Royalty tells Rotary he’s on a roll

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Mayor talks about his achievements

By Randy Patrick

Bardstown Mayor John Royalty believes he has accomplished plenty during his first two years as the city’s chief executive, but if he could do it over, he would “slow down.”

“Probably if I could have gathered more of a consensus and brought people in, and not had as much rapid change and let people catch up with me,” these past two years, he might have had a better working relationship with other officials, Royalty said when answering questions after his speech to the Bardstown Rotary Club Wednesday. But, he admitted, he’s impatient.

“When I see a problem, I tackle it,” he said. “As I’ve explained to my dad and my brother sometimes … I don’t have to have a congressional hearing or appoint a board to see what we’re going to do.”

“I’m a worker bee. … I like problem-solving, and I like to get things done,” he said.

Royalty was asked what he might do differently if he had a second chance, and he answered that he would go slower.

Following the same line of questioning, Kenny Fogle, a Rotary Club member, asked point-blank: “Why are you such a controversial guy?”

“I’m not a politician. I say what’s on my mind,” Royalty replied, and sometimes people don’t like what he has to say.

“I’m not without faults, but sometimes I don’t think I’ve gotten a fair shake,” he said.

“I get so excited in wanting to make a difference and wanting to pull Bardstown out of what I call its rut that we’re in,” he said.

He said he’s tired of hearing: “This is the way we’ve always done it” — because they aren’t always going to do it that way anymore.

The weekly Rotary luncheon speaker was introduced by Jerry Lear as someone who needed “no introduction.”

“It’s been an exciting two years,” Royalty said, drawing chuckles from some in the audience.

The mayor started by talking about city-county programs that have been dissolved during his administration and one that he tried unsuccessfully to end.

Many, he said, have accused Bardstown officials of not wanting to work with the Nelson County government, but that isn’t so. It’s more a question of what is “fair in a partnership,” he said.

The city had been paying most of the costs for the jointly funded fire service and parks programs for 20 years, he said. And when he tried to get the county to pay more, county officials balked, but it ended up costing them just as much in the end.

Royalty said County Judge-Executive Dean Watts allowed what is now Nelson County Fire and Rescue to increase its fee on county properties by $10 per household or business, which was about what Royalty wanted.

And, he said, the county is paying more for its parks program than Royalty was asking it to pay toward the old Bardstown-Nelson County Parks and Recreation Department.

Rather than continue to participate in the Nelson County Dispatch Center, Royalty wanted to contract with Kentucky State Police. That would have saved the city and county in excess of $400,000 a year, he said, but the City Council voted it down.

The city has since established a full-time Bardstown Fire Department, with firefighters on duty at the station 24 hours a day.

Firefighters are now certified as emergency medical technicians, and some are nurses or paramedics, and go out on emergency medical calls.

The transformation of the Fire Department, Royalty said, is the most significant accomplishment during his time as mayor.

As he has many times before when talking about wanting a full-time fire service to shorten response times, Royalty mentioned a house fire 10 years ago that claimed the lives of 10 people, including six children.

“I lost three children that I felt close and dear to in that fire because they went to my child care center,” said Royalty, who owns Little Angels.

He said he made a promise to a member of the family, Janet Tonge, that if he was ever in a position to reduce the chances of people perishing in a house fire, he would do something.

The mayor cited improvements in the Police Department as well.

Answering a question by Rotarian Rhodie Wheeler, Royalty called his new police chief, Steve Uram, “excellent,” and said Uram is making changes necessary to get the Police Department accredited, probably this year.