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2007-02-28 Interview with Don Blandford, February 28, 2007 CC001:2007OH135CC21 01:12:48 History of Kentucky's Community Colleges Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Owensboro Community and Technical College Don Blandford; interviewee John Klee; interviewer 2007OH135_CC21_Blandford 1:|15(10)|77(7)|125(2)|182(5)|233(3)|263(9)|305(11)|360(3)|392(4)|429(9)|468(9)|498(6)|525(12)|560(7)|600(4)|622(3)|638(5)|682(2)|719(4)|750(6)|780(2)|797(2)|837(3)|868(7)|906(1)|940(7)|986(8)|1011(9)|1040(8)|1076(12)|1097(9)|1126(1)|1158(10)|1184(10)|1207(10)|1233(12)|1270(5)|1307(7)|1329(5)|1357(12)|1372(8)|1400(2)|1418(7)|1435(2)|1458(1)|1485(2)|1532(2)|1563(8)|1591(3)|1635(13)|1680(2)|1725(3)|1767(6)|1789(9)|1811(10)|1839(1)|1857(11)|1881(6)|1916(6)|1951(4)|1999(13)|2038(4)|2069(8)|2099(12)|2137(14)|2169(4)|2204(2)|2227(3)|2270(8)|2308(13)|2335(1)|2379(2) audiotrans CommuColl interview KLEE: The following is an oral history interview with Representative Don Blandford by John Klee for the University of Kentucky Community College History series. The interview is being conducted at Owensboro Community and Technical College on February 28th, 2007. Representative Blandford, let's start just talking a little bit about yourself. Tell me about your background. BLANDFORD: I'm agriculture-oriented, I suppose, born and raised on a farm out in the west end of Daviess County. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: I got interested in politics just by virtue of openings coming -- nothing I had really set out to be a politician or anything. And just kind of a wild hare one time, a friend said, "Hey, why don't you run for this? And why don't you run for the Legislature?" And I -- "Okay, why not?" And was fortunate enough to get elected and -- KLEE: What -- BLANDFORD: Bu anyway, my background mainly agriculture. KLEE: Your parents -- or your father was a farmer? BLANDFORD: Yes, uh-huh. Out in -- KLEE: Did that all his life? BLANDFORD: -- out in the rural community out in the west end of Daviess County. KLEE: Uh-huh. Now, down here -- BLANDFORD: I got married, now, and moved up to the east end and -- up at Philpot, so that gave me a little bit of an advantage when it came to politics. KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: I had friends in the west end, and I lived in the east end. KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: So that was one of my advantages. KLEE: How's -- what kind of lifestyle was that for your family? You have some siblings or -- BLANDFORD: No, no. Yeah, I had brothers and sisters. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: I don't have any children. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: I had brothers and sisters. KLEE: But you had brothers and sisters. BLANDFORD: Uh-huh. And they were all involved in the agriculture -- KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: -- end of it too at that time. And -- KLEE: And your education? ----------(??) school. BLANDFORD: Education, high school, went to Owensboro Catholic High School. KLEE: Did you? BLANDFORD: Uh-huh. KLEE: Okay. And came out of there, and did you decide -- did you think you were going to go into farming or -- BLANDFORD: Well, I worked at Kroger's. I started working at Kroger's when I was a junior in high school. KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: And it turned out to be a pretty good job. And it was a real good job -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: -- while I was going to school. I think Kroger's was paying $1.05 an hour (Laughing -- Klee), and the local -- all the local stores were paying, like, $1.00 an hour. So they all envied me making that extra nickel. And so I just stayed there. When I graduated from high school, I stayed at Kroger's and worked there for, like, twenty years. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And became a meat cutter. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: Head meat cutter for a while. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And then -- KLEE: Well, we share something. BLANDFORD: -- the Legislature and Kroger's got to where it was kind of -- KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: -- kind of hard keeping up with both of them, so I retired from Kroger's and became a full-time legislator. KLEE: Right. My dad owned an IGA store, so I've cut some meat in my time a little bit, probably not as well as you all did. It was a little old Flemingsburg store. BLANDFORD: Meat cutter's not like it was. (Blandford laughs) KLEE: No. BLANDFORD: They don't haul those big sides of beef around all like we used to. KLEE: Hang them on the hooks. I remember that. We had a -- BLANDFORD: It's all centrally done now. KLEE: We had a regular butcher that did most of that. I was mostly just cutting up chickens and slicing -- BLANDFORD: Yeah. KLEE: -- bologna and -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: We'd have guys come in and ask for round steak, and I knew what it was. It was bologna for them. BLANDFORD: Yeah. KLEE: So you worked at Kroger. That was a union job. BLANDFORD: Union job. And I was active in the union. I was union steward, union representative, negotiated some contracts, and was very active in the union. KLEE: So you made some contacts there. BLANDFORD: Yes, yes. And those things all helped me when it came to running for the Legislature. KLEE: Out of high school, what year are we talking about there? BLANDFORD: '6- -- (Blandford laughs) -- '68. (Klee laughs) KLEE: Got out of high school in '68 and worked for Kroger. BLANDFORD: No, wait a minute. That's not right either. KLEE: No, it'd be earlier than that, wouldn't it? BLANDFORD: No, I got out in '65. KLEE: Okay, okay. KLEE: Well, it's all right. BLANDFORD: No. KLEE: I am just curious about your -- BLANDFORD: Good Lord, I'm even -- KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: I'm way -- '56. (Blandford laughs). KLEE: '56. Okay. Yeah, I knew you were -- BLANDFORD: Oh, boy! You know, time gets by me. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: And the older I get, the worse I get. KLEE: Well, I am the same way. BLANDFORD: '56, I graduated away from Owensboro Catholic High School. KLEE: 1956. So it was in the '7- -- what was your first political office? BLANDFORD: State representative. KLEE: Oh, you went straight to the -- BLANDFORD: Uh-huh, yes. KLEE: -- Legislature, okay. BLANDFORD: Straight to the Legislature. KLEE: Okay. What year was that? BLANDFORD: That was in '68. KLEE: '68. BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: That's what I had confused. KLEE: Right. What about opposition? Did you have opposition that -- BLANDFORD: I had opposition the fir- -- yes, the first time I had three opponents. One was a labor leader, one was a district judge, one was a retired foundry owner, owned a foundry. KLEE: Gee! That's quite a slate to run against, and somebody's that never run for office. BLANDFORD: Yes, it was. And then -- now, this was in the primary. And then in the general election, I had a guy named Bill Richard, who owned a brick and tile company here in Owensboro. So I had opposition both in the primary and in the general my -- the first time. KLEE: So how did that go? I mean -- BLANDFORD: Well, it went well. In fact, (both laugh) I remember when I first got interested or decided to run, I went around to all the powers-to-be, so to speak, in Daviess County in politics. And they all just kind of nodded their head and said, "Well, you know, you're a nice young man, you've got a -- you know, you'll be okay in the future, but you can't do it this time." KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: Bob Short, who was a judge here, he had the administration support. And they said, "Now, Bob is going to win this one, but you know, come see us later." (Blandford laughs) KLEE: He was that district judge you were talking about. BLANDFORD: Yes. And -- KLEE: Well, who were some of these people at that time in the later '60s, who were the power brokers in the area? BLANDFORD: J. R. Miller, of course, was the -- he was the real power broker. Wendell Ford, naturally -- KLEE: Oh, okay. BLANDFORD: -- was part of that process. J. R. Miller at that time was director of the Green River Electric Corporation here, had been a real mover and shaker in Wendell Ford's ascent into the -- KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: -- to the higher -- KLEE: So he wasn't -- he didn't hold political office himself, but he was -- BLANDFORD: He was actually out for Bob Short. And you know, I didn't know him. In fact, somebody -- I was walking down the street one day and somebody said, "What does J. R. Miller think about you running against Bob Short?" And I said, "J. R. Miller, who -- ." (both laugh) "Where can I find him? Maybe I ought to go talk to him." KLEE: Talk to him, yeah! BLANDFORD: So I remember when I walked in the office, (clears throat) I was intimidated. He was on the phone talking to Everett Dirksen in -- KLEE: Oh, my goodness! (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: -- in Washington (Blandford laughs). So I sat there and listened to part of the conversation, you know. And after he got through talking to Everett Dirksen, then, you know, I told him what I wanted, that I was running for the Legislature. That's when he -- he just -- you know, he was nice to me, but -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: -- he just let me know I didn't have a chance, you know. KLEE: Sure, sure. BLANDFORD: So it made it all the more -- I guess all the more pleasing to me to, you know, to -- KLEE: To win that primary. BLANDFORD: -- to win it under those circumstances. KLEE: Right. You had some -- you said you had political support in the rural areas because you'd lived in the west end and then moved to the east end. BLANDFORD: Yes, I lived in the west end, born and raised there, so my family was there. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And yet I had been in the east end for several years, which -- KLEE: Working here in Owensboro, I guess, at Kroger. BLANDFORD: And butchering -- working in Owensboro's at Kroger's. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: So I had ties both in the west end, and the city, because of ties that I made cutting meat for people. KLEE: Right, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: And then in the east, I had moved to the east end. KLEE: Yeah. So I mean -- BLANDFORD: Had made some friends there. