The true test of leadership is sometimes unseen until years or decades later.
We need leaders who have vision and can see beyond the next 24 hours or the nearest news cycle. That can be hard as the public at large is seldom interested in “down the road,” and we have become a society of “what have you done for me lately?”
But for Scott County, a sterling example of long-term vision and leadership sits right before us.
Last Thursday, the Scott County Board of Education surprised everyone when they announced plans to build a brand new Scott County High School building and athletic complex, just months after building a second high school, athletic complex, an elementary school and a significant renovation of a middle school.
The board members enjoyed the moment and the mood was celebratory.
But it is unlikely that moment would have ever happened if not for the actions of another group of Scott County leaders almost 20 years ago to the day.
On June 14, 2000, then-Scott County Schools Superintendent Dallas Blankenship and that school board purchased an 80-acre farm on Long Lick Pike for $1.12 million. At the time the land was out of town and not really close to much of anything at all. But Blankenship’s relationship with other state and local leaders provided insight into where the bypass would eventually cross, and he knew the farm would eventually become located in a prime spot for a school.
Blankenship’s tenure as superintendent was challenging. Shortly after he arrived, in 1994 Scott County voters rejected a tax increase and Blankenship found himself managing a fast-growing school system without precious few funds. He negotiated a deal with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in order to build the current Scott County High School by having the automobile make prepay 10 years of taxes.
And he was constantly scouring the county for land as he knew that future growth would require locations for new schools.
To his credit, current Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub paused and praised the school board that made the farm land purchase during Thursday’s meeting.
The new Scott County High School will be built with revenues from a tax increase approved by Scott County voters a couple years ago. And thanks to that tax increase, the Scott County School System can start building for the future — something Blankenship’s school boards never had the luxury.
The current school board naturally deserves a lot of credit for the courage to push for the tax increase and the willingness to tackle multiple major projects at once such as construction of a new high school and elementary school within the same year.
But a lot of credit goes to another school board that served some 20 years ago. Anne Mason was the chair, Becky Sams, co-chair, Rob Knight, Randy Mayo and Rick Smith were the board members along with superintendent Blankenship.
They are every bit as responsible for the opportunity to build this new high school as the current board.
It takes leadership, vision, courage and a certain unselfishness for someone to take actions in which they may never enjoy the fruits, but they know it is the right thing to do.
So, as we celebrate this latest news from the Scott County Board of Education, let’s also give a nod to the members of that 2000 board and especially to Dallas Blankenship.
If you need an example of leadership and vision, Scott County has a perfect example.