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ISSUE: A leader leaves state government
OUR VIEW: Mark Needham made a real difference
Personnel changes in Frankfort often attract scrutiny and lots of press.
This month the commonwealth loses a valuable and dedicated servant and almost no one will immediately notice his departure. However, be assured the state, and our area, for years to come will feel the effects of his service.
For the last four years, Mark Needham has served as executive director for the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs and special assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear. In that role, he focused on developing and coordinating federal and state efforts to support the Army’s base realignment plans and economic growth in Kentucky.
Locally, we certainly have been major benefactors of his efforts and supported by all branches of our state government. Needham has been the architect for dozens of BRAC-related programs, projects and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development in our area.
Unfortunately for state government, Needham decided to leave his position as executive director for a private sector opportunity. But he will continue to serve in a very important role for our region.
In early July, he will join Battelle and become the site manager-program manager responsible to safely demilitarize and dispose of chemical weapons at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond. That demilitarization mission is expected to last until 2023.
Several attributes made Needham successful in his position as executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.
First, he understands our state, our region and the military. He served nearly 27 years as an Army officer and served multiple command tours at Fort Knox.
Second, he is highly experienced and knowledgeable about military infrastructure. From 2005 to 2008, Col. Needham was garrison commander at Fort Knox. There he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the installation, including planning and executing the transformation of Fort Knox due to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure. As we know, those BRAC decisions had great positive economic effect on Fort Knox and our communities.
Much of the success both on Fort Knox and in our community is a direct result of Needham’s planning, leadership and ability to get multiple communities to work together toward a common purpose and for the common good.
Third, Needham carried that same apolitical approach to Frankfort where it was evident and quite refreshing. He repeatedly demonstrated an ability to work with all branches of state government and our local mayors, councils, civic organizations, businesses and chambers.
He was equally respected on both sides of the political aisle. He always seemed to be looking for positive results, not platitudes or political favor.
It seems fitting that on June 13, Needham’s last day at work, he was present when Gov. Beshear dedicated the first two portions of the Ky. 313 extension connecting Vine Grove to Flaherty and the corridor from Flaherty to Fort Knox. That new highway is part of more than $250 million in projects, committed by the governor and approved by the state legislature as a result of BRAC and Needham’s efforts.
Needham’s ties to Kentucky will remain strong. He and wife, Judy, will continue to live in Versailles. And both their children are students at the University of Kentucky.
Whoever the governor selects as Needham’s successor certainly will have large shoes to fill. We wish him or her all the best.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editioral board.