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: So I had a pretty good base. KLEE: You mentioned that there -- you had Republican opposition in that race too. BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: And that was -- who did you tell me that was? BLANDFORD: A fellow named Bill Richard. KLEE: Bill Richard. BLANDFORD: He owned a -- had a lot of money, owned Owensboro Brick and Tile Company. KLEE: I don't know the politics of this area. Do Republicans win elections down here very often? Or I mean, was that -- BLANDFORD: Well, they do now. (both laugh) Back in those days, they -- you almost had to be a Democrat. KLEE: I see. So -- BLANDFORD: But they were just coming into their own, and of course, Richard was well-financed, you know, had a lot of the business, Chamber of Commerce types, you know, that weren't exactly my friends because of my labor background. KLEE: So you could breath a sigh of relief after -- BLANDFORD: So he had his -- he had a pretty good following within the business community and the money people, so-to-speak, and I had the little people. KLEE: Right. You felt good after the primary, but you still couldn't overlook this fellow, because -- BLANDFORD: Exactly, exactly. KLEE: Uh-huh. So what -- you got to the Legislature, what was that like? What was -- I mean, how -- BLANDFORD: Oh, I was -- KLEE: What was your impression? BLANDFORD: Oh, I was lost. (both laugh) I had to find out where Frankfort was! (Klee laughs) But I don't know, just -- you know, just played, you know, the cards that were dealt me. I wasn't a real orator, you know, couldn't -- didn't make any flowery speeches. And I was a behind-the-sc- -- worked behind the scenes, and tried to build up a rapport with people and build a -- a base -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: -- form coalitions. That was one of the things I really intended to do, because I -- when I first went there, I said, you know, "You've got to be in leadership to get anything done here, 138 people." KLEE: You realized that from the beginning? BLANDFORD: Oh, sure. Oh, sure. KLEE: Okay. It was clear, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: You know, you were just one of 138 votes, unless you got into leadership, so I was looking toward that, you know, all through the process. And like I say, trying to form coalitions and make friends, and you know, go where the power was. KLEE: Did you have any people that kind of took you under their wing, any mentors in the House -- BLANDFORD: Not really. KLEE: -- that you kind of looked to? BLANDFORD: Not at the start, no. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: No, no. KLEE: Any, you know, friendships that formed there early, or in the early '70s that, you know, lasted for a long time? BLANDFORD: Well, just regional. I -- you know, I tried to make friends and did. And of course, Eastern Kentucky, knew that was a base or some people that I could work -- they were, you know -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: -- they were kind of rural-oriented also. And then I had a good following in parts of Jefferson County. I kind of worked that angle. And -- KLEE: What about committee work and so forth? What did you center on there? What was your -- BLANDFORD: Agriculture. KLEE: Did you? All right, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: I chaired the Agriculture Committee for -- practically from the start. KLEE: Is that right? BLANDFORD: And of course, made a lot of -- you know, made a lot of friends there. And -- but that was my main operation when I first went to the Legislature. KLEE: And of course, that put you in touch with people all over the state. BLANDFORD: Exactly, exactly. KLEE: Uh-huh. And built that -- BLANDFORD: But it was all -- my early years were all based toward running for -- KLEE: Moving towards the leadership. BLANDFORD: Moving toward the leadership, because I could see right off that's where things were done. KLEE: Well, tell me about some of those early steps then. How did -- I mean, how did that progress? I mean, you didn't go straight from being a House member to the Speaker. Was there -- were there -- BLANDFORD: No, no. Like I say, I was Chairman of the Agriculture Committee for years. I then ran for Speaker Pro Tem. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: After that -- now, this was several years after-- KLEE: Oh, yeah. Right. BLANDFORD: And I had to bide my time and I was -- I won that by one vote -- KLEE: Who was the opposition? BLANDFORD: -- over an incumbent, David Thomason from Henderson. KLEE: Yeah, I think I remember that now. BLANDFORD: And that went and played into (both laugh) the community college thing. KLEE: Right, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: But David Thomason was the -- and he had the support of all the leadership at that time. The Speaker, Speaker Pro Tem, Majority Leader, Whip, and Caucus Chairman made up the House leadership, and he was part of that. And they were all supporting him, and -- but somehow or another, like I say, by my having built these coalitions over the years and all, I was fortunate enough to win that one. And a couple of my people, a couple of people that ran on the slate with me also won, so that gave us the majority of the Committee on Committees, which the Committee on Committees appoints the people to the committees, refers the bills to committees, and this type of thing. KLEE: Right. (Blandford whispers to a visitor) KLEE: We can stop if you want to, uh-huh. There must have been some dissatisfaction with the leadership at that time to get you and your group in. So had they kind of become complacent or -- BLANDFORD: There was. KLEE: -- weren't taking care -- BLANDFORD: They had been there, and at that time the General Assembly was making a transition. Prior to that, the Governor had just complete control. And the Legislature at that time -- and I was at least part of the movement to do that, to move into our own, so-to-speak, and make the Legislature a real representative body of the people, as it should be, rather than an arm of the Governor. KLEE: Rubber stamp. BLANDFORD: Rubber stamp. So we were kind of in that transition period at the time, and the present leadership were from the old guard. They had been put there by the Governor. And so this was the first real leadership race that we had had that was -- that the Governor -- KLEE: It was wide open. BLANDFORD: -- the Governor wasn't involved in. KLEE: We're talking about Governor Brown, I guess. BLANDFORD: Governor Brown. Governor Collins -- KLEE: Right, was after -- BLANDFORD: -- was after -- yes, yes. KLEE: So -- yeah, I guess -- BLANDFORD: Governor Brown just had no interest whatever in (Klee laughs) in controlling the Legislature. He more or less kept hands off, and we took that as an opportunity to kind of build our own momentum and -- KLEE: That's a real transitional moment in Kentucky history -- BLANDFORD: Exact- -- oh, exactly. KLEE: -- because the Legislature still has that independence. BLANDFORD: I was never comfortable with the Legislature up to that point, because we were just -- the Governor just called the leadership and said, "Hey, here's what I want, I want this done, I want that done." And it was done, you know. And you went along. And you know, like I say, you're one vote out of 138. But you went along, but also you had in the back of your mind, this isn't right, we need to change this. And so that's what we were doing at this point. KLEE: Uh-huh. You don't remember the year you became Speaker Pro Tem, do you? It would be, I guess -- BLANDFORD: Yeah, that was in '84. KLEE: Okay, '84. Bobby Richardson was Speaker of the House at that time. BLANDFORD: Bobby Richardson was the Speaker, and Jim LeMaster was the Majority Leader. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: Now, they returned -- they retained their positions. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: David Thomason was Speaker Pro Tem, and I replaced him. Jim Dunn replaced Kenny Rapier, who was the Whip, and Bill Donnermeyer -- these are my friends. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: These -- we ran on a slate together. KLEE: Yeah, Donnermeyer was a Northern Kentucky legislator, wasn't he? BLANDFORD: Right, right. KLEE: I remember him. BLANDFORD: Right. And so anyway we had -- then we had a three-two makeup on the committee, where we at least had some say over where the committee -- where the bills went and how the Legislature ran. KLEE: Okay. Let me take you back -- BLANDFORD: We were still kind of under the old guard, because the committees had been appointed by the old -- you know. So it took us a while to change the committee process, change the committee system, Rules Committee and that type thing. KLEE: I see. Let me take you back to the first term there, in '68 and through the '70s. What was going on? Of course, you know, one of the things legislators -- or communities look for is their legislators to, you know, bring them things home. What -- were there some things going on that you were able to do for Daviess County and Owensboro during the '70s as a legislator? Anything stands out in your mind? BLANDFORD: Nothing -- you know, nothing really -- we got our -- you know, we got (Blandford laughs) our usual -- KLEE: Got your usual cut (Klee laughs). BLANDFORD: You know, we got our usual spoils. And -- but I can't think of anything that -- KLEE: Got your number of roads and -- BLANDFORD: Yeah. Well you know, we -- yeah, we got our miles of blacktop, you know, and our -- but I can't think of any one -- KLEE: Yeah. You came to the Legislature the same time the last group of the community colleges were founded, '68, which was Henderson and Maysville. What did you hear from people here in Daviess County, and you know, in your own Legislature about when did an idea of a college start and, you know, who brought that up to you or -- you know, how did that -- give me some -- if you can, just some genesis of that idea. BLANDFORD: Well, it would have been in -- probably '83, there was a committee. I think they called themselves the Committee on Higher Education. KLEE: The Citizen Committee on Higher Education, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: Citizens Committee on Higher Education. There were -- it was made up of a lot of the movers and shakers in Owensboro, education leaders, politicians, business people, a real good group of people, a very knowledgeable group of people. And they did a lot of study and compiled the program. Now, the big impetus to me was John Hager, who was also -- he was leading the committee, but he was also the publisher and owner of the Owensboro newspaper. And of course, they get anybody's -- any politician's attention. KLEE: Attention. So -- BLANDFORD: And he did several editorials and nice news articles promoting the need for the college. And boy, it was very evident. I mean, it was right. They didn't have to convince me, other than -- you know, other than what this group had presented to me. KLEE: Yeah. Well, we've interviewed him for this project, and -- BLANDFORD: Oh, did you? KLEE: Uh-huh. The other -- my colleague, her name's Adina O'Hara. BLANDFORD: Yeah. KLEE: I think he goes to Florida sometimes, doesn't he? Or back and forth or -- BLANDFORD: Mm-mm, mm-mm. KLEE: But yeah, she interviewed him just earlier this year. BLANDFORD: Okay. KLEE: I want to -- I'm going to go through and ask you about several of these people and just, you know -- BLANDFORD: Sure, okay. KLEE: -- your interchanges with them. BLANDFORD: Okay. KLEE: So I'll be skipping around a little bit, but I want to go back. So do you know any of the infancy of that committee? Did they call you early on and say, "We're looking into this and -- ." BLANDFORD: Not that I recall. But now, let me say this (Blandford laughs), I can't remember a lot of things that happened to me -- KLEE: Why, I can't (Klee laughs) either. BLANDFORD: -- twenty-two weeks -- twenty-two days ago, let alone twenty- two years ago. KLEE: Right. Sure, I understand. BLANDFORD: So I don't recall any of that. