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Gov. Paul Patton

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Gov. Paul PattonThe Honorable Paul Patton, Governor, State of Kentucky

National Commission on the High School Senior Year

It fits perfectly that Paul Patton's chosen field as a young man bound for college was mechanical engineering. He's been building strong foundations and organizations in all areas of his career - be it as a success in the coal business or in public service - ever since he started. His determination, leadership and profound sense of teamwork have brought results to every area of his life. He has said that for him, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall" is more than a state motto - it has been a way of life.

Paul Patton is unabashed when he pays tribute to the role his family and his home near Louisa have played in his life and career. He is proud of his heritage and says there aren't many places on earth that can leave an impact on one's values like Eastern Kentucky. "I know of no place with greater extremes - physical and human - or greater pride and strength." He credits the freedom that he and his sisters enjoyed on their small farm in Fallsburg in Lawrence County for the sense of independence, self-confidence and originality that defines Kentucky's 59th Governor today.

"Louisa is 'my roots.' It's where my parents, Irene and Ward Patton and their parents, gave me a sense of ethics and strong values."

Governor Patton graduated from Louisa High School in 1955. Because his father, a teacher, knew first hand the value of education and saved every month for his son's education, Paul attended the University of Kentucky. It was there that he began preparing for his successful career in business and government, graduating in 1959. He then accepted an offer to work as a laborer in a coal mine in McDowell in Floyd County where he learned everything he could about the coal business. That determination led to establishing his own coal company which he ran until 1979.

The coal business provided Paul Patton and others in the region work when there weren't many other options in Eastern Kentucky. But he saw too many neighbors and friends leave the mountains to find work elsewhere and he was determined to find a way to change that migration from Eastern Kentucky. After 20 years of working and running his own company, he looked to public service, joining the administration of John Y. Brown Jr. in 1979 as deputy transportation secretary. During this time he also served as chairman of the Democratic Party of Kentucky. He ran for office himself in 1981 and won the race for Pike County Judge-Executive.

Paul Patton steps up to the plate with a homemade baseball bat, close to his home in Lawrence County.

While serving the citizens of Pike County, Paul Patton brought much needed infrastructure to that region of Kentucky and provided a style of progressive leadership that earned him accolades as the best county judge in the Commonwealth. He championed the effort to stabilize the Coal Severance Tax Program, which continues to increase the amount of severance tax that is returned to coal producing counties. Other counties worked to emulate the results that his style of leadership brought to his Eastern Kentucky county.

"We knew that a better future for our citizens could begin right here and that we had to work together to make the future a reality. We had to, as always, depend on our own creativity and perseverance. We built new roads, water lines, sewers and built a whole new system for training and educating our work force. What I learned as a miner starting out held true: if we don't work together, we don't work. It remains my philosophy today."

In 1991, Paul Patton won his first statewide race for the office of Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and became the first person elected to that office to also head a state cabinet. In his capacity as Secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, Patton continued his work to bring jobs to Kentucky. Economic development legislation Governor Patton wrote and helped pass in 1992 was modeled on his 1987 proposal to provide incentive programs to counties with consistently high unemployment rates. These programs have been credited with creating thousands of jobs across Kentucky.

As a builder, Paul Patton knows that a solid foundation makes all the difference to the sustainability of the structure. Besides his reverence for his parents and grandparents, sisters and cousins, he says there is no one more important to him than his wife, Judi. "She's my partner in life and coming from a family dedicated to public service as she does, she is my inspiration for my public career. We are a team in every sense of the word as we build a better life for our children, our grandchildren and all Kentuckians. I've been fortunate to have such success in business, in public service and the gift of a wonderful family. We're very proud and grateful that the citizens of Kentucky have given us this opportunity to contribute."

Meetings Attended:

Commission Meeting -- December 3-4, 2001