Sonny Renfrow, of Livermore, was named the recipient of the “Charles Reid Regional Citizenship Award” — which is awarded to a citizen from either the public or private sector who has played a major role in regional development efforts — during the the Green River Area Development District’s board of directors annual meeting at McConnell Plaza on Sept. 13.

Nick Oller, the Daviess County president for Independence Bank who presented Renfrow with the award, highlighted Renfrow’s achievements and roles throughout the years — ranging from his work as a former city councilman and mayor of Livermore, taking on a leadership role in the Livermore Riverfest Car Show, being an early supporter and organizer of the Thunder on the Green drag boat racing event, serving as a co-director of the city’s Kentucky Trail Town Task Force, which led to Livermore becoming the 25th county in the state to become a Kentucky Trail Town by the Kentucky Department of Tourism, among other achievements.
“When you think of the City of Livermore, you think of Sonny Renfrow,” Oller said. “Since moving to Livermore from Chicago in 2003, Sonny has been invaluable with all the city’s comings and goings.

“Someone as busy as Sonny always has somewhere to be and many things to do, but he will always make time to make everyone he interacts with feel valued, appreciated and important.”

During his acceptance speech, Renfrow said his achievements have been a team effort.

“We couldn’t have done any of things that Ann, my bride, helps me do without all of the support and help of folks like Independence Bank, with Joanna (Shake) (GRADD’s executive director) and the GRADD district has done. It’s (been) amazing.

“This is a true honor, (and) it all comes down to one simple thing — it’s all about service. All of you serve your communities and the people in them. I think all of us have that as our highest calling ….”

Renfrow’s award was one of the four Regional Excellence Awards given out by GRADD during the meeting.

The City of Henderson received GRADD’s “Community of the Year Award” for its Inner-City Improvement Plan (ICIP), which aims to bring more than 60 government leaders, city and field experts, nonprofit representatives, inner-city residents and business owners to identify and prioritize needed projects for inner-city improvement.

The Henderson City Commission passed a $1.3 million budget for the four-year project in the fall of 2022, and it launched in January.
Two additional individuals were recognized for their outstanding commitments to the GRADD region.

Franklin Powers, of Hancock County, was the recipient of the “Texal Brooks Regional Leadership Award,” which honors a current or former GRADD board or committee member who has demonstrated outstanding regional leadership.

Union County Judge-Executive Adam O’Nan was presented with the “Wendell Ford Legislative Leadership Award,” which goes to a local, state or national elected official who has dedicated their life to working with legislative issues and services for regional citizens.

O’Nan, who was absent from the event, will formally receive the award during GRADD’s board of directors meeting in October.

Gov. Andy Beshear made a surprise appearance Wednesday during the meeting and spoke about the successful collaboration within GRADD and other area development districts throughout the state.

“I’m not sure that we have ever worked as closely with our area development districts as we are doing right now,” Beshear said. “GRADD and our other area development districts are working harder than ever to secure more dollars than ever, to make investments in this and every other community across Kentucky to make sure that we don’t just survive; we thrive.
“In just about every one of those areas, we are setting those records.”
Beshear also congratulated GRADD on receiving the Peggy Satterly Spirit of Kentucky Award at the Governor’s Local Issues Conference in August.

The organization was recognized for its work on the Lisman Workforce Complex — a collaborative project that transformed former administrative offices and shops of the Dotiki coal mine in Webster County into a training facility focused on offering technical education and certification for in-demand trades within the GRADD region, such as commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), utility linemen and diesel mechanics.

Kentucky is currently in “what will be our best two years of economic development, and we are living through our third all back-to-back-to-back,” Beshear said.
Economic development districts have been “so critical in making that happen” with advancements in areas such as access to clean drinking water and high-speed internet, he said.

“We’ve now made the two largest announcements for the expansion of high-speed internet in our history, with another $2.2 billion between public and private investment coming our way,” Beshear said. “Through this area development district and the others, we are going to hook up every home and every business in the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky to high-speed internet.”

Beshear said he loves that area development districts like GRADD focus on the “us” and not just the “me.”

“There’s not just one county; it’s a series of counties,” he said.

Additionally, Shake highlighted the organization’s 2023 impact report, which included $42.9 million being awarded in grant funds for 67 projects and creating/retaining 1,189 jobs.

“You all partnered with us. These are your accomplishments; you just utilized our services to help you,” Shake said to the crowd. “You should all be very proud.”

Originally published in Messenger-Inquirer
Freddie Bourne, September 21, 2023