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And then too, I -- a lot of these people were, like I say, business people and people that I actually hadn't been that close to over the years. KLEE: Sure, because you'd gotten your -- BLANDFORD: Because of my labor -- KLEE: Your political base was -- BLANDFORD: -- my labor background and agricultural background, it just didn't -- you know, it didn't fit with this -- a lot of these people. They were all -- you know, all good people. KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: But we had different -- so it wasn't anything like we were working together on it. They came up with the program, presented it to me, and I -- like I say, I got a lot of it from John Hager, you know, from the newspaper editorial ----------(??). KLEE: Now, the community had a little bit of a -- I know I read about the Citizens Committee. There was probably a little bit of disharmony, because you have two private four-year colleges here. Did they contact you too and -- BLANDFORD: Yeah. And they kind of -- the administrations of them kind of walked a tight rope. They didn't want to appear to be opposed to education. KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: But now, they had tentacles out there, they had alumni all over the state that were -- I mean, they came down on me big-time. They were vicious about it, very passionate in their opposition to the college, and I understand that. I can understand -- I didn't understand later all the statewide opposition to it, but I could understand Brescia's and Kentucky Wesleyan's concerns, because they were here. And they were concerned, and rightly so, but they didn't openly oppose -- KLEE: The administrations here, but you heard from their -- BLANDFORD: Right, heard -- KLEE: -- from their contacts around the state. BLANDFORD: The alumni -- yeah, around -- everywhere I went. And so I knew the administrations were at least putting out the word that hey, you know, we need to watch this thing and make sure we know what we're doing on this community college process. KLEE: Well, this was coming up at the same time that this leadership shift was happening in the House too. BLANDFORD: All at the same time. KLEE: If I recall the timing, '84 is when Owensboro got some funding. You must have helped get $150,000 to fund the -- an initial program. Did -- would that ----------(??) -- BLANDFORD: Three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars -- KLEE: Oh, was it? Okay. BLANDFORD: -- was the initial -- that was to set up the satellite with Henderson to -- KLEE: Mm-mm. Was that in the '82 -- BLANDFORD: -- to offer community college classes here without a campus. KLEE: I see. Was that in the '82 session or the '84 session? BLANDFORD: It was the '84 session. KLEE: '84 session. Okay. And -- BLANDFORD: We introduced a resolution that called for a study with the Legislative Research Commission, the Council on Higher Education, and the -- Council on Higher -- and the local -- and the community college hierarchy. KLEE: Right, mm-mm. BLANDFORD: And they were to do a two-year study as to the feasibility of having courses -- community college courses in Daviess County. And realizing it was going to take two years for the study, we also included in that resolution the process where they would -- or not the process, but at least the idea that we wanted community college courses taught here while the study was going on, and that suggested $375,000 to get these courses taught here. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And so we passed the resolution. Had trouble there. The education -- higher education community around this state were absolutely opposed to Owensboro having a community college, just pure and simple. And again, I knew that by going out in the communities and listening to people and talking to the legislators from these areas. Said, "Don, we can't vote for that. We couldn't go home if we did." And the first real -- the real test of this thing, where I saw the real opposition to them, was when we -- when I introduced this resolution, the rules stated very clear that it would go to the Education Committee for consideration. Well, I was apprehensive about that, because I knew the college presidents and all had -- or a lot of the people on that committee were higher education oriented, represented areas where these regional colleges were. But like I say, I referred it there and went along with referring it there. But it sat there a month and didn't move. And the Education Committee had killed my resolution -- KLEE: Who was -- who were -- BLANDFORD: -- for all practical purposes. KLEE: Who was chairing that committee? Or do you recall who it was or where some of that opposition came from? BLANDFORD: (Sighs) I don't remember. KLEE: Yeah, I can probably find that somewhere. BLANDFORD: I don't remember the names, but it was a committee of the whole who were at least all picked because they were education-oriented. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And they represented areas where higher education had some interest. KLEE: Well, there are higher educa- -- there have been historically higher education people in -- like Harry Moberly that works for Eastern -- BLANDFORD: Well, and then -- KLEE: -- and others, you know. BLANDFORD: -- of course, Richardson, the Speaker, was from Glasgow, and they had been trying to get a community college for twenty years and were unsuccessful in doing that. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And Jim LeMaster was Majority Leader from Lexington, and of course, he represented UK. And so the first real opposition, other than just word of mouth -- KLEE: Hearing about it, right. BLANDFORD: -- was them killing my resolution, because normally a study resolution just sailed. KLEE: Right, because you're not talking about a whole ----------(??). BLANDFORD: So what I did -- now listen to this. (Blandford laughs) I introduced another resolution and got the two of my friends on the Committee on Committees to refer to the Agriculture Committee. KLEE: Okay. (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: And the press all said, "Don, how -- what are you doing sending a community college bill to the Agriculture Committee?" And I said, "Well, the community college will benefit agriculture. Plus, it's the committee I can get it out of." KLEE: (Klee laughs) Well, that's the honest way to -- BLANDFORD: And we did, and we got it out of there unanimously. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: And went to the floor, and like I say, it didn't appropriate the $375,000. It suggested that's what it would take in order to set up this satellite of Henderson. So there wasn't any money involved, and we passed the resolution then on the floor and -- calling for the study, and at least -- and okaying the satellite system to set up courses for Daviess County from Henderson. KLEE: From 1984. BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: I want to take you back a couple of comments you made there. What was the -- do you have any idea what the idea -- what the -- I'm sorry, what the opposition was from the regionals? BLANDFORD: No, I -- KLEE: I mean, there's no regional down close to here. BLANDFORD: I think the attitude was: We've got ours, we don't want anyone else to have -- well, and then too, they knew it was going beyond this resolution. They knew my intent was to get a community college, and that was going to cost $15 million. KLEE: They just -- they didn't want to -- BLANDFORD: And then -- KLEE: Pie- splitting. BLANDFORD: Oh, no. No, no. No, no. They wanted this $15 million. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: You know, they could see -- and then too there was a process you went through to get a community college. You didn't just do what I was doing. KLEE: Sure, right. BLANDFORD: In fact, listen to this now. They told me, said -- when I first approached the idea, said, "You can't have a community college in Owensboro." And I said, "Why not?" "Well, you're not on the list!" (Klee laughs) And I said, "Well, I'll just get on the list." And in looking at that, there's a -- there was -- the list was statutory. It was a law against Owensboro having a community college! KLEE: Right, because there were actual -- yeah. BLANDFORD: The list had been put in the statute, and unless you were on the list, you were illegal. