Anderson County library board appointment speaks volumes

by Teri Carter, Kentucky Lantern

On Friday, July 28, after learning that a man named Bobby Proctor had been appointed by Anderson County Fiscal Court to our public library’s board of directors, I stopped by the library and asked to see a copy of Proctor’s application. 

His application does not exist. 

He did not apply. 

Library director Demaris Hill told me that Proctor had come in recently, 10 days after his appointment, to pick up a blank application and to get his library email and an iPad. 

The application Proctor did not fill out asks about education, work experience, goals for the library and areas of expertise that could benefit the board, like finance, legal, public relations, technology, long range planning, etc.. Topping the first page in bold letters: Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.

Does the GOP supermajority in the Kentucky legislature realize the bills they pass as enthusiastically as freshmen frat boys at their first party — like Senate Bill 150 — create real division, real fear, and unchecked concentrations of power in small, rural communities like mine?

Take Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 173.730, enacted into law by the legislature in 2022. County judge-executives can now decline, for no reason, applications for library board appointments and appoint whomever they choose. 

Our weekly newspaper reports that Magistrate “Rodney Durr recommended Bobby Proctor, who reached out with interest to be appointed to the board. Durr made the motion to appoint Proctor.” Magistrate Mike Riley seconded the motion, and  “County Judge Orbrey Gritton stated … they strive as a whole to choose someone that represents Fiscal Court and their beliefs.”

Let’s consider Proctor’s “beliefs.”

In June 2021, The Anderson News posted on its Facebook page, in part: “Bobby Proctor, pastor at Beit Ohr Messianic Congregation, says he and others stand opposed to the library posting the (gay pride) display. … “I’ll be there,” he said. “As a Christian, I’m not in favor of this display and don’t feel like it is conducive to the county we live in.”

Proctor’s words prompted a standing-room-only crowd to descend on the library’s board meeting to protest the display. I was there, too, and spoke in favor of the small, tasteful display. Protestors talked graphically about sex and read from the Bible. Afterward, I stood in the parking lot talking to the police chief while a group argued on the sidewalk and one woman, for no apparent reason, repeatedly gave the chief the finger. 

“Is she on drugs?” I kept thinking. The whole protest was a juvenile spectacle, much like the frat boy party I mentioned earlier, only with less booze and more Bible.

Fast forward to June 1 this year, the first day of Pride Month. Library employees were inundated with offensive, threatening phone calls. Concerned for staff safety, they contacted law enforcement. The display in question? One, small, muted shelf near the rear doors, celebrating historical literary giants like James Baldwin, Truman Capote, bell hooks and Walt Whitman.

Here in Anderson County, it is no longer unusual to see a hateful protest led by a preacher who then receives a board appointment because the judge-executive feels he represents the fiscal court’s personal “beliefs.” Can you spell d-i-s-c-r-i-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n?

It is not unusual to see, as in October 2022, a preacher/teacher like Randy Adams whip up a protest at our school board because a few kids asked to be addressed by their chosen pronouns. I was there. It was a lesson in ignorance and cruelty. The front page headline in our newspaper quoted one speaker in bold letters: “The devil is trying to destroy the family unit.”

It is also not unusual for this fiscal court to lack transparency and vote in lockstep. I have been trying for almost a year to get the court to livestream meetings. They have refused. To see what they seemingly do not want seen, I file open records requests. In 11 of their first 13 meetings of 2023, there have been more than 150 votes, but only twice has a magistrate dared to vote in opposition to the judge executive. 

Why bother electing magistrates? Why have meetings at all?

I reviewed the library board applications that were declined. They are outstanding. Two of the four applicants are prior library board members! And yet fiscal court appointed Proctor to a four-year term. 

Who needs to fill out an application when you can just call up the frat house directly.

I called Judge Executive Gritton, Magistrate Durr and Magistrate Riley to ask if they knew Proctor had led a bigoted protest at our library in June 2021? Could they tell me what Proctor’s qualifications were since he did not file an application? How often do they go to our library, check out books, visit with staff? What are some books they’ve read recently? 

They did not return my calls. 

I recommend James Baldwin, Truman Capote, bell hooks and Walt Whitman.

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Photo: Anderson County Public Library (Google, Anderson Public Library)