The New Republican majority now controls the Kentucky House of Representatives after many decades of struggle and sacrifice, and they have all the potential in the world to “leave the woodpile higher than they found it.”
However, they must not lose sight of what public service ought to be about: to make the lives of ordinary Kentuckians better and more secure.
For 28 years, I was a member of the old Republican minority and I still managed to get things done for the people of my district. I am proud to say that I served the last 16 of those years alongside my friend Speaker Jeff Hoover, who is a good man with a heart for people.
My advice to the many new freshmen members of House is this: Stay humble and remember that the voters who sent you to Frankfort for a two-year term can send you home in the next election if you quit being their voice and if you aren’t responsive to their needs.
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Also, listen to Hoover and the members of your leadership team. They are experienced in the legislative process and you are just getting your feet underneath you.
I am a lifelong conservative Republican, but I managed to get along with five Democratic governors and four Democratic House speakers during my time in the legislature, not to mention numerous fellow representatives, many of whom I still count as good friends.
Despite our differences in party affiliation, we worked together for the common good and found common ground on issues like building roads, increasing salaries for Kentucky’s teachers and making higher education opportunities more accessible for all.
I would urge my fellow Republicans to not lose sight of understanding that while government should be run in a businesslike manner that is efficient, streamlined and as cost-effective as possible, government is not a business.
The aims of business are to maximize profits for owners or shareholders. The aims of government ought to be about serving the people and helping them to the greatest possible extent.
I was first elected to the House in 1984, the same time Sen. Mitch McConnell was sent to Washington, and nobody, including those in our own party, thought either one of us had a chance. Along with others, both of us persevered over the years, and now the political landscape has completely shifted in Kentucky.
I think of former colleagues like Woody Allen, Danny Ford, Richard Turner and so many others. To the new Republican freshmen, I say never forget how different the circumstances were for those members of your party who toiled in the minority, but who just wanted to be treated fairly and not have the people of their districts punished simply because their representative was a member of the minority.
Treat fellow representatives who are Democrats with respect and good will, even though you may disagree with them, because they, too, represent many good Kentuckians.
As a Republican, I am excited about the vast potential and great opportunity for my party to prove that we can deliver and make our state a more prosperous place to live and work for all Kentuckians.
While we are protecting the right to life, standing strong on Second Amendment rights and securing religious freedom, we must not forget that a pothole is not conservative or liberal — it just needs fixed.
Former state Rep. Lonnie Napier of Lancaster represented the 36th House District 1985-2013.