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: So then I had to pass a bill to open the statute to make us legal. And so that was another step we had to take. KLEE: Yeah, I just -- BLANDFORD: And Delbert Murphy, the late Senator Delbert Murphy in the Senate, did a great job ushering it through the Senate. Louis Johnson, who was my colleague in the House, helped me a great deal on that in the House. And we passed it with very little opposition, and that being because there was no appropriation attached to it, no money attached to it. KLEE: Getting on the list wasn't that hard then. They would have said, "Well, we'll throw you on the list with Glasgow -- BLANDFORD: Well, yeah, because we -- KLEE: -- and Carrollton and other places. BLANDFORD: There were -- I think there were thirteen of them, so we were coming in at fourteen, and nobody was worried about us, you know, because there were people had been there -- KLEE: Yeah, since the '60s. BLANDFORD: -- been trying to get it -- yeah, been trying to get one for fourteen years and hadn't got one. So they weren't worried about us going on the list. That was pretty easy to do, change the law to make it legal -- at least legal for Daviess County to have a community college. KLEE: Right. So you got this thing through the House. BLANDFORD: Now, this was '84. We got it through the House -- KLEE: The Senate -- BLANDFORD: -- and the Senate. Got it through the Senate. KLEE: I mean, the-- did you get the -- did the Senate give you the -- I mean, of course, I know that's not your -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: -- area, but -- BLANDFORD: My good friend Delbert Murphy was handling the Senate. KLEE: Uh-huh. And it wasn't too much trouble over there? BLANDFORD: Well, Delbert was a little hesitant at the start because he was on the board at Brescia. KLEE: I understand. BLANDFORD: He was vice president -- KLEE: He was a Brescia graduate. BLANDFORD: Yes, he was, and he was on the board. He was -- I think he was the vice president. KLEE: Is that right? Uh-huh. BLANDFORD: So he was a little apprehensive to start with, but then again, this committee, you know, made such a good report and, and justified it to where everybody, the Council on Higher Education, the LRC, everybody said, "Hey, this is a good deal. Owensboro needs this community college." So Delbert then, you know, went along and was a real trouper in passing the thing in the Senate. KLEE: I saw that committee report, and you know, John Hager was the -- I think the first chair. And then I -- if I can find my notes here -- I think that the second chair was -- was it a McCormick, maybe? Roger McCormick? That's the name that I saw. BLANDFORD: Yeah, yeah. KLEE: The -- did they have some -- I -- the committee report was very, you know, efficient and official and -- BLANDFORD: And it was great. KLEE: -- and you know, lined out and so forth. BLANDFORD: It was great, it was great. KLEE: Did they have some connections statewide that helped out? BLANDFORD: No, no, I don't think they did. In fact (Blandford laughs) what they did was convince me. I don't know that -- I don't think the -- I think the education community -- and I've spoken of that -- were so opposed to it, they weren't interested in -- they used it, and used it later for cover, you know, "Here's the reason we did this," and pointed to -- but I never -- in my dealing with getting this thing through the process, the report was never mentioned. KLEE: Is that right? (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: And I think the Governor, Governor Collins -- and I'll get to this later -- Governor Collins did ask for it, but that was after she and I had already made the deal. So (Blandford laughs) it was for cover rather than -- KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: -- rather than for her information. KLEE: Right, yeah. Yeah, it didn't enter -- the politics was what had to be pushed through. BLANDFORD: Exactly. It was politics from the word go. And that was another thing, the hierarchy in education said -- you know, they didn't want -- "Things aren't done that way, you know. You go through the conventional way, you justify it, and -- you know, and -- ." KLEE: So they said. (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: "You take your turn," you know, that type thing. Well, there's no way I could have taken my turn. You know, there were -- that list had been there for twenty years and no -- it hadn't moved. And there were -- in fact, the book was closed. There weren't going to be any more community colleges. KLEE: Right, right. BLANDFORD: You know, I couldn't go the conventional route. KLEE: Right, right. BLANDFORD: And so that was another reason for a little bit of friction between the higher education community and myself, that I was using politics. Of course, they'd used politics for years to keep us from having it. KLEE: Absolutely, right. And -- BLANDFORD: You know, locking that committee -- locking that list in was -- you know, that was all politics to keep -- you know, we got ours, you know, keep everybody else out. KLEE: Right. Let me take you between the '84 and the '86 session. So you got this money. BLANDFORD: No, no. Now, wait a minute. We -- KLEE: Oh, you didn't get the money, okay. BLANDFORD: The bill didn't appro- -- here's what we -- here's how I got the money. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: The -- Governor Collins' budget did not include the money in the '84 session. And the last -- it wasn't included in the House budget. Now, the Senate budget -- and this gets kind of complicated -- the House passed their budget, the Senate passed their budget, and there were some differences. And so I was looking for nego- -- negotiating a spot to get my $375,000, which we hadn't gotten in the House budget. Well, the Governor wanted control of the North American International Livestock Association, whatever that was. She wanted it, and this was a big deal for her. KLEE: Yes. BLANDFORD: And I believe it was under the Agriculture -- Department of Agriculture at that point, I'm not sure about that. But anyway, she didn't have control -- she wanted control of it. And about the only difference in the Senate and the House bill was this -- it wasn't in the House budget, but she had gotten a Senator, her Senators, to put this in their budget. KLEE: Yes, sir. BLANDFORD: And also, David Boswell, who was a friend of mine, he had just got elected Commissioner of Agriculture, he wanted the Council on Education -- on Agriculture, which was under the Governor, put under the Department of Agriculture. So I thought, "Bingo! Here's where I can (Blandford laughs) negotiate." So I held -- we held up the Senate bill and appointed a conference committee, which works out the differences between the House and the Senate versions. And the Senate version, of course, had this giving the Governor the control of this International Livestock Exposition. So I said, "Okay, we'll go with giving her that, if she'll give David Boswell the Council on Higher Education [Agriculture], and plus I want $375,000 as a sweetener. We've both already passed the resolution. It's been approved by both chambers, and we want the money for it." KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: So the House-- the Senate leadership said, "Well, we -- she won't go for that." And I said, "Well, you call her and ask her." So they went and got on the phone and came back and said, "She'll go with that. She'll -- you give her that International Livestock Exposition, she'll give David the --" KLEE: Agriculture Council. BLANDFORD: "-- Council. And we'll put the $375,000 in the budget." KLEE: So you were actually -- BLANDFORD: So that's where -- KLEE: -- on the conference committee. BLANDFORD: -- we got -- this was the last hour of the last day of the session of the '84 General Assembly. And that's where we got the $375,000. KLEE: Uh-huh. Do you remember what the financial situation of the state was at that point? BLANDFORD: Oh, it was bad! KLEE: Was it bad? BLANDFORD: It was bad. KLEE: Okay. So it was -- that made it even extra tough. BLANDFORD: The Governor had just failed to pass her education package, which had to do with secondary and elementary education. A real aggressive program, and she had lost it miserably. She tried to put a sales tax on services and two or three very unpopular taxes, so we killed it. I was one of the leaders (Blandford laughs) in opposing that bill as Speaker Pro Tem. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: And part of the reason was because of the taxes. KLEE: Sure, yeah. BLANDFORD: I thought she was wrong in the tax issue, plus I was looking for a negotiating (both laugh) -- a budget negotiator with her down the road. And so anyway, the -- yeah, this was the '84 session. And then in the '86 session -- KLEE: Before you get to there, I wanted to, if you don't mind, catch you in between. So they -- Henderson sent some classes down here, and they offer classes that fall. BLANDFORD: Oh, we -- yeah, the -- KLEE: Fall of '84. BLANDFORD: Yes, Charlie Wethington was a trouper. He came down from UK -- of course, he was head of the Community College System -- and coordinated the process of offering community college courses from Henderson into Owensboro, and using the $375,000 which we had appropriated to do that. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And, gosh, we quickly outgrew (Blandford laughs) -- we had set up -- the $375,000 was to make placements for, like, 300 or 400 students. And we quickly grew to 1,000, which outgrew Henderson. We had more students (Blandford laughs) -- the satellite had more students than the body did. So Henderson then said, "Well you know, maybe we ought to (Blandford laughs) let them have one." KLEE: What about your reaction? BLANDFORD: Of course, they were opposed us having a community college. And again, rightly so. I could see their position as -- and Brescia's and Wesleyan's, more so than I could the overall community out there. KLEE: Well, tell me about -- we've mentioned Brescia and Wesleyan. They own -- or they operate four-year private institutions, and they were just afraid of enrollment drop. BLANDFORD: Well, the pro- -- yeah. And the pro- -- and our justification -- of course, the council -- the committee's justification was it was costing $100-plus a credit hour to attend Wesleyan and Brescia, and a community college could do it for $20. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And then the commuting problems of between here and Henderson also. And so we had real -- you know, just real -- a real need. And of course, that was pointed out right (Blandford laughs) quickly when the enrollment for the pilot project outgrew the project. KLEE: That's what I was going to ask you about. I mean, were you shocked -- was this community shocked that all of a sudden there was just literally hundreds of students? BLANDFORD: Well, I was -- you know, I was pleasantly (Blandford laughs) -- you know, pleasantly surprised. I was taking their word for it. I hadn't been involved in higher education to any degree, and I really didn't know what it would do. