Jan. 4—The year of 2022 rang in with the return of the New Year's Eve party in downtown London — welcomed after the 2020/2021 party was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the fireworks that commemorated the new year were symbolic of the events that would mark London over the next 12 months.
The sale of the county's newest industrial park, Rowland Acres on KY 192, to Sazerac made headlines across the state with Sazerac's planned $600M investment into that facility as well as the Cumberland Cooperage, which they also own. The investment will include the construction of seven rickhouses to age Sazerac brand bourbons, with a total of 20 rickhouses on the Rowland Acres property upon completion. The investment will also expand the cooperage and add 50 new jobs there.
In an unprecedented set of tragedies, the London City Police mourned the loss of two officers during 2022. Sgt. Travis Hurley died in February after a prolonged bout with COVID-19. His funeral brought out first responders from across the region for a procession from First Baptist Church of East Bernstadt, where Hurley was a member. Hurley served as patrolman, School Resource Officer and leader for the city police department and was a dedicated member of his church.
Just eight months later, Officer Logan Medlock was T-boned by an intoxicated driver on South Main Street while Medlock was on duty. Medlock was killed instantly from the crash that sent both vehicles off the roadway and into the A.R. Dyche Cemetery. Governor Andy Beshear was among the hundreds gathering to pay their respects at Medlock's funeral.
The hour-long procession involved first responders from across the state, from Paducah to Harlan and Covington to Williamsburg. Many businesses and individuals stood along the route of the procession to honor Medlock and his family. Medlock was termed as a legacy officer because his father is a lieutenant with LPD.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Medlock is currently incarcerated under a $1 million cash bond and is charged with murder of a police officer, possession of controlled substance, driving under the influence of intoxicants and two counts of criminal mischief for damages to gravestones in the cemetery.
The Town Center Summer Concert series brought thousands out for the five-part music fest that featured local groups as well as the Little River Band and Clay Walker. September ended the monthly concert series but not without a double-header of concerts held the first two weekends of September.
Town Center Park also transformed into its holiday style during Halloween and Christmas, with Boo on Main in October and Christmas on Main and the community's first-ever Christmas drone show in December. The Randy Smith's Christmas on Main Parade had over 2,000 participants and thousands more gathering along Main Street to watch as the procession of floats, local celebrities and decorated vehicles made the trek from London Elementary School to Carnaby Square.
After a long drought, the performing arts arena blossomed again with the formation of a theater group. Millstone Theatre Guild debuted their first show at Town Center Park on Dec. 2, and Dec. 3.
A special audit of the city government and city tourism cast a negative light on the community with several notations regarding expenditures and hiring of family members within the city. That prompted the passage of a nepotism ordinance to address hiring practices as well as the city initiating a pay grade and pay scale for city employees. The audit also addressed expenditures for the city tourism commission, some of which were resolved when the city tourism formed as a Special Purpose Government Entity (SPGE) that operates its own employees and budget separate from the city's oversight.
2022 was also an election year for local offices. While only Jailer Jamie Mosley had a Democratic opponent for the November election and only two of six magistrates had opposition in the May primary, all other county offices were unopposed. Don McFadden, who was appointed to fill the vacancy after the retirement of long time PVA (Property Value Administrator) Joyce Parker, was elected to continue his leadership in that office, beating out three other opponents in the May primary.
City races, however, were a different story as Mayor Troy Rudder did not seek re-election after a 16-year stint at the helm of London government, and four of six city council members did not seek re-election. Both races initially brought out multiple candidates, although three persons withdrew from the mayor's race before the primary election.
Candidates for London City Council were also plentiful. For the first time in over a decade, there were over 12 candidates vying for London City Council seats, sending the 17 hopefuls to a run-off in the May primary election. That election narrowed the field to 12 candidates with the top six vote getters in the November election selected as the new city council.
The May primary also saw three candidates seeking the Mayor's seat. Randall Weddle, Judd Weaver and Jacob Kirby faced off in the May primary, with Weddle and Weaver receiving the highest votes. Weddle and Weaver then advanced to the November election with Weddle winning the Mayor's race by more than 200 votes over Weaver.
School board races saw several competitors to fill two seats on the Laurel County School Board. Phillip Bundy and John Begley did not seek re-election and their seats were filled by Tony Krahenbuhl and Brice Hicks, who won over their opponents.
The high case load in Family Court resulted in the state legislators approving a second Family Court Judge position for the 27th Circuit that includes Knox and Laurel counties. One candidate from Knox County and six candidates from Laurel County sought that position, with local attorney Lucas Joyner receiving the most votes.
Joyner, who served on the East Bernstadt school board, resigned that position as state law prohibits a person from serving in two elected positions. While the two candidates for the East Bernstadt school board were re-elected, Joyner's resignation creates a vacancy to be filled by appointment for the remainder of his term.
Long-time U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers and Senator Rand Paul were also re-elected to represent Kentucky in the nation's Capitol.
The London-Laurel community also lost two leaders during 2022. Billie Chaney, who founded the Laurel County Republican Women's Club, passed away after a brief illness at age 90. She was active in the community and was known for her forthrightness. Chaney had been honored by the local Republican Women's Club as well as her selection as one of London's Living Treasures. She was also a former president of the Republican Women's Club and was coined as the queen of the Red Hat Society. She was known for her costumes and jewelry, especially wearing red, white and blue on patriotic days and political gatherings.
Ed Bowling, former Laurel County Coroner and businessman, passed away in August, just four months shy of his 85th birthday. Bowling was honored by the Funeral Directors Association Inc. in June 2022 for 60 years of service in the funeral business. Bowling's career started when he worked with his uncle at House Funeral Home. He then teamed with R.C. Walker and Edd Smith to form Bowling-Walker Funeral Home. Bowling bought out Smith, then Walker, and formed Bowling Funeral Home which still operates as a family-owned business.
The World Chicken Festival brought out huge crowds again in 2022, with entertainment on two stages. While both venues offered different genres of music, the Stage of Stars headlined alternative rock group, Gin Blossoms, on Friday with country star Tracy Lawrence closing down the Saturday night show. The Gospel Egg-stravaganza on Sunday also drew large crowds as the festival wound down.
The Heritage Music Series also featured up-and-coming Kentucky singer/songwriters in two sessions in April and October.
This is the first of a two-part series reflecting on events occurring in 2022. The next installment will be featured in the Wednesday, Jan. 11, edition.