Hiring of Democrats raises eyebrows in N. Ky. GOP

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MITCHELL — In the Nov. 3 election, Northern Kentucky Republican judge-executive candidates Dick Murgatroyd and Gary Moore beat the Democrats.

Now, they're hiring them.

In moves that have both pleased and angered GOP leaders, Mr. Moore and Mr. Murgatroyd — respectively the Boone and Kenton County judge-executives-elect — have hired Democrats as their county administrators.

Mr. Moore has hired Newport City Manager Jim Parsons while Mr. Murgatroyd has tapped Boone County Democratic Party Chairman Scott Kimmich, the deputy official for the Kentucky Department for Local Government in Frankfort.

Many Republican and Democratic party officials and candidates say the hirings show that Mr. Moore and Mr. Murgatroyd are putting politics aside to hire the best people.

And they say it could help heal some wounds inflicted by both sides during what were some tough partisan races in Northern Kentucky this fall.

“I have to admit I was surprised by (Mr. Murgatroyd's) hire” of Mr. Kimmich, said Kenton County Republican Chairman Greg Shumate. “But Murg has always stressed a bipartisan leadership approach, and this demonstrates his commitment to that.”

“They're trying to get the best people for the job, and that should be applauded,” said Kentucky House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, a Wilder Democrat.

“And they're not playing politics with their hires.”

But the hirings have also drawn some quiet criticism, especially in Kenton County.

Some party leaders are applauding Mr. Murgatroyd for hiring a Democrat. Others say they are livid and let down, but refuse to criticize their party chief for fear of diminishing the impact of their November victories. They are saying privately that there were plenty of Republicans who could have done the job, including some who supported Mr. Murgatroyd and other GOP candidates in the Nov. 3 election.

And some resent Mr. Kimmich, a fierce partisan Democrat who has run tough campaigns against Republicans in the past.

Mr. Murgatroyd, a state lawmaker from Villa Hills, defended his hire, saying Mr. Kimmich's experience with state government and his six years as deputy judge-executive in Boone County from 1986 to 1992 will serve Kenton County well.

“I simply determined that Scott's experience lends itself better to my personal management style,” Mr. Murgatroyd said.

Officials who have worked with Mr. Murgatroyd said they are not surprised by the hiring. As a two-term state lawmaker, Mr. Murgatroyd has a reputation as a statesman and as legislator who often clashed with his own party on bills and

issues in Frankfort.

“I'm very excited about the appointment of Scott Kimmich,” said Kenton County Commissioner-elect Adam Koenig, a Villa Hills Republican who serves with Mr. Kimmich on the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky.

“He brings a knowledge of the position ... and experience from the state level that will benefit the people of Kenton County,” he said.

Mr. Koenig, as well as state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Dick Roeding of Lakeside Park, said Mr. Kimmich's work in the state's Department of Local Government will help Kenton County land grant money and other state assistance.

“It's a good hire, especially with Scott's institutional knowledge,” Mr. Roeding said. “He's getting out of Democratic Party leadership and he's putting his priorities on Kenton County. This could be a great opportunity.

“This is a good signal for politics in Northern Kentucky,” said Mr. Kimmich, who plans to resign his political posts in the Boone County and state Democratic parties and move to Kenton County.

“Dick Murgatroyd is looking for the best people for the county. That's the way he intends to govern. And I don't intend to use any of my Democratic influence or contacts in his administration,” Mr. Kimmich said.

Mr. Moore has not taken as much heat as Mr. Murgatroyd, partially because while Mr. Parsons is a registered Democrat he has not been as active or as visible in party politics as Mr. Kimmich.

And by hiring an experienced government administrator such as Mr. Parsons, who worked 15 years in Newport and helped revitalize parts of the city, Mr. Moore is acknowledging he is looking for the best advice and guidance he can find.

Mr. Moore never has held elected office and the three incoming Republicans on the Boone County Fiscal Court — Robert Hay, Cathy Flaig and Rob Arnold — have no experience in county government.

“Gary Moore is trying to surround himself with the best people he can find,” said Boone County Jailer John Schickel, a Republican. “That's a very good thing for county government and it shows there are very good, very smart people in both parties.”

“I've had nothing but compliments and praise since I hired Jim Parsons,” Mr. Moore said. “People appreciate the fact we're trying to put together the best team, because in the long run that's what's best for the people.

“They don't care about the politics. They want a county government providing services and working for everyone in the county no matter what party they are from,” he said.

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