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Washington County Jailer Steve Hardin is ready to run the election gauntlet. Not only does the Democratic incumbent face a challenge by Republican candidate Terry Warner, but first he has to square off with fellow Democrat Felix Keene in the May 18 primary to see who advances to the Nov. 2 general election. With 21 years of experience, 11 as deputy jailer and 10 as jailer, Hardin is counting on his track record to deliver the vote.
“I had 10 years as a deputy under Lonnie Boswell,” said Hardin. “He was the jailer in Washington County for 17 years, I think. He and I go way back. We used to do carpentry work years ago. Lonnie then became jailer and in 1990, he was looking for some part-time help and couldn't find anybody because it didn't pay anything. He talked me into taking it and I had a tree and lawn service at the time. I went to work for him on weekends to help him out, and I just stuck with it. When he retired in January 1998, I ran for jailer. I figured I needed to stick with something that had some retirement benefits in it.”
Washington County is in a unique position as it has a jailer, but no jail. County inmates are housed in the Marion County Detention Center in Lebanon. But that doesn't mean that the duties of the jailer are minimal. Hardin said that aside from the obvious task of transporting prisoners back and forth to the Washington County Judicial Center from the MCDC, there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes.
“There's a lot more to it than people realize,” added Hardin. “You also have to take care of your budget work and keep track of medical bills. Everybody makes mistakes, and you have to watch them close. The budget is high enough as it is.”
The public may be surprised to learn that there is no training required to become jailer. Hardin said he would like to see that change.
“There are no tests you have to take,” he said. “Personally, I think there should be. Once you're elected, you have to go to school and receive training. I have to have 40 hours of training every year through the Kentucky Department of Corrections. That's not counting qualifying with a firearm. That's mostly classroom work that involved the duties of running a jail and legal issues. I usually attend 60-70 hours a year, and over the last 11 years I have about 700 hours. When I was a deputy, we had to have 16 hours a year. In those 10 years as a deputy, I also went through juvenile training, too, so I'd say I have probably another 300-350 hours in deputy training.”
Hardin makes no bones about why he is running for another term as jailer.
“Basically, to serve the people of Washington County,” he added. “The county has been good to me, and I try to serve them the best that I can. I also try to keep our costs down the best I can. I hope the voters like the job that I've done for the last 21 years. Experience-wise, I have a proven track record. You can talk to anybody on the fiscal court. I watch the county dollars like they were coming out of my own pocket. Those are my tax dollars at work, too. If the people vote for me, I would sure appreciate it.”
Democratic challenger Felix Keene has more than 20 years of experience dealing with both adult and juvenile inmates as a transportation officer for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. He worked in adult corrections for 17 years and transferred to juvenile corrections a little over three years ago, where he continues today. He is also a 20-year veteran of the Kentucky National Guard, having seen action with the 623rd Field Artillery Battalion in Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation: Desert Storm.
“I have a little over 20 years combined in adult corrections and juvenile justice,” said Keene. “I transported inmates all across the state, wherever they needed to go.”
A 1978 graduate of Washington County High School, Keene wants to get off the highways and work closer to home.
“Basically, I just wanted to work in my home town.” he added. “That would keep me off the road. I've always had to drive back and forth up the highway.”
Keene is also involved in the youth in the county, serving as an official for several sports.
“I know most of the kids around here, especially the teenagers,” he said. “I know most of their families, and I just want to provide some leadership and make everybody feel safe and secure with the professional service that I think I can provide the community.”
Keene said he hopes the voters take his experience into consideration when they go to the polls on May 18, and he would appreciate their vote.
“I think it's time for a change,” he added. “I assure each and every citizen of Washington County that, if elected, I will work as hard as I can to make them proud that they voted for me. I think I can really do a good job, I just need to get the chance to prove it.”