Curtain Call

Trimble County’s Clem says term
as judge-executive was rewarding

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (January 2003) – After more than 30 years of community service, outgoing Trimble County Judge-Executive Ray Clem said he plans to take a couple of years off to “recharge my batteries.”
Clem is being replaced by Judge-Executive-elect Randy Stephens, who takes office Jan. 6. Clem, 50, said that he grew up in Trimble County and has always been concerned with issues facing the communities within its borders. Clem’s family history traces its political roots to his grandfather, Ralph Clem, who was a Trimble County magistrate in the early 1950s and worked on the reconstruction of the courthouse after it burned in 1952.

Ray Clem

Ray Clem

Clem’s personal record of community service includes an effort in the early 1970s to establish the first Trimble County library. A Morehead University student at the time, Clem said he was part of a committee that petitioned residents of the county to agree to a tax increase to fund the public library.
“I’ve been working in this community as a civic activist for 30 years,” said Clem, who also founded the Trimble County Apple Festival more than a decade ago.
Clem graduated from Morehead University in 1974 with a degree in radio and television communications and speech. Before taking public office, he worked for 15 years in administration and human resources for Kentucky Utilities. Clem’s interest in his hometown community, however, led him to run for county judge executive in 1998. He was elected to replace Jack Couch.
Clem said that during his four-year term, he and the administration in place made many substantial contributions to the community. Particularly, Clem said that he is most proud of the improvements that were made concerning public health and safety.
Some of the initiatives that were realized under Clem were the $424,000 renovation and expansion of the Trimble County Health Department, installation of new weather warning sirens in Milton and North Bedford, addition of a paid daytime ambulance service and the purchase of two new ambulances, creation of the county’s first disaster-emergency operations center at the Morgan Community Center, and the creation of an official office for the Emergency Management Director in the Property Valuation Administrator’s building. These measures, said Clem, have greatly improved the county’s preparedness in case of a disaster.
Clem is also quite proud of the improvements and expansion at the Trimble County Recreational Facility. Improvements to the park include installation of new scoreboards, construction of a new concession stand, renovation of shelter houses and old concession stand, and new heating and air-conditioning for the 4-H building.
Additionally, Clem worked to acquire a $200,000 grant, which in part funded the purchase of nearly 81 additional acres adjacent to the recreational facility. The land was acquired for an outstanding price, since it was a prime piece of property that could have been sold for a housing development. That would have left the park landlocked.
Before the addition of the 81 acres, the park was quickly outgrowing the population, said Clem. Now Clem hopes the county will hire a designer to determine the best way to use the additional acreage, which he said would make a great area for hiking and horseback riding tails and possibly a campground.
“It will really make a beautiful park,” Clem said of the land, which is partially wood and rolling. The level area adjacent to Hwy. 421 is currently used as a practice track for the high school cross country team.
Fiscally, Clem said he will leave the administration in good standing. The health department project, which Clem said cost approximately half a million dollars, is debt free. The senior citizen center at the county park, which was started under Clem’s predecessor and completed during his term, is also entirely paid for.
Mike Dunaway, also a first-term elected official, served as a Trimble County magistrate representing District 2 during the same years as Clem. Dunaway said that he knew Clem for several years before serving in public office with him and was always impressed with Clem’s character and dedication.
“I think he is a courageous, altruistic and visionary leader that is motivated by a dedication to public service,” Dunaway said. Dunaway added that he felt the administration under Clem was tremendously successful and that Clem brought a heightened sense of professionalism to the court and worked tirelessly for the county.
When asked what advice he would give to future community leaders, Clem said, “I think they need to be true to their community.” By that, Clem said that he thinks leaders should understand the issues that are affecting the community and have the courage to make the decisions that are best for the community, regardless of the political implications.
Particularly, Clem said that planning and zoning issues, the focus of his campaign platform in 1998, are some of the most critical concerns facing Trimble County today. He said his administration tackled the sensitive issue head-on, something he believes may have cost him re-election.
“The zoning issue is something that Ray brought to the forefront,” said Neil Bryan, president of Farmers Bank of Milton. Bryan said Clem’s tenure in office was a difficult transitional period for the county marked by growth and change. Bryan said that Trimble, one of Kentucky’s fastest growing counties, has experienced “growing pains.” Figuring out how to support the infrastructure with the continued growth, said Bryan, will more than likely continue to be an issue for community leaders.
Clem said he hopes that future administrators will seriously consider adopting a comprehensive plan and creating an official body to oversee planning and zoning. The county’s population, said Clem, will likely double in the next 15 years if it continues to grow at current rates. That type of growth, he said, cannot continue unchecked.
Clem said growth issues and the future of the county greatly concern him. “I can’t think of a single organization - public or private - that flourishes without a plan,” said Clem. He strongly advocates that a comprehensive plan for the county be instituted, a goal he was unable to achieve while in office.
Newly elected State Rep. Rick Rand of Trimble County said that the county’s rapid growth will continue, however, exactly how the issue needs to be addressed will be up to the new administration. Perhaps, said Rand, a new approach to the issue will need to be considered since the former referendum for planning and zoning proposed under Clem’s administration was overwhelmingly defeated.
Clem said that he plans to stay in Trimble County, where he currently lives on a 100-acre farm that has been in his family since 1942. He restored the 1888 farm house where he resides with his wife, Catherine Stuart Clem, an elementary school music teacher, and daughter, Jenna a 17-year-old junior at Trimble County High School. Clem said his future career plans include a job search in the fields of economic development, communications or management.

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