You stay around a community long enough, you get to know people.
Unfortunately, you also get to know people who pass away.
In another edition of Saying Goodbyes, there are two guys who have played a role in their community – and in my life.
Thomas B. Givhan
I arrived after the battle of the political and legal factions had hit its peak.
But I learned quickly at least one side of the dispute. And it was a story in history that I would hear many times over the past 39 years.
Givhan served as county attorney in my infancy. Prior to my arrival, he served as state representative and was part of the major judicial reform act while in the General Assembly.
Following his service as the county’s top legal adviser, he dove head first into what was a passion in his later years – planning and zoning.
A strange passion? Not really.
Tom had seen enough to know that the county needed to grow in a systematic fashion. Was he opinionated serving as a member of the planning commission? Yes.
Did he give attorneys a hard way to go when they presented cases? Another resounding yes.
Did he try to do all he could to lead applicants who didn’t have an attorney with answers that might help their cause? Indeed he did.
In full disclosure, did Mr. Givhan get a bit winded in using his legal background to discuss a subject? Guilty as charged.
I call it passion. Others might have different words.
While it would be a long conversation when he called, I knew he had something on his mind. And for the most part, it all made sense.
Doing what reporters do, I would listen. And occasional response was all that was needed.
Maybe I got the side of Tom that had mellowed a bit. It was past the political wars of 1970s. It was a time in which he looked toward the county’s future.
We agreed much of the time. There were times we didn’t.
There were times he belabored a point. There were times that a thorough investigation of a topic was helpful.
He was also full of one-liners. I should have written down his many quotes. They were always interesting, much like the author.
Givhan was a man who loved his family and loved his community. He cherished his past, including his service in World War II, but he also looked toward the future.
I will miss the conversations but I know that it is time for him to get home to be with Sharon.
One of the architects of the current look of Bullitt County is a person I knew years before I even came to work for The Mount Washington Star and The Pioneer News.
Back in the day, I was a pretty good tennis player. One of the legends of Bullitt County was a big, tall guy called Jim Rice.
He would play tennis with another Bullitt County guy, Lloyd Harris.
They were pretty good in their day. Won tons of tournaments and was considered one of the best doubles teams at their level in Louisville, Kentucky and region.
Back in those days, the Bullitt County Tennis Association ran tournaments. I still have a hat from the association. From my days as working in my family’s racquet equipment shop, I got to know a lot of folks who drove that narrow, winding Preston Highway from Shepherdsville to our shop in Okolona and later Fern Valley Tennis Club.
Teaming with another Bullitt Countian, Roger Cobb, I had the opportunity to play against Jim and Lloyd in a Wednesday league at Fern Valley. Even at a young age, it was a very physical battle any time we encountered that duo.
And it had a little Bullitt County edge as those three had battled for years on the local tennis scene.
It was only when Rice and another guy, Jesse Flynn, talked about doing something totally crazy in Cedar Grove that I learned of the other side of the Shepherdsville High grad.
Working as Flynn Brothers, the duo bought a farm on Cedar Grove Road. They dug up a lot of rock with their construction company. Later, they would develop land that would become home to a lot of big warehouses.
The light industrial revolution in Bullitt County had begun. That company grew and grew and developed more property throughout the region. It is now a leader in the construction business.
Rice and Flynn were both tall in stature. In the construction business, you have to be both intelligent and have some political savvy.
I was told years ago that Jim – the engineer -- could take a piece of property and visualize how it would best be used. I saw that same comment made by Flynn upon his partner’s passing.
Through our connection from tennis, maybe it was a little easier for me to talk with Jim in an off-the-record, casual setting. In my business, learning the back story can help understand the whole situation.
He was honest about his assessments of the political climate. I tried on numerous occasions to get him to run for public office. He wisely refused but he would have been a great leader for the community.
Jay served on the Kentucky Turnpike Water District during the transition of taking over Salt River Water to its purchase by Louisville Water Co. I had forgotten that he served on the Bullitt County Joint Planning Commission.
When some dislike what the county has become, especially Shepherdsville, a part of the distain seems to mention Flynn Brothers. There are people who didn’t want change. Jesse got much of the backlash because the company was in the name of the brothers and Jim missed much of that anger.
The company made money but the company also took a tremendous risk. The county has been very good to that company but the vision seen decades ago has been very beneficial to Bullitt County. It seems to have worked out well for both parties.
My experience with Jay will continue for years to come.
His son, Jason, is a very good tennis player. We’ve been partners and foes in the past. Jason’s wife, Stacey, is another excellent tennis player who has a key role in the sport in Kentucky through her work at USTA.
Their sons, Chris and Matthew, are both tennis players and have been on teams I’ve captained.
Jim’s daughter, Tiffany, coached the Bullitt Central tennis teams for years and her husband, Mike, was a former football coach at BCHS.
They are good people.
Jim now has the opportunity to be reunited with Pat, the wife and partner he lost a few years ago.
There will be more goodbyes to be said in the future.
Thanks to each who have played a key role in some way in making Bullitt County a great place to live and to work.