About six months after ending his law enforcement career, Elizabethtown native Jeff Gregory’s first stab at politics has led him to the mayor’s seat of his hometown.

Gregory defeated Elizabethtown businessman Ben LaRue, 5,212-3,420 in Tuesday’s general election.

“I’m a newcomer to politics, so you never know,” Gregory said. “All we did was make sure we worked as hard as we could, had the best people working with us during the campaign, gave it a 110-percent effort and listened to people who knew more than we did about campaigning.”

Gregory, 43, who retired from his law-enforcement career in May following 4½ years in the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office and serving 17½ years with Kentucky State Police, said he is eager to take on the new role.

“I’m just excited to get in there and learn from Mayor (Edna) Berger while she still has two months left to go,” he said. “We’ll get started in January.”

Hardin Circuit Court Clerk Loretta Crady, who was unopposed this election, attended Gregory’s watch party at Pritchard Community Center. Although she didn’t vote in the Elizabethtown mayoral race, she said she thought Gregory would do a good job.

“He is just a very, very likable guy. He knows about the community. He knows about law enforcement. He has been involved his whole life. He has been a public servant,” Crady said. “I just think that he’ll do well.”

While Gregory was at Pritchard Community Center on Tuesday evening, LaRue held a watch party at The Cafe at Swope Toyota. After nine of the 16 precincts had reported, placing Gregory more than 1,000 votes ahead, LaRue announced defeat to the crowd gathered to support him.

“I thought the big turnout would be good for us, but it turned out to be really good for (Gregory),” LaRue said. “We did everything we could. I wish him the best. I am sure he will learn and do well.”

LaRue, 56, a native of LaRue County who has lived in Elizabethtown since 1994, said the defeat will not affect his willingness to be involved in the community. He will keep working to improve the city.

Dr. Lucian Moreman, who attended LaRue’s watch party, said it was a shame LaRue lost, but he knows Gregory will do as good of a job as he can.

“Life goes on. There is still opportunity for everybody to work together and help the town grow,” Moreman said. “And that is what we need to do. This was a good race. Two good candidates.”

Gregory said he has a lot of respect for LaRue, who he had not met before the race.

“He is a fine guy and I have a lot of respect for him. ... My hat is off to him. I have nothing but respect for him and his family and his campaign,” he said.

Gregory is married to Melissa Straney Gre­gory. They have four children, Jey, Ryder, Harper and Emerson.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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