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: But I knew they made a good case, and they were certainly justified in the case they made. And it justified my position, you know, in advocating this process as far as it had gone there in '84. So we -- everybody was pleased, and, gosh, it -- I'd go to the grocery store or walk down a street, and people would come up and say, "Don, thanks for getting these classes here. We couldn't have gone to college otherwise." So that made it -- you know, that gave me all the more impetus to see this thing -- KLEE: To work hard. BLANDFORD: -- farther and get (both laugh) what you see here today. KLEE: Yeah. What about Henderson? Tell me -- they were afraid of enrollment drop too, because of the proximity? BLANDFORD: Oh, exactly, exactly. They . . . and you know, their take was, you're only thirty miles away, people can come over here, you know. And that was where -- that was over there. And their legislators -- they had three, one in the Senate and a couple in the House -- and of course, they were opposed -- you know, opposed to our resolution and this type of thing. KLEE: So they -- BLANDFORD: But again, I -- you know, I can understand where they were coming from. KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: There wasn't any question about they where they were coming from. KLEE: And they worked against it. I mean -- yeah. BLANDFORD: And Western down here was against it, and you know, now they're moving in here and -- well, but -- KLEE: They're on the grounds now, aren't they? BLANDFORD: At that point, they -- again, they were, I guess, fearful of us taking, you know, enrollment from them. Plus, they wanted part of that $15 million that they knew would (Blandford laughs) -- that they knew I was coming for later. And so, yeah, here we had Henderson, we had -- gosh, Eastern, Western, Morehead, and Murray, they were all against it. KLEE: Well, it makes it -- I'm going to ask you here in a minute, with all that opposition here almost, you know, right next door and statewide -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: -- you need to explain to me, you know, how you got those votes. And -- but before I go to that, Daviess County and Owensboro are kind of unique, though. I mean, I'm not sure -- I don't know when all these roads came in here, but I'm sure -- BLANDFORD: They came in here in '84 (Blandford laughs) when I -- KLEE: Okay, they were building roads at the same time, huh? BLANDFORD: Well, yeah, we did some things other than agriculture -- I mean, other than education, you know. We got some roads and -- KLEE: Okay. But before that time, I mean, this is kind of -- a little bit of an isolated area. I mean, if -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: Education was just not available for -- if you were, you know, wanting to go into a technical field or whatever. I mean -- BLANDFORD: Exactly. KLEE: -- Brescia and Wesleyan had their -- you know, had their programs ----------(??). BLANDFORD: Both are religiously-oriented -- KLEE: Right, liberal arts type. BLANDFORD: -- you know, and had their following, and of course, the local schools feeding, you know. KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: And we tried to convince them, and the Council did a real good job. They worked with Brescia, worked with Wesleyan, and I think eventually convinced them that they could be a -- that this system could be a feeder to their operation. And I think it has proved to be the case. KLEE: Right. Yeah. Going into that '86 session, after the students poured in here, obviously, I guess -- and you got those comments on the street and so forth, did you set a goal for yourself to try to get a full-fledged community college? BLANDFORD: Oh, that was my goal all along. I was naive as I could -- I was going up there and get the thing right away. (Klee laughs) I wasn't going to go this route of getting on the list, you know, because I knew that futile. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And I wasn't going to go the study route. I was just going to go for the full-blown thing. Then I thought, "Well, you know, there's so much anxiety about it out there, I'm going to take it in steps." So these were -- so the full-blown college was my interest all -- and it -- as was this committee. KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: You know, they were willing to take it in steps (Blandford laughs) a little more so than I was because I knew there wasn't any way to go up there and present this and they're just going open up their arms and open up their pocketbooks and give Owensboro a community college. You know, it had to be done in a different way. KLEE: Well as I said, before we started talking, you know, this is really a unique situation. There's only been one community college created after that original list, so it's almost like a lightning strike. And I want to go through that. And you know, the conditions just had to almost be perfect. And one of the conditions were that in '86, isn't that when you went for the leadership position? BLANDFORD: That's when I was elected Speaker, in the '86 session. KLEE: So you know, explain that to me a little bit, how that worked and -- BLANDFORD: Well -- KLEE: That was quite an event statewide. BLANDFORD: Well, the incumbent Speaker was from Glasgow, and like I said, that didn't have anything to do with the leadership race, but they -- you know, they wanted (Blandford laughs) a community college there so badly, and had been on the list for, like, fourteen years or something. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: But anyway, Bobby Richardson was the Speaker, and he's the one that I ran against and was fortunate enough to win. And my entire slate won. Jim LeMaster, who was the Majority Leader from Lexington ----------(??). KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: So that gave us an opportunity to appoint -- put the members on the committees that we felt (Blandford laughs) that would be -- work with the leadership in moving the process farther. So we shook up the system pretty mu- -- pretty well. And the Governor saw that. And she had lost her education package badly in the '84 session. The '86 session, one day out of the blue, she called and said, "Don, can I meet with you?" And I said, "Well, sure." And she said, "I'd rather it be away from the Capitol." And so I had a friend, David Boswell I mentioned a while ago, had a house outside of Frankfort there. And I said, "Well, we'll meet you on a Sunday afternoon out at this private residence." KLEE: Was the session going on at that point? BLANDFORD: Yes. KLEE: Or it was before the session? The '86 session was in? BLANDFORD: Yes. KLEE: Of course -- BLANDFORD: It had just started, just started. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And I had just elected -- the leadership had just been changed and all. And she and Doc, her husband, came out. And like I said, it was on a Sunday afternoon. And she said, "Don," she said, "you helped defeat my education package in the '84 session." And she said, "I've got to have -- ." She said, "My whole tenure rests on passing this education package," which was an aggressive package for elementary and secondary education, and carried a big appropriation, a big tax increase. And so she said, "Can you help me pass this package?" And I said, "I think I can." I said, "I think you need to change where you're going to get the taxes. You need to work closer with the Legislature." And she said, "I need this badly." And I said, "I'll tell you what, Governor, I need something badly too." And I said, "I need $15 million dollars for a community college in Owensboro." And I knew she had already been contacted -- of course, during the session, all these regionals all have lobbyists up there. KLEE: Right, right. BLANDFORD: You know, so there was an education presence there, lobbyists there. So I knew she had already had some inference that this was coming, because she said, "Let -- ." She said, "What's it going to take?" And I said, "Twelve-five for the -- ." That's what this commission had come up with, $12.5 million for the college and $3 million for administration purposes to set up the procedures and hire the people." I said, "I need $15 million." And she said, "Don, nobody's ever gotten a full-blown community college in one sweep." She said, "Why don't we go $4 million and put up a building? And then we'll build -- we'll come back and -- ." I said, "No, unh-unh. This -- you know, I'm not going to go this list route." I said, "I want $15 million." And she said, "You help me pass my package, and we'll do that." And (sighs) she did. And we passed her educa- -- we changed the tax proposal she wanted, from a tax on services to more business-oriented, corporation taxes, or whatever. But we passed her package the way she wanted it. In fact, I flew around the state in a helicopter with her, whistle- stopping in different places trying to sell the package. And we passed it in the Legislature pretty easily. So that's (sighs) -- that set her up, then, for putting my $15 million -- well, in the meantime, we had passed the bill that made it legal -- put us on the list. