Fri, May 25, 2018 07:40 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Smile Awhile

Sisters are forever

01/19/2007 - Politics is no stranger to the Wheeler household.

Long before I was born, Granny Wheeler's brother, Beecher Stapleton, was a Johnson County attorney and also a county judge. It was under his administration that the first roads were paved in Johnson County.

The tradition to serve continued when 15 years later, my father, Buzzy Wheeler, was elected Johnson County Court Clerk, a position in which he served for 16 years, as well as being active in state and national politics. By the time Louie B. Nunn ran for Kentucky State Governor in 1968, he and Daddy had already become fast friends by way of the Young Republican Organization. During this period Dad also became acquainted with Bill Gorman, the present mayor of Hazard, and Hoag Hockensmith, a former pastor with the First Baptist Church in Paintsville. Both these men can tell numerous "Buzzy" stories (some of which can't be repeated here.)

As a child of a dedicated public servant, it came as no surprise that 22 years after my father's death, my sister Melinda decided to "throw her hat into the ring" and run for Kentucky State Treasurer.

My parents would be proud!

In 1976, Melinda took a position with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) through the encouragement of former Circuit Court Judge William B. Hazelrigg. Judge Hazelrigg was a long-time family friend and he encouraged her to take a position within this new program as he believed that its purpose would revolutionize how the courts operated. Judge Hazelrigg knew that Melinda's involvement in the initial stages of this new project could potentially enhance her opportunity for advancement.

His prophecy proved correct because for the past 31 years, Melinda has been employed by the AOC in different capacities such as a pre-trial officer, Deputy Director of Pre-trial Services, and Director of the AOC wherein she served 3,400 elected officials and employees involving 2.62 percent of the state budget.

Through various programs, many of which she helped implement, Melinda has watched the entire court system make dramatic changes which have not only improved Kentucky's courts, but have served as models for other states.

On Jan. 5, 2007, the staff and employees of the AOC honored Melinda with a retirement dinner at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington, where more than 200 fellow workers "roasted and toasted" her for her achievements with this agency. From the accolades she received from circuit and district judges, circuit court clerks, and Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, Melinda has obviously touched a lot of lives and impressed her peers and co-workers along the way.

She's impressed me, too, because I've looked up to my older sister all of our lives. (However, part of this has to do with the fact that she is 5'11 and I'm 5' 2, and still shrinking.) The other part is that she has always been there for me and never wavered in her support regardless of the stupid things I did or said. I guess you could say I was the atypical "little sister, but she was not an atypical "big sister." I could never fill her shoes.

Good luck, Sis! Here's hoping that you continue to serve the public while you make history as the first elected Republican woman to hold an office on the state level.

Appalachian Regaional
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