Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, after nearly three decades in office, has decided not to run for reelection in 2022.
Buchanon, 69, told the Daily News of his decision Saturday, saying: “I’m just at the point in my life when it’s time for me to focus on the things that are most important to my family.”
Buchanon, a Republican, made his decision just days before the window begins Wednesday to file for office.
Rather than file for what would have been his eighth four-year term in the office, Buchanon said he decided to serve out the current term that will end in January 2023 and then retire.
“I will focus on workforce development and finish up projects that we’ve started,” he said. “All I want is to do the right thing for Warren County.”
Buchanon, who succeeded Basil Griffin as judge-executive in 1994, said he’s confident the current group of elected officials and department heads in place can continue the county on the growth trajectory that defined his tenure.
It’s a tenure that started with a weather-related emergency declaration and is ending with the lengthy health-related emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 1994, shortly after I took office, we had a big snowstorm and had to declare an emergency,” Buchanon recalled. “I had the National Guard in my office reporting to me.
“It was baptism by fire. I realized then that this job is a 24-hour-a-day commitment.”
That has been reinforced by the pandemic emergency, which Buchanon said has been one of the most difficult periods of his tenure.
“You get calls from people unhappy about things being shut down, and you get calls asking you to keep things shut down,” he said. “It has been an emotional time.”
In between those emergency declarations, Buchanon has fashioned a record of growth for a county that has seen its population explode from less than 80,000 in 1990 to more than 134,000 today.
He has been instrumental in the development of the Kentucky Transpark industrial park that was born in controversy but has grown steadily both in acreage and in tenants to where it is now home to some two dozen companies employing more than 3,000 people.
Buchanon was also a driving force behind the development of the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center that is a centerpiece of Bowling Green’s downtown revitalization through a Tax Increment Financing district.
The county’s parks system has grown considerably during Buchanon’s tenure, and the county government itself has grown to the point that fiscal court has recently purchased the Sugar Maple Square property on Ky. 185 and the former Community Action of Southern Kentucky building on Center Street to accommodate that growth.
“I like the culture we’ve developed with our parks and through our economic development efforts,” Buchanon said. “I’m proud of all the stuff we’ve built over the years.”
As are many of those who have worked with him.
“It has been an unbelievable honor to work with Mike,” said First District Magistrate Doug Gorman. “He has done a great job for Warren County.”
Buchanon said one of the last projects he hopes to complete is seeing broadband internet service rolled out throughout the county. That is being worked on through the help of the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund grants and a partnership between Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and North Central Telecommunications Cooperative.
“Getting broadband done is a big deal,” Buchanon said. “It’s something we’ve worked on for more than 10 years.”
Such projects have occupied so much of Buchanon’s time over the years that he says “I’ve kinda shortchanged my family over the years.
“Now I want to have time to go to my grandkids’ ball games and travel some with my family.”
Buchanon, a graduate of Bowling Green High School and Western Kentucky University, said it isn’t easy stepping away from the job.
“I like what I do,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can look back over your shoulder and see the field you’ve plowed.”