Former Bardstown mayor takes over after predecessor driven out of office

Dick Heaton
Dick Heaton

Dick Heaton is Bardstown's new mayor, taking over after former Lexington police officer John Royalty was booted from the job.

All five of Heaton’s fellow City Council members voted Tuesday afternoon to affirm the former mayor to serve once again as the city government’s chief executive for the remainder of the current term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018.

Heaton immediately replaces John Royalty, whom the council removed from office for misconduct after a months-long investigation and a two-day hearing last week.

“Life does have some odd twists and turns,” Heaton said, as he took the mayor’s chair following his swearing in by District Judge Jack Kelley.

Heaton thanked the council for its “vote of confidence” and especially Kelley’s father, Councilman John Kelley, the former county attorney who led the council’s effort to have Royalty investigated and removed. The council hired attorney and former Lexington councilman Scott Crosbie to investigate.

(Royalty is a former Lexington officer who was fired after he pulled a gun during an off-duty dispute at a fast-food restaurant in the early 90s. Royalty also was fired as a Bardstown officer in 1998 for violating a use-of-force policy. Now he’s also been forced out of the Bardstown mayor’s office.)

Heaton thanked his family for understanding the sacrifices he will have to make to serve as mayor. And, not least, he thanked the citizens.

“I do not want today and the days ahead to be about me,” he said. “This needs to be about us — all of us.”

“All of us need to be united in pulling in one direction to move our city forward to restore the confidence and trust” that that the people have put in their city officials, he said.

He asked for patience.

“Judge us by the full body of work that we’re going to put forward in the coming months,” he said.

It will take time to get it right, he said.

Heaton compared what has happened to Bardstown to a house that could be torn down in a matter of hours, but that it would take months to rebuild.

“That’s where we are today,” he said, but promised to work diligently to address the city’s problems.

“Our brand has been damaged but it’s not destroyed, and you all know what that brand is — the brand of America’s most beautiful small town,” he said.

Spring, he said, is a time of rebirth and renewal, and the city government will take the opportunity to renew Bardstown, he said.

Each of the members of the council welcomed Heaton to the position that he held in 2006-2010 — the third generation of his family to serve as mayor.

“I think we made the right choice,” said Councilman Bill Sheckles, who was mayor before Royalty. Having served in the position, he said, he knows it is hard, but added, “I think we will see a lot of positive things happen” in the months ahead.

Councilman Roland Williams, who nominated Heaton for the position, thanked him for saying yes to the request, and Kelley did the same.

Councilman Joe Buckman told Heaton he had benefited Bardstown as mayor the last time he served and would do so again.

Councilwoman Kecia Copeland said she had not had the opportunity to work with Heaton when he was mayor, but her time with him on the council, she considered him “a teacher,” and looked forward to working with him and the other council members in a spirit of unity.