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: Then we had to pass another bill enab- -- setting up an enabling legislation to enable the coll- -- to set up the procedure for the college to be in Owensboro. So we passed that (sighs). And the bill itself stated the $15 million, but it didn't appropriate the $15 million. So she was to put the $15 million in the budget to finance the bill that we had passed setting up the college. And of course, she knew that if she hadn't put it in there -- and I hinted -- I was going to put in there in the Appropriations Committee -- when she presented the budget to the Appropriations Committee, if she hadn't put the $15 million, I was going to put it in there. And in order to do that, I would have had to take some of her stuff out. KLEE: Right. (Klee laughs) She had to find a place for it. BLANDFORD: Because we had to have a balanced budget. KLEE: Sure, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: So she put it there, and -- she put the $15 million in the budget as she said (Blandford laughs) -- but prior to that, one Sunday afternoon I got a call from her -- I was home -- and she said, "Don, I need to talk to you. We're finalizing the budget." She said, "Can you come to Frankfort?" And I said, "Yeah." I was driving a Corvette, and (Klee laughs) I was flying. This still is in my mind, because I was flying up the highway going to Frankfort. And State Police (Blandford laughs) pulled me over and said, "What's your hurry?" And I said, "I'm on my way to Frankfort to help the Governor finalize the budget." I had that legislative license plate, so as soon as they pulled me over they knew who it was. And I said, "I'm just in a hurry." He said, "Do you want us to give you an escort?" I said, "No, you'd just slow me down." He kind of laughed and he said, "Well, be careful." KLEE: Right (Klee laughs). BLANDFORD: But anyway, I got there and she -- in her office, she was there, and some of these education lobbyists were in there. And she said, "Don," said, "I'm having trouble balancing the budget." She said, "I need $8 million." So she was talking about $8 million of my (Blandford laughs) -- KLEE: Of your money. And Owensboro's college. BLANDFORD: You know, and I said, "Governor, we passed your education package. I did exactly what you wanted, and we gave you the control of the International Livestock thing as you wanted in the last session." She -- and I said, "I need that community college money." I said, "I -- you know, I've got to have it." And she said, "Okay." She said it was a commitment, and so that was how that came about. KLEE: '84, you said that -- and I didn't check the ups and downs of the economy. What -- I don't remember the -- in '8- -- or in '84, I guess this would be -- I got my timing messed up. BLANDFORD: This is -- KLEE: '86 session. BLANDFORD: This would have been the '86 session. KLEE: Right. What was the economy like then, nationally? Was -- I mean, were things a little better then or -- BLANDFORD: It had improved. And, gosh, I don't recall the -- you know, I remember '84 was a tight budget. KLEE: Tough time, uh-huh, right. BLANDFORD: And '86 was better. KLEE: A little ----------(??). BLANDFORD: But I can't tell you what -- KLEE: Yeah, sure. I understand. Did they -- were you able to run this through the -- just the regular channels this time? You went through the Education Committee or Appropriations & Revenue? BLANDFORD: You'd be surprised how the Speaker can -- and I was -- you know, I was even surprised, you know. The -- a lot of those Senators made comments, "Well, we wouldn't be for this thing, but Blandford's got our bills down there." And then again, the higher education committee, I had their budget. KLEE: Right. [End Side 1, Tape 1] [Begin Side 2, Tape] BLANDFORD: And -- THIRD PARTY: He was on the Council. BLANDFORD: Yes, yeah. [Pause] BLANDFORD: Fine, I'm fine. Thank you. KLEE: This is side two of a tape -- of the UK Community College System Oral History Program, and we are at Owensboro Community College on February 28, 2007. This is John Klee, and I am asking questions of Representative Don Blandford. KLEE: We had just finished that side one, and you had said the '86 session, things ran a little smoother because you were in a leadership posi- -- you were the Speaker of the House. The higher ed people didn't give you as much feedback, negative? BLANDFORD: No, and I never did get the feedback directly. KLEE: Oh, I see. (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: You know, it was subtle. KLEE: Uh-huh, right. BLANDFORD: And when I'd go into these communities and then -- and the legislators that represented those areas, you know, I could tell what was going on. But again, the presidents of the universities weren't out opposing. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: Becau- -- I had their budget. KLEE: They were lobbying you for their own money. BLANDFORD: They were up there wanting this, so they weren't going to come down real hard on me wanting this, when they wanted -- you know, when I had control of their -- the Legislature had control of their budget. So they were walking a tightrope, but the atmosphere was there, and I could tell the -- there was an undercurrent there. KLEE: (Aside) I think he wants to wave. (Klee laughs) So this went through the regular process, went through conference, I guess. The Governor had signed on, so it went through, got signed, and Owensboro had a community college. BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: I did hear Dr. Wethington, when we were having one of the meetings about these things, he did tell me that he was there the day that the Senate voted. I don't know if he got -- if he remembered it correctly, that you and he walked over to the Senate. BLANDFORD: I think -- yeah, yeah. KLEE: Tell me about that. BLANDFORD: We had passed it in the House, and I watched -- I went over-- Delbert Murphy was going -- was about to handle it in the -- now, this was the -- yeah, this was the bill that set up the college. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And he went down there with me, and we stood in the back of the hall until it got -- it got kind of hot as one of the alumnis of Wesleyan here got real vicious. I'm talking about -- KLEE: You mean in the back of the room or one of the Senators? BLANDFORD: No. He was on the floor; he was a Senator. KLEE: Oh, he was a Senator. Okay. BLANDFORD: I was standing in the back of the room watching. Of course, he was pointing to me. And you know, "He's using politics, (Klee laughs) and you know, he's going to destroy our -- the college I love, you know." KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: Really passionate about it. So Charlie and I just walked -- I didn't want to sit there and listen to that stuff. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: But anyway, some of the co- -- some of the Senators made the comment, "Well, we're not actually for a community college, but Blandford's got our bills down there, see." And so that's the way the legislative process worked. KLEE: Sure, sure! BLANDFORD: It wasn't (Blandford laughs) -- this wasn't unique. KLEE: Oh, I understand, yeah. BLANDFORD: You know, it -- that's the way it had worked forever. KLEE: I think one of your colleagues was Representative Pete Worthington, who was my representative. BLANDFORD: Yeah, right. KLEE: And he would -- BLANDFORD: I went up to Pete's funeral. KLEE: Yeah, right. He would always come back and tell us at our community college, he'd say, "Well, you got this building because I voted for this reform." I mean, he just told us, you know, that's the way it works, and that's how it did. BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: I want to take you back a little bit. And one of the things you did in the '84 legislation that was part of that was a Legislative Research Commission report. BLANDFORD: Study. KLEE: Study. And they came back, I understand, and they had, like, three options. One was a free-standing college, one was a connection where you'd stay part of Henderson, and then one was like a new regional college -- BLANDFORD: Oh, yes. KLEE: -- which they called maybe the Green River College -- BLANDFORD: Green River. KLEE: -- which would be a -- BLANDFORD: Yes. KLEE: -- combination Owensboro and Henderson. BLANDFORD: Right, right. This was a study done by the Council on Higher Education, the Legislative Research Commission, and the Community College System. KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: This was their -- KLEE: Joint. BLANDFORD: This was their comment, yeah. KLEE: Was there -- I mean, did any of those -- were those options discussed very much, or you know, how did that pan out? They -- as I read it, it said, "Well, these would all cost about the same money." And I mean -- BLANDFORD: Well, I didn't pay much attention to it. You know, I wanted a community college. KLEE: A free-standing -- BLANDFORD: Yeah, right. KLEE: So that one option was -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: What about the local people? Were they pretty well solid behind that too that you recall? Or -- BLANDFORD: Local people here? KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: Oh, yeah. KLEE: Did they want one of those other combinations? BLANDFORD: To be honest with you, I -- you know, I remember the report, but I don't remember anything ever being discussed other than this, you know. KLEE: Actually -- BLANDFORD: We were due, and it was our time, and we were going to have -- we were going to do it. KLEE: One of the things that was kind of unique is you were in the House as Speaker of the House, and then the Council on Higher Ed -- Council on Public -- I guess they called it Higher Ed Commission, was Morton Holbrook? BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: So you -- we had two Owensboro people at the same time. What was his -- did -- you know, did he help play a role from that end? BLANDFORD: Yeah, he was on the Council, I believe. KLEE: Mm-mm, Council on Higher Ed, yeah. BLANDFORD: Yes, and he -- KLEE: They changed that name. BLANDFORD: He was also a member of the local citizens committee, so he played -- yes, he was going to bat, you know -- KLEE: In both ways. BLANDFORD: -- from both standpoints. Yeah, yeah. And he was a very capable (Blandford laughs) person to do it, because he was an accomplished attorney and -- KLEE: Oh, was he? BLANDFORD: -- very well educated and did a good job coordinating the local committee's reports with the -- KLEE: With the Council. BLANDFORD: -- with the Council, yeah. KLEE: Uh-huh. So had -- he was a personable, articulate guy, I guess. BLANDFORD: Oh, absolutely, very much so. KLEE: Uh-huh. Yeah, that always -- BLANDFORD: Very much so. KLEE: -- I'm sure helped. What about the UK connection? Otis Singletary was president, I guess, when all this started breaking loose. BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: Did you have any dealings with him? Or did you mostly go through Dr. Wethington? BLANDFORD: Not directly, not directly. KLEE: And what about Dr. Wethington? BLANDFORD: I was -- you know, I was in on meetings and things where he attended, but Dr. Wethington was the main -- Harry Snyder, who was, I believe, the Chairman of the Council, I had quite a bit of dealings with him. KLEE: Okay. BLANDFORD: But mainly my coordinating -- my work with UK was through Charlie. KLEE: Okay. What was your -- how did find -- tell me about Charles Wethington a little bit, his -- how he was to deal with. BLANDFORD: Well, l think, like everyone else, he -- you know, he was cautious, (both laugh) to put it mildly. He was cautious, as was everyone. I mean, you just didn't do this, you know. