Meet our new community columnists

Gary Bentley
Gary Bentley

The Herald-Leader has selected five people who will regularly provide interesting perspectives on state, regional and community issues during the rest of the year. The columnists, whose work will be posted first on Kentucky.com/opinion before being printed or promoted in the paper, are:

▪  Gary Bentley, a native of Whitesburg, worked as an underground coal miner for 12 years, predominantly in the southeastern part of the state, and now resides in Lexington. He currently works in manufacturing and is active in Lexington’s bicycling community. You can read about his career as an underground miner by visiting The Daily Yonder. He is especially interested in exploring opportunities for progress in Appalachia.

▪  Donald Mason is executive director of the Lyric Theatre in Lexington. A singer, he photographs and interviews notable musicians. He has degrees in business management from Sullivan University, management and ethics from Asbury University and is working on an MBA. His interests also include global sustainability, non-profit leadership and economic development in low-income areas. He is a dog dad to two boxers and has four turtles.

▪  Jillean McCommons, a Detroit native who lives in Berea, is a librarian, poet and banjo enthusiast. She spent 10 years in rural California before making her way to college, Brazil and, eventually, Kentucky. She has advanced degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. She has been published in the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. She enjoys discussions on race, culture, history and politics.

▪  John Roberts, a Lexington Christian Academy graduate and Eagle Scout, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in secondary social studies education at the University of Kentucky. He has a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in political science and philosophy. He has been published in UK’s Shale Undergraduate Arts Journal. He enjoys writing about politics, education and religion.

▪  J. Brandon Thompson is a self-described political junkie and lifelong conservative who served as chair of the Adair County GOP and president of the Columbia-Adair County Chamber of Commerce. As an ordained minister, he especially enjoys writing about issues at the intersection of politics and religion. He is an alumnus of Lindsey Wilson College and has been happily married to his college sweetheart, Tiffany, since 2004. The couple resides in Adair County and is expecting a son this summer.

Bentley’s column about Letcher County’s focus on bathroom use by transgenders and Roberts’ on how higher-ed budget cuts increase student-loan debt — both published in the paper last week — can still be found on Kentucky.com/opinion.

Feedback welcome.

Vanessa Gallman is Herald-Leader editorial page editor.