The Kentucky Firefighters Association (KFA) is holding its annual conference in Owensboro this year, and the group was able to hear Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s Democratic nominee for governor, speak Monday morning about his campaign platforms, several of which affect firefighters across the state.
Airport-Sorgho Fire Chief and President of the KFA Pat Thompson said 2019 marks KFA’s 99th annual conference held, and that around 275 firefighters and fire service personnel are in Owensboro for this year’s event.
“It rotates around the Commonwealth, depending on who is president of the association that year,” he said. “We conduct business of the association, discuss legislation issues and go over future business.”
Beshear spoke at the conference Monday morning. Thompson said he believes Beshear to be very pro-firefighter and pro-first responder, as he’s been fighting to protect public pensions since announcing his run for governor.
“The pension issues were at the forefront of his speech,” Thompson said. “I think you can see he is pro-emergency medical responders because he filed a lawsuit against the sewer bill.”
Beshear also spoke to the attending crowd of around 250 people about his other campaign platforms, including affordable health care, good-paying jobs, strengthening public education and fighting the statewide opioid crisis.
While Thompson said KFA didn’t invite any candidates to speak, they allowed Beshear to make a speech at the KFA event after receiving a call from his campaign manager. Beshear arrived Monday morning and met with many of the firefighters before delivering his speech at 9:30 a.m.
While Beshear didn’t directly name his opponent during his speech, he alluded to a recent appointment made by Governor Matt Bevin that struck a nerve with many firefighters who live on the west side of the state, including Thompson.
“There’s a big uproar on the number of fire service personnel on the Kentucky Fire Commission about eight months ago. It’s supposed to be a representation of Kentucky, but of the 19 on there, there’s nobody west of Hardinsburg down to Glasgow,” Thompson said. “Two of those appointed to the fire commission are brand new and eight are from Jefferson County.”
The three expired terms that were replaced included a 30-year veteran, a 20-year veteran and someone with 50 years of experience.
“They were replaced by two brand-new firefighters and a retired fire chief,” Thompson said. “It’s not a fair representation.”
Beshear told the crowd of firefighters he would fix the unfair appointments that had been made by Bevin, something Thompson said he has faith will happen if Beshear is elected in November 2019.
Thompson said it’s been a great experience to be able to hold the 2019 KFA Conference in Owensboro this year. The conference began Saturday and will run through Tuesday night.
“It’s cool that the conference for police chiefs was held here last week, and then we had the firefighters here this week,” he said. “I think it speaks well of Owensboro, and it’s a big boost for our economy. It shows people like coming here for events.”