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And (sighs) -- but as the process moved forward and he saw it was possible, he was going to get another community college under his belt, so you know, there was no way Charlie Wethington would go out and say, "I'm going to get -- ." Yet I'm sure he had commitments all through the years to these other people. And here I was moving ahead of all of them, so he was a little apprehensive about it. KLEE: Right. He didn't want to alienate his political base other places too. BLANDFORD: No. Oh, no. No. And then again, we had their budget. See, Charlie was lobbying for UK's budget, plus the community college ---- ------(??). So -- but he (sighs) at least gave lip service early, and then as he saw the thing was going to go, then he got on board and was very positive, you know. KLEE: Right, right. In the meantime, I guess the college continued to grow. Did you have much contact back here? I know it started downtown with this -- I think there was a Longfellow Building and then another building. BLANDFORD: Oh, they offered -- they had courses in some of the high schools -- I mean -- yeah, I believe some of the high schools, and there were a couple of satellite campuses set up. And I don't remember exactly how that worked. KLEE: Sure. I want to just go through a few individuals I may have missed, some of them I've have already mentioned. You said that the Brescia and the Wesleyan people mostly didn't say anything, you know, directly to you. BLANDFORD: Officially. KLEE: Yeah, they worked through -- BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: -- other things. Do -- were you afraid you were going to lose some political support from -- of course, a lot of their support is statewide, as you said. I mean, locally -- I mean, you said there were some passionate people and -- you know, was there anything that stood out in your mind there, as far as opposition or any individuals? BLANDFORD: No, there was just an undercurrent there. You know, you -- I think you had to have been there to feel it. You know, I -- you knew the people who were connected and where they were. You didn't necessarily have to hear from the -- KLEE: Right. You could tell in the body language? BLANDFORD: -- the -- you know, it was just -- yeah, it was just an atmosphere there of, you know, "You just can't do this." And I remember the sister that was head of the community -- head of Brescia at that time said, "We can't -- we don't want to be on record as opposing education." KLEE: Sister George Ann, I think maybe, Cecil or -- BLANDFORD: Could have -- I don't recall, but her -- one of her comments to the press was, you know, "We don't want to come across as being opposed to it." And Wesleyan was that way too, you know. How could a college of -- source of higher education be against, you know, someone coming in with lower costs, other than, you know, it may hurt our enrollment and -- KLEE: Yeah. How did it -- I mean, how did it affect you personally, as far as -- I mean -- being Speaker of the House is a high-pressure -- you know, a lot of different people coming at you different directions. You were a graduate of Owensboro Catholic, and here was Sister saying, you know, kind of privately, "Don't do this." You know, did you have some tense moments or Alka-Seltzer times or -- BLANDFORD: No, I guess -- I had some aggravation, you know. I couldn't understand how anyone, even Brescia and Wesleyan and the regional -- the -- I didn't understand how the Community College System could oppose Owensboro having a community college so passionately, you know. Well, the -- in looking at it, they weren't only opposing the community college and the money that was going to be taken out of the system, but they were opposing the process that I was using to get it. KLEE: Yeah, I understand. Yeah. BLANDFORD: So it was -- and that all came down on me. You know, that was kind of -- and it was a source of aggravation and -- but it made me all the more determined, you know. KLEE: Yeah. Well, at that point you had been at the Legislature -- BLANDFORD: I'd been in the Legislature forever. (Blandford laughs) KLEE: Yeah, well over a decade. And you knew that the process -- that was the only process that was going to work, I guess. BLANDFORD: There was no other way. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And to this day, to this day, this college would not be here, you know -- KLEE: I understand. BLANDFORD: -- if we had had to have gone on that list, you know. KLEE: Mm-mm, right. BLANDFORD: Because no one on that list has gotten (Blandford laughs) one yet. KLEE: Yeah, since then. BLANDFORD: So like I say, to this -- I think everyone would agree now, the end justified the means. KLEE: Yeah. Well, and you know, of course -- BLANDFORD: But at that time, that wasn't the atmosphere out there. KLEE: Yeah. And even between '84 and '86, when literally hundreds of students came, it still didn't change that opposition. I mean, other than -- statewide it did, because you were in a leadership position, they weren't going to say anything. BLANDFORD: Well, it gave them cover. They could say, "Well, look here, you know, maybe -- you know, it's not that bad what they did, because it has furnished a need and is -- has contributed to the overall education process." But of course, they were -- you know, money was tight. It's always tight in that budget. They could see $15 million going to a college that had one in Madisonville, and one in Henderson, and you know, here we are -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: So you know, I can -- I knew where they were coming from. KLEE: How about -- a lot of these colleges -- and of course, you had Henderson to your west. Did you get some regional support from some of these surrounding counties? Were they interested because -- BLANDFORD: I didn't get any at all from the education community, no -- none whatsoever. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: I can't think of anybody (Blandford laughs) -- KLEE: Was there anybody -- BLANDFORD: -- anybody that was in the overall education field at that time -- KLEE: Yeah. I don't know my geography very well. BLANDFORD: -- ever actually supported this college. KLEE: Ohio County's next door here. And I mean, did you get some support from some of those surrounding counties, the townspeople, the community people? BLANDFORD: The people? (sighs) Probably so. You know -- KLEE: Nothing stands out. BLANDFORD: -- nothing officially, nothing that I can put my finger on. But again, you know, when I would go places -- and I traveled a lot in those days -- and when I'd go to communities, like Ohio County -- I've got pro -- I had property in Ohio County and Hancock County -- and yeah, people were positive about it. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: You know, I don't know that they -- you know, that they contributed anything to the process -- KLEE: You mentioned Louis Johnson. BLANDFORD: -- but they were positive. Louis Johnson was a trouper, Louis Johnson was. KLEE: Now, where -- what was his role? He was a legislator with you? BLANDFORD: Louis was -- yes, he represented the city of Owensboro KLEE: Oh, okay. Yeah. BLANDFORD: We had two state representatives. KLEE: I see. Because of the population base. BLANDFORD: Population, right. And Louis -- KLEE: So you were more out in the rural area, and he was -- BLANDFORD: Yes. KLEE: -- from the town. BLANDFORD: Right, exactly. And he represented the city of Owensboro. KLEE: He probably was taking some of the same kind of heat you were. BLANDFORD: Yes, he was. Yes, he was. And he had fairly close ties to Brescia and Wesleyan also. KLEE: I see, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: As did Delbert. KLEE: And you said he was a trouper too. I mean, do you -- BLANDFORD: Well, you know, it was hard to argue with what this citizen com- -- you know, it was just hard to argue with them. And both of them were conscientious people, and they knew that there was a need here that wasn't being fulfilled, that people just could not afford -- a lot of people couldn't afford $120 an hour to go to ----------(??). KLEE: Yeah, back in '84, I mean, that's a good chunk of change. BLANDFORD: And so boy, when they -- and when Delbert -- and of course, Louis was there all along, you know. KLEE: He was supportive all along, you're saying. BLANDFORD: And Delbert was fine, I'm not saying he wasn't. KLEE: Yes, right. He was a little -- BLANDFORD: But he -- a little anxious at the start. And boy, I knew where he was coming from. KLEE: Well, I read some newspaper articles and I could tell he kind of had mixed emotions about, as you said, being on the board of Brescia and a -- BLANDFORD: Well, sure. KLEE: -- a graduate and then, you know -- BLANDFORD: And he and I were fr- -- had been friends for years. And that wasn't -- this wasn't going to interfere with that at all, but -- KLEE: I see, uh-huh. Now, was the -- we talked about politics earlier and where people's base was. Was Johnson closer in to the business community here in Owensboro? BLANDFORD: Louis was a law- -- yeah, he was an attorney. KLEE: Uh-huh. BLANDFORD: And traveled in probably a little different circles than I did, you know, politically and socially. KLEE: Yeah. One of the names that came up was Bill Samuels. Do you remember any reason -- I think he voted against it, maybe, on the Council or maybe in the Legislature. BLANDFORD: I never did understand. We were at a reception one night, a legislative reception, maybe the Chamber of Com- -- I don't remember, probably the Chamber of Commerce (clears throat). And he approached me, and (clears throat) I'm not going to use the language, but I mean, it was -- he was just -- KLEE: He laid into you. BLANDFORD: Oh, he was vicious about it. And I finally just had to tell him, "Hey, we're going to get that college down there. You just might as well resign yourself to it," and just walked off from him. KLEE: Yeah. BLANDFORD: But he -- and looking back on it, he was probably the -- had the most vicious -- I don't know, vicious -- passionate, you might say, attack . .. KLEE: Sure, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: -- of anybody that I had contact with. And I was surprised at that. KLEE: After '86 -- BLANDFORD: Terry McBrayer, another one that was on the Council, was -- he represented one of the areas that had a college. I don't remember exactly where. But he was -- he also voiced a lot of opposition. KLEE: A lot of opposition. And he was a pretty big player at that time. BLANDFORD: Oh, yeah. KLEE: He ran for Governor and -- BLANDFORD: Yeah, he had run for Governor, he had been the Majority Leader in the House. Yeah, he had some pull. (Blandford laughs) KLEE: Tell me about after that. The college got the money, built a campus. BLANDFORD: There was a lot of work went into establishing the -- where the college was to be. KLEE: Right. Site selection. BLANDFORD: A lot of the people, some of these, wanted it downtown -- KLEE: Sure, sure. BLANDFORD: -- because they could see it both as an opportunity to enhance education, but also to improve the downtown area -- KLEE: Yeah, the business community, yeah. BLANDFORD: -- which was on the ropes at that time and still is. But anyway, they made the right decision. A good friend of mine, Bill Froehlich, was on the county commission. He was county judge at that time, and he kind of insisted that -- you know, that it be out in this area. KLEE: Well, you know, it's a matter of -- BLANDFORD: And as it -- KLEE: -- parking space and -- BLANDFORD: -- boils down to, you know, nobody can argue (Blandford laughs) with this, you know. But it went on for some time, now, before they actually -- and they kept calling me, saying, "Don is this going to hurt our chances of getting this money, because we're having a --" KLEE: Having this argument, (Klee laughs) yeah. BLANDFORD: -- "friction among ourselves down here?" I said, "No, that's not going to have anything to do with it." KLEE: Right. Yeah, it's already in the -- BLANDFORD: We've got it. (Blandford laughs). KLEE: It's in the ----------(??). It's done. BLANDFORD: I said, "I've got all my people on the A & R Committee, Appropriations & Revenue Committee, on the Education Committee. They're not going to mess with our money, you know." KLEE: Right, right. BLANDFORD: So -- and it didn't. It didn't have any affect on it, but it was a good healthy exchange of views between people who advocated the downtown area and the rural -- the more rural area. KLEE: I gather that you -- really, most of it you were working from the legislative end. The citizenship committee and the site selection and so forth, that -- you kind of let that go. BLANDFORD: I did, and sever- -- they asked me several to sit in on it. I didn't even consid- -- I said, "You know, I'm -- I know you're going to do the right thing." Like I said, Bill Froehleich was the county judge and a friend and a very conscientious person. And I kind of indicated to him that I didn't think -- that I didn't get this college to enhance downtown Owensboro. KLEE: Right, yeah. BLANDFORD: I got this college to enhance the educational opportunity for people. KLEE: For people, right. BLANDFORD: And so the -- you know, but that was a healthy exchange, you know. KLEE: Yeah, I was going to ask about some of -- and I -- you know, these may not be very good questions, because you really weren't in that process very much, but I'm just going to mention some names and you know, give a reaction. Bill Chandler, I think is -- is that one of the long-time -- BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: -- leaders here? BLANDFORD: Yes, Bill Chandler was a real trouper. He was a leader in this citizens committee. And I had known Bill and worked with him on elementary and secondary education -- KLEE: I see. BLANDFORD: -- processes in the past. And so I was comfortable with him, and I worked with him probably more closely than anybody on -- KLEE: Fiorella? He is a -- he's been associated with the college too? Was he somebody that, you know, you -- BLANDFORD: (Clears throat) They all were, and I knew them all at that time -- KLEE: Mm-mm, I see. BLANDFORD: -- and you know, knew of them and had -- but we traveled more or less in different circles in those days. And I didn't have a lot of contact with -- KLEE: I noticed -- you know, talking about your union background and -- that there was a union member on one of the early boards, Alvey? BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: Was that someone you knew or contact? BLANDFORD: Mm-mm, ----------(??). Yes, yes I did. Yeah, he was another one that I had some conversations with. KLEE: Right. And that was one of your bases of support at the time, I guess, was labor, organized labor. BLANDFORD: Yes, absolutely, yeah. KLEE: Since -- you know, the -- I'm -- finish out a little bit about -- the next big legislative thing was the 1990 educational reform. And of course, Owensboro at that point was out of the picture, but there was -- BLANDFORD: KERA, you're talking about KERA. Yeah. KLEE: Yeah, KERA. Right. BLANDFORD: Yeah. KLEE: But still, I mean, I know there was -- you had to seek continued funding for it and so forth. BLANDFORD: Oh, my gosh, you're talking -- one of the scariest days I ever had was when -- I think Ed Prichard may have been the one, may have been Morton Holbrook, somebody came in and laid the Supreme Court ruling on my desk, said, "The whole Kentucky educational system is out. You know, it's unconstitutional. You don't have a system of elementary-secondary education." We had to form one, we had to make one. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: And so that's what went into KERA. Of course, I had no -- very little interest in -- I had interest, but -- KLEE: Sure. BLANDFORD: -- very, very -- I had very little input into what made up KERA. That -- KLEE: You didn't really -- BLANDFORD: I left that up to the -- KLEE: You didn't really have a horse in the race on that one. BLANDFORD: I left that up to the people who know a lot more than I do, but they passed it. They -- KLEE: And you just tried to coordinate what was going on and -- BLANDFORD: Not in drafting the bill, no. KLEE: Right, right. BLANDFORD: After the bill came to us, I said, "Hey, we've got to pass this thing. We don't have an educational system." KLEE: And you had a Supreme Court mandate. BLANDFORD: Right. KLEE: Yeah, that Ray Corns, he's a timid little fellow. (Klee laughs) BLANDFORD: Right. I remember them coming into my office and laying that on my desk and said, "Don, here -- your educational system in Kentucky," which we had lived and breathed with forever, "is unconstitutional." (Blandford laughs). KLEE: Yeah, right. BLANDFORD: And so that was one of the days I thought, "My gosh, what do you do?" (Blandford laughs) KLEE: Yeah. Your relation to the college is -- there's -- you've maintained a relationship. I think people here in the community know your role and how important you were. Can you give me a couple of examples -- and I know a couple of them I'm going to ask you about. For example, Wallace Wilkinson brought his cabinet here to meet in '88. BLANDFORD: Mm-mm. KLEE: Now, was that something -- I mean, did he do that for -- BLANDFORD: No, that -- KLEE: Did you coordinate that or -- BLANDFORD: No, no, I didn't. Wallace Wilkinson and I weren't -- I mean, we got along and got a lot done for Kentucky, but we weren't (Klee laughs) on a basis that I could -- so he did that on -- KLEE: He came in on his own. BLANDFORD: No, I think someone in the community -- KLEE: Yeah, invited him. BLANDFORD: -- community probably had -- in fact I'm sure they did. KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: But it wasn't me. KLEE: And in '89, I had a picture here of the actual groundbreaking. And you had Otis Singletary and Martha Layne Collins and yourself, and Charles Wethington was there, and Jim McDaniel. Do you remember that day? BLANDFORD: Mm-mm, yeah. KLEE: Tell me a little bit about it. I mean, was it a pleasant day, big crowd? What -- it was for the groundbreaking of the ----------(??). BLANDFORD: Oh, yeah. It was a pleasant day and the culmination of just so many people's work and effort. And to see it all come -- you know, come about there, it was, the atmosphere was great. The press, of course, was loving it, interested in it. KLEE: Most of the main players there, Holbrook and Hager and -- BLANDFORD: It was -- oh yes, oh yes, yes. I'm -- they were all there, and all very positive and enthused and, you know, waiting for that brick and mortar to come in. (Klee laughs) KLEE: And you know, the other unique thing about this, other than it was the only community college in the last -- well, it will be forty years now, to be created, was it almost sprung full-blown from the earth. And that was -- BLANDFORD: That was the -- yeah, that's the only way to do it. KLEE: It was your idea from the beginning. BLANDFORD: You know, we couldn't have gone that $4 million, you know, like she said, "Let's put up a building and we'll come back later and give you another building." Unh-unh. No. (Blandford laughs). I wasn't -- unh-unh, it don't work that way. KLEE: Planned that from the beginning. And I -- the other thing I was going to ask you about, I saw that there was a -- there's a Blandford Hall here. Was that -- THIRD PARTY: ----------(??) KLEE: Oh, okay. Is that -- THIRD PARTY: No, Blandford is our big auditorium down in ----------(??). KLEE and BLANDFORD: Yeah. KLEE: Right, yeah. BLANDFORD: Yeah. Well now, Charlie Wethington said, "Don," said, "we want to name that college after you down there, but," said, "we've never named a college after a legislator when he's still in office." KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: So he said, "After you get out of office, then we'll -- you know, we want to do that, but we'll put a hall down there in you honor." And that -- I had nothing to do with that, but -- KLEE: Right, right. I understood ----------(??). BLANDFORD: -- this was Charlie Wethington. Of course, I got in some problems later, and naming the college never proceeded, but that's where the hall came from, Charlie did it. KLEE: Charlie Wethington. BLANDFORD: Yeah, Charlie did it, and he said, "You know, we want to name the college Blandford whatever." KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: But he said, "We've never done that while the -- you know, it's usually after somebody dies, they -- you know, or out of office, they did that. So -- KLEE: Right. BLANDFORD: But he said, "We do want to name a hall down there." So that's where that came in. KLEE: Yeah. Can you say that -- you know, maybe the highlight -- where does the college fit into your legislative career? Where do you see it in the -- you know, as you look back on your accomplishments? BLANDFORD: Oh, I think both of my highlights, I guess, in my mind are -- had to do with education. KERA was one, and of course, this community college, yeah. KLEE: Community college, uh-huh. BLANDFORD: Yeah, they're the big ones. Now, I got -- you know, I got money for roads and the center downtown, the parking garage, you know, those type things. But they're all secondary to -- you know, to this facility, in my mind. KLEE: Sure. Why, I sure appreciate your talking to me. THIRD PARTY: Can I -- Oral history with Don Blandford, Kentucky state representative from Daviess County, regarding the politics surrounding the establishment of Owensboro Community College. Blandford recalls his years in the legislature as speaker pro tem during the 1990s education reform movement.