Kentucky Lt. Gov visits WKU, speaks at town hall meeting

Emily DeLetter

The WKU College Republicans hosted current Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton on Monday in a town hall to discuss her role in the government as well as answer questions from the audience.

Hampton is the first African-American to hold any statewide office in Kentucky history, and the third African-American woman to serve as lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. Hampton gave a personal history of her life and work experience and the path it took her to reach the position of lieutenant governor. The meeting concluded with a question and answer session between Hampton and members of the audience.

Hampton, a Bowling Green resident, described the path to her current position as “unusual.” She said she began her career with an industrial engineering degree before joining the Air Force.

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“I wanted to do something patriotic,” Hampton said.

Hampton attained the rank of captain, then worked in the corrugated packaging industry. Her first run for office in 2014 for the position of state representative was unsuccessful, but she ran in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election with current Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and won.

As lieutenant governor, one of the areas Hampton works in is entrepreneurship.

“I want to help foster the entrepreneurial climate in Kentucky,” Hampton said.

Other areas of her job include overseeing statewide emergency procedures, education issues, and aerospace and aviation.

After Hampton spoke, the meeting was opened up for questions from the audience.

One question asked concerned the implementation of charter schools in Kentucky.

“We’re looking at that landscape,” Hampton said. “We actually do have charter schools that are everything except in name only scattered over Kentucky.”

She named one example of the Owensboro Innovation Academy in Owensboro.

WKU professor Patti Minter asked Hampton about the plans for Kentucky’s pension system.

“The program suggested by Gov. Bevin has been uniformly rejected by public employees across party lines as things that would harm retirees,” Minter said. “A pension is a promise.”

Hampton said she was surprised over the concern about the pension system.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and spin out there,” Hampton said. “We want pensioners to get what they’re getting now.”

Hampton was also asked her opinion regarding widespread allegations of sexual harassment of numerous politicians, including allegations against current Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover.

The Courier-Journal reported that Hoover reached a confidential settlement over sexual harassment allegations with a woman who works on his legislative staff.

Hampton said it was Hoover’s decision to step down from his position.

“He admitted he did something wrong,” Hampton said. “It doesn’t matter what I think, it was his decision.”

She said that it seems as if “we are trying people in the court of public opinion.”

“It’s a slippery slope,” Hampton said. “We don’t want to live in a world where people can be brought down with just an accusation.”

She also specifically addressed the women in the audience, telling them to not tolerate sexual harassment, and to “shut it down immediately.”

Hampton was asked to take a stance on immigration, especially concerning DACA recipients and the Dreamers program.

“Is it unfair that someone who was broken the law, as long as they get away with it, should be accommodated?” Hampton said. “What I support is law.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.