Politicians don't often say nice things about the Herald-Leader cartoonist, but one target of Joel Pett's pen called for something of a truce.
Before an audience of 150 Wednesday at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray proclaimed Friday as "Joel Pett Day" in the city. The proclamation came during a fundraiser for the center, and the opening of an exhibit of Pett's nearly 30 years of work at the paper.
The proclamation noted that Pett "came to the Herald-Leader the same year (1984) Mitch McConnell was first elected to the Senate." McConnell, now Senate Majority Leader, is a frequent subject of Pett cartoons.
Gray apologized to the crowd for leaving the Pett soiree for a public meeting about "the re-imagining" of Rupp Arena, a project that Pett has skewered.
Pett said "the only other time a politician tried to give me something was when I won the Pulitzer in 2000 and (then state senator, now Fayette Circuit Judge) Ernesto Scorsone introduced a bill" in the Senate to commemorate the honor, "and it got killed." A similar resolution passed the state House 84-4.
Pett was a bit flummoxed by having a day named for him. "What does that mean?" he said. "Do we get free drinks?"
Before the opening of the exhibit, a panel of cartoonists discussed their work and Pett's. Signe Wilkinson of Philadelphia, the first female cartoonist to win the Pulitzer, said every cartoon Pett draws "aims for the far corners."
"I admire Kentucky for keeping him around," Wilkinson said. "It makes for a much more interesting political atmosphere if you have strong leaders. And I don't know what you're doing down here, but all your representatives in Washington (such as McConnell and Sen. Paul Rand) are making news. And if they made news without someone drawing them in cartoons" it would make for a less interesting political climate.
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader