the first time an Oldham County clerk has filled the position.

“It’s a unique coincidence,” Barr said.

Barr said she received about 10 phone calls from people wanting to nominate her for the position and initially turned them down.

But with support from her staff, Barr accepted and was unanimously elected.

Lobbying the state legislature is an important aspect of all three officials’ presidential duties.

Barr said she’ll be pushing for changes to special election laws that would save the taxpayers’ money.

Currently, special elections — like La Grange’s “wet” vote in June — cannot be held in conjunction with a general election according to state law.

Holding a special election costs about $2,000 per precinct, Barr said.

Lawmakers agree that changing the regulation would save money, but a partisan conflict prevented it from passing last year. 

For the KJA, Simpson said he’ll continue lobbying efforts to revise House Bill 463, which imposed sweeping changes to the state’s penal code.

And Sparrow said he’ll be working on various lobbying efforts, since sheriff’s departments wear a number of hats.

Last year, he was successful in lobbying for a $1 per hour rate increase for deputies serving as courthouse security, which helps offset the salaries for those employees.

The state-wide organizations also serve as helpful networking tools where officials can gather ideas and information.

Sparrow said he’s working on a statewide emergency plan for sheriffs to quickly provide assistance to counties during crisis situations.

Providing assistance to other counties will be a big part of Barr’s role as president, too.

She’ll be leading the organization as the state rolls out a new motor vehicle registration system next year.

The system will involve decals printed directly on registration forms — no more pulling them off a roll and stapling them to the form. 

Both the equipment and the software will change, and it’ll require a lot of training in clerk’s offices across the state.

“People don’t understand the amount of knowledge a motor vehicle clerk has,” Barr said. 

But, she’s encouraging the other clerks to “strive for excellence, not perfection,” she said.

“Excellence is doing the very best we can every time,” she said.

Barr said her staff recognizes the importance of the clerk association president — because whatever changes she’s able to make will impact their jobs.

All three also help organize state-wide conferences twice a year, which focus mainly on inservice training.

Sparrow said program like children’s IDs and TRIAD for senior citizens both came directly from the national conference.

And Sparrow also guides efforts for the Boys’ and Girls’ Ranch in Gilbertsville, Ky., which is a free, week-long camp for underprivileged youth.

About two dozen Oldham County youth attend the ranch each year, Sparrow said, thanks to fundraising efforts like an annual golf scramble.

Each also finds time to be involved in community service, including Simpson’s program that collects stuffed animals and children’s books for youth visiting jail inmates.

All three are also members of local rotary clubs — Barr in South Oldham and Simpson and Sparrow in La Grange.

All agree that the position — which are unpaid — involves a lot of time and effort, and credit their staff for supporting them.

“It’s going to be an interesting experience,” Barr said.