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Mitchell praised as intellection force behind positive change in Fifth District

Bob Mitchell, above center, received the Leadership Tri-County Leader of the Year award Monday. He is flanked by his wife Nancy and organization chairman Miles Estes.

Calling him an "unselfish and selfless" champion of progress and transformation in southern and eastern Kentucky, U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Somerset) lauded his former District Director as a well-deserved recipient of the Leader of the Year Award for Knox, Laurel and Whitley Counties during a special banquet held Monday in Corbin.

Bob Mitchell, retired long-time District Director for Rogers, accepted the award on stage at the Corbin Center for Technology and Community Activities with a humble nod to Rogers and a self-deprecating recounting of his prodigious and impressive work for the congressman.

"If you ever selected a leader of the decade, it should be Congressman Hal Rogers," Mitchell said during his relatively short award acceptance speech which was laced with homespun humor and high praise for his former boss.

"It's been my honor to just kind of tag along," he added. "It's been a journey. It's something that I wouldn't trade for anything."

Mitchell first teamed up with Rogers in 1970 when Rogers ran for Lt. Governor of Kentucky. In 1980, he was instrumental in the 1980 congressional campaign that propelled Rogers to federal office.

From then, until his retirement in 2012, Mitchell was the point man for the Congressman in the Fifth Congressional District. Behind the scenes, he became known, and later revered, as a quiet and effective advocate for development and improvement of the Appalachian counties Rogers represented.

Rogers himself was the keynote speaker during the Leader of the Year banquet Monday, and he used the opportunity to provide insight into Mitchell's vital role in local politics over the last three decades.

"I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony," Rogers joked, saying he had been tasked with saying "good things" about his former district chief. "I don't know where to start."

Rogers recounted how me first met Mitchell when he ran for Lt. Governor in 1979, characterizing him as an eager volunteer. The campaign met with failure, but the duo hooked up again in 1980 when Rogers ran for U.S. House of Representatives and won. He wanted Mitchell to play a larger role in that campaign. Having identified Mitchell as a natural leader with an optimistic outlook, he quickly became a congressional staffer for Rogers and moved up in the ranks to be his most trusted political operator and advisor.

"Over the years, I've learned to rely on his judgment, his wisdom, optimism and his natural ability to see through conflicts," Rogers said. "He's a positive force in a sometimes negative world."

Rogers noted that, when he took office, he was faced with a Appalachian district that was plagued by bad roads, flooding problems, trash and littler, spoiled waterways and few people had city water and sewage. He said Mitchell has been instrumental in turning a lot of that around.

"We've had a chance to work together and I think transform our region," Rogers said. "We've got a long way to go yet, but I think if you look back when Bob Mitchell started this chore you can see a difference."

Rogers said Mitchell has an uncanny knack for taking difficult problems and finding practical solutions. He credited him for the formation and organization of many of Roger's signature achievements including the creation of the environmental initiative PRIDE, Operation UNITE, an effort to stem the tide of illegal drug use in eastern Kentucky, Forward in the Fifth, centered on improving education, Tour SEKY, created to foster tourism in the Fifth Congressional District, and the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation.

"When you talk about leadership, in the dictionary it has a picture of Bob Mitchell."

Though retired, Mitchell is still active in many of the organizations he helped Rogers start. He also remains RogersÕ political campaign manager.

The event served as a fundraiser for Leadership Tri-County - a non-profit organization established in 1987 as an educational program designed to identify potential, emerging, and current leaders from Knox, Laurel, and Whitley counties and to nurture their continued development into the leaders our area needs now and in the future.

Miles Estes, the organization's President this year, hosted the event. Central Baptist Church Minister Chad Fugitt offered the opening prayer and benediction. About 300 people attended.


Terry Smith (February 13, 2013) Reply

This is just the beginning "Since the 9/11 attacks, Rogers has abused his position to steer production of a system designed to enhance airport security to a factory in Corbin, Kentucky. The trouble is, the factory wasn't equipped to produce the tamperproof biometric ID cards favored by security experts. So Rogers forced the government to spend $4 million to test the factory's technology -- steering some of the work to a tiny company that hired his son. When the factory flunked the test, Rogers delayed the process again, demanding that prototypes for new cards be built in Kentucky.

Woodrow Wilson (February 13, 2013) Reply

Terry, such hostility. Uncle Hal has done wonderful things for this area, and I am very serious about that. But like ALL US Representatives and US Senators, Uncle Hal has included his Pork Barrel projects in the bills he pushes through the process. I don't think he has done anything wrong, maybe a little nepotism buy not illegal. Look at what Duke Cunningham did, he was a Vietnam Fighter Pilot Ace, he shot the Hell out of Charlie and his friends. But Duke got greedy and went to prison. So lighten up, Hal has done more for the 5th District than anyone ever has or thought about doing. I just wish he could have done more, or could do more. We have serious issues with unemployment around here and a few other problems that could get fixed if we had some help. Way to go Hal. From Grandpa Woody, still watching in Heaven.

Judy Nantz (February 17, 2013) Reply

Central Appalachia has greater-than-average levels of a variety of health problems. The region has high rates of diabetes; lung, cervical and breast cancer; cardiovascular disease; and mental health conditions. Eastern Kentucky’s 5th congressional district (HAL ROGERS) recently ranked last among all 436 congressional districts in the health index of the American Human Development Project. Workplace-related risks and health problems persist; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that black lung disease—despite being preventable—is actually on the rise among coal miners, and has caused 10,000 deaths over the last decade. Prescription drug abuse is a pervasive problem. And access to health care remains inadequate: the region persists as a health professional shortage area, and many communities’ health care dollars are spent outside the region in more urbanized areas. Hal Rogers has been our congressman for 32 years. WHAT A GREAT JOB! THANK YOU SO much ATTY HAL ROGERS. Just look were we could have been without your great leadership. May God Bless You!

Allison Rogers (February 18, 2013) Reply

The Lexington Herald-Leader broke the news of Congressman Rogers, who represents the poorest Congressional district in the United States, about his effort to help cheetahs, uhh I mean his daughter: U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is sponsoring a bill to give $5 million a year to conservation groups that work overseas on behalf of endangered "great cats and rare canids," such as cheetahs, lions and Ethiopian wolves. One group interested in applying, should Rogers' bill become law, is the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund. Its grants administrator, Allison Rogers, is the congressman's daughter. "Obviously, I'm waiting with bated breath," said Allison Rogers, who lives in Versailles. "It would help us a lot because the Cheetah Conservation Fund does not have a very big budget." She and her father say there is no conflict of interest. The congressman from southeastern Kentucky long has been a champion of wildlife, she said. We thank you so much Hal Rogers for helping the Cheetah Conservation. The Cheetah Conservation will help so many poor people here in Eastern Kentucky.

Curt (November 08, 2013) Reply

If UK Wildcats had three losing seasons, what would happen. The coach would be fired! Kentucky's 5th Congressional District has had 33 years of losing seasons with the same (coach) and his personal net wealth has increased, plus this district is the poorest of the 436 Congrssional Districts! Kentuckians of the Fifth District you are losers and fail to recognize it!

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