Franklin County

Ky. officials want Obama to name Turner ARC head

Several Kentucky officials are lobbying President Barack Obama to place a Berea College professor at the helm of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

If selected, Bill Turner would become the first black federal co-chair of the ARC, which coordinates federal and state policies regarding Appalachia and works to develop the region's economy and infrastructure.

"I think my being an African American is a profound statement about Appalachia," said Turner, the chair of Berea's Appalachian studies department and a native of Lynch.

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and several others have sent letters of recommendation to the president on behalf of Turner.

Once Obama makes a nomination, the U.S. Senate would have to confirm the appointment.

"I'm honored," Turner said. "I fully hope that I will be considered."

Turner, 62, is the son and grandson of Harlan County coal miners and a graduate of the University of Kentucky and Notre Dame. He also served as interim president of Kentucky State University.

He said the Appalachian Regional Commission has made a difference in its 46-year history.

The federal co-chairman works with the governors of 13 states with Appalachian counties.

Although Turner said "things have really, really improved since I left the mountains in 1966," he acknowledged that "there are certain places in Appalachia that are a source of national concern."

Chandler, D-Versailles, said he expects Turner will have "a great deal of competition," but believes he's the best person for the job.

"He's a native of the region, a native of Appalachia, and I think he understands the needs of the sons and daughters of Appalachia," Chandler said.