Editorials

Thanks to Earl Gohl as he leaves Appalachian Regional Commission

Dawn at Pine Mountain State Park in Pineville.
Dawn at Pine Mountain State Park in Pineville. Herald-Leader file photo

Thanks to Earl Gohl, outgoing head of the Appalachian Regional Commission, for putting lots of time and energy into Kentucky during his eight years as head of the federal economic development agency.

Thanks too for his repeated assertions that “Appalachia is the next great investment opportunity.” His work and words helped seed new economic opportunities and rebuild a battered region’s confidence.

In his farewell remarks, Gohl, a Pennsylvanian, thanked Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky and former President Barack Obama, the Democrat who appointed him, for supporting the agency’s mission with the highest funding in 30 years, dollars that are pumped back into the region. “Appalachia has taught me that collaboration is the pathway to great achievements.”

Gohl’s last day as federal ARC co-chair is March 16. Named to replace him is Tim Thomas, a Bowling Green-based field representative for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. President Donald Trump nominated Thomas Jan. 4.

Gohl recently sent out this message:

“Serving as the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission for the past eight years has been an honor. Moreover, working with you – one of the many talented, dedicated, and creative people committed to a vibrant Appalachia - has been a privilege. It is time for me to transition from ARC and to start the next chapter of my life. My last day at ARC will be Friday, March 16. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and wish my successor great success.

Among my lessons learned from this experience is that the narrative of Appalachia is not a tale of woe, but a rich legacy of proud Americans who are resilient, determined, and full of grit. There is an army of Appalachians with ambitions and hopes who get up every day and work incredibly hard to make their communities better places for their kids and grandkids. Each day for the past eight years these folks have inspired, and energized me. Their commitment and their accomplishments are to be saluted.

I have so many people to thank for their work, dedication, and energy over the past eight years, including the entire family of ARC partners and staff. For me it has been gratifying to have the opportunity to engage, partner, befriend a diverse set individuals from throughout the region representing a broad spectrum of skills, ethnicity and community -- all of whom share an interest in building an Appalachian economy that is strong, sustainable, and inclusive. Through collaboration, creativity, and commitment we have been able to partner in ways to provide transformative impacts in communities.

Appalachia is the next great investment opportunity in America. To fulfill this potential, we need continued resilience, determination and grit. We will need to stretch beyond the hollers and be welcoming of diverse populations; we need to be dedicated to investing in education systems which provide our children with the tools to succeed; and we need to build entrepreneurial ecosystems that support the development of a vibrant and diversified economy.

For me, this journey would not have occurred but for the appointment by President Obama and his consistent support of ARC including providing a seat at the White House Rural Council. We would not have accomplished as much but for the support of Congressman Rogers. I owe them both a great deal.

Appalachia has taught me that collaboration is the pathway to great achievements. My plan is to continue to put those lessons to work. I hope you will too.”

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