By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - Gov. Ernie Fletcher, delivering on a demand by civil-rights leaders, said Wednesday he would add a minority to his executive cabinet by elevating Personnel Commissioner Bob Ramsey.
Fletcher told a convention of black Baptists he had been "rightly criticized" for lacking a black cabinet secretary. He said he would change that with an executive order.
"Commissioner Bob Ramsey will become Secretary Bob Ramsey and our first African-American secretary in the cabinet," Fletcher said, drawing applause from the audience at a downtown hotel.
Ramsey was on the job and did not attend the convention of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.
The Rev. A. Russell Awkard, the association's first vice moderator, said he welcomed Ramsey's promotion.
"I'm satisfied that the governor is responding in such a meaningful way because we understand the importance of the Personnel Department in terms of jobs and opportunities," Awkard said.
Fletcher, after taking office in December, was criticized by some civil-rights leaders for appointing an all-white cabinet, though he insisted that Ramsey had a cabinet-level position.
Fletcher recruited James Nevels, a black businessman from Pennsylvania, for the position of finance secretary, but Nevels declined. Fletcher then gave the job to Robbie Rudolph of Murray. It was his final cabinet appointment.
As for making Ramsey a cabinet secretary, Fletcher said: "I felt like it was important to send a good message that we are making sure that we do everything we can to empower minorities."
Fletcher also said he has appointed 56 blacks to executive positions in his administration so far, outpacing his predecessor, Paul Patton.
Meanwhile, Fletcher received a cooler response from the church group while explaining his decision to review the state Human Rights Commission, a prelude to a possible reorganization. He said his goal was to protect minorities' rights.
Awkard said the review was unexpected, but he hoped the result would be a stronger commission.
"We're always concerned about being able to have our rights justly applied," said Awkard, the pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Louisville. "A serious look won't hurt anybody."
In his speech, Fletcher also asked the black church leaders to work with him to help improve education, economic opportunities and health care for minorities. Fletcher said blacks, traditionally an important Democratic constituency, have been "placated by empty promises."
"I might be an odd messenger," Fletcher said. "But let me assure you that this white, Republican governor wants to ask you to join me in addressing these unacceptable discriminations in this state."
2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
Edwards: 'We choose hope over despair'
Pollster tunes in to local voices
Sharpton, Kucinich join fold
Edwards' wife describes his rise
Kerry won't neglect Ohio
Kerry needs to prove he can lead the nation
McConnell calls attacks 'vile'
Prime-time speakers tonight
Ky. Takes Back Seat To Ohio
'Kerry parties' number 20 here
Gannett News Service convention coverage
Enquirer's election section
Girls prison under scrutiny
Hundreds honor Hoff, 'everyone's parent' at XU
Political funds face scrutiny
Auto pollution increases health risks
IN THE TRISTATE
More cars a concern in Evendale
Dems have a friend(?) in Flynt and his new book
Rate increase goes to voters
Local news briefs
Loveland may ease its rules on signs
Attorney general puts lottery in charge of bingo
Young Dems get campaign pointers
Guilty plea in gym scam
Former professor convicted of murder
Court asked to reconsider ban on Commandments
Hit-run victims get new shot at claims
Pendleton drug drive-through blocked
City schools plan hearing on budget
Suit against treasurer surprises county
West Chester center may be on Nov. ballot
Planners to consider Westwood rezoning
Transfer station coming to ex-landfill
Good Things Happening
Retirement wasn't idle time for L. Winiarski
Adjutant general fell into career
FOP wants into state budget suit
Bunning says veterans need best health care
Covington wants CSX bridge fixed
Judge rejects bond for murder suspect
Fletcher names 1st black to cabinet
Forest plan has foes on two sides
Florence Freedom hit with 9th lien
Gov. leaves comedy to pros
$143M settlement nets Ricky Martin, other CDs
Democrat Ridley wins Ky. Senate open seat
Sewer plant under way soon
Alexander may help get Boone new turf
Kentucky News briefs