KAED has a rich history of experienced leaders who have served the Commonwealth. We are honored to maintain this archive of individuals who have made our work possible today.

Past Chairs


  • 2022 Bob Helton
  • 2021 John Bevington
  • 2020 Tim Gibbs
  • 2019 Ron Bunch
  • 2018 Chuck Sexton
  • 2017 Madison Silvert
  • 2016 Brad Sowden

2010 – 2015

  • 2015 Deana Epperly Karem
  • 2014 Bruce Carpenter
  • 2013 Roxann Fry
  • 2012 Kim Huston
  • 2011 Jody Lassiter
  • 2010 Daryl Smith

2000 – 2009

  • 2009 John Cosby
  • 2008 Sandy Romenesko
  • 2007 Phil Kerrick
  • 2006 Debbie Gray
  • 2005 Jim Thompson
  • 2004 Jill Wilson
  • 2003 Frank Salisbury
  • 2002 Kevin Sheilley
  • 2001 Lisa Payne
  • 2000 Bryan J. Quinsey

1990 – 1999

  • 1999 Kathy Schlegel
  • 1998 Stephen R. Byars
  • 1997 J.R. Wilhite
  • 1996 Daniel E. Tobergte
  • 1995 Connie M. Fowler
  • 1994 Rodney Brown
  • 1993 Joe Gibson
  • 1992 Jimmy Jones
  • 1991 Sam L. Burke & Forrest Wright
  • 1990 Joseph W. Kelly


  • 1989 John F. Loyd
  • 1988 Helen Humes
  • 1987 Darrell R. Gilliam
  • 1986 Wayne Foster
  • 1985 Lester B. Abbott
  • 1984 Alan L. Fowler
  • 1983 James P. Gray, II
  • 1982 Lee Roy Senn
  • 1981 George A. Collin, Jr.
  • 1980 James T. Catlett

1970 – 1979

  • 1979 Lyle D. Cobb
  • 1978 Henry H. Knight
  • 1977 J.C. (Dick) Dixon, Jr.
  • 1976 D. Drake
  • 1975 M. Winston Johnson
  • 1974 Jim Coleman
  • 1973 Joe W. Lee
  • 1972 Wayland A. McDowell
  • 1971 Leonard T. Kernen
  • 1970 Leonard C. Neff, Jr.

1960 – 1969

  • 1969 Nicholas C. Kieffer
  • 1968 E. Bruce Kennedy

2018 Inductee Tribute Video

Debbie Gray

Hall of Fame Inductees


Tom Lund

Since coming to Kentucky in 1992, Tom Lund has located over 10 manufacturing facilities in Lebanon employing over 2,500 workers while also assisting countless other established Marion County companies to expand and hire additional workforce. He currently serves on the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation tasked with providing training dollars for workforce training on behalf of the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Tom has been Executive Director of the Lebanon/Marion County Industrial Foundation since 1992. Prior to coming to Kentucky, he served in similar roles in Phoenix, AZ; Hobbs, NM; Klamath Falls, OR; and Deming, NM.

Some of the professional organizations and roles in which Tom has participated include:

  • New Mexico Industrial Development Executives Association (NMIDEA) including President NMIDEA 1974-75
  • Member American Economic Development Council, Inc.
  • Past Member Industrial Development Research Council
  • Member Kentucky Industrial Development Council
  • Board of Directors, Kentucky Industrial Development Council
  • Member Southern Industrial Development Council
  • Member of the Central Kentucky Development Roundtable

Tom’s professional recognitions include the State of New Mexico’s First Award for innovation in economic development in 1986, the American Economic Development Council’s 1995 “Best of Class” Award for Design of Sales Literature and Kentucky’s Economic Development Professional of the Year Award in 2003.

Tom has been instrumental in branding Lebanon/Marion County as the Central Kentucky “Hub for Manufacturing” with his tireless efforts to showcase his community both domestically and internationally. Tom has been at the forefront in developing programs and initiatives to assist workforce creation and skills development across the Commonwealth.

Wayne Foster

Wayne Foster is a consultant in the field of economic development. He is President of Commonwealth Research, Inc. The company is engaged in project locations, formulation and implementation of community economic development programs, financial packaging and business research. He is currently serving as a consultant with the Jessamine County Economic Development Authority and serves as its President.

He is also President of the Kentucky Institute for Economic Development and has served in that capacity since 1986. KIED, Inc. is one of 19 comprehensive economic development training programs in the nation accredited by the International Economic Development Council and designed to provide instruction for professionals and volunteers in the economic development profession.

Wayne has been involved in economic development for 32 years. He began his economic development career in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was involved in project locations for Dobbs Houses, Inc., a regional restaurant chain. In the interim, he has worked for local, regional and state level economic development organizations, both private and public.

He is a member and past president of the Kentucky Industrial Development Council, and a member of the International Economic Development Council and Southern Economic Development Corporation for more than 20 years.

Prior to entering the field of economic development, he taught economics at several colleges and universities in the south. He has an MBA in economics and finance from Memphis State University (now known as the University of Memphis).


Phillip Allen Kerrick

While serving as Winchester/Clark County’s Executive Director of Economic Development, Phil was able to successfully recruit 16 new industries to Winchester which created 1,200 new jobs and investments equaling $98 million.  Also, there were 64 expansions by existing companies that represented an additional 1,200 jobs and $159 million more investment in the community. Kerrick was also successful in securing nearly $4 million in grants to assist existing industries with expansion projects. In addition, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Winchester Industrial Training Consortium and securing $200,000 in grants to assist existing industries with employee skills training.

Some of the Industries recruited to Winchester during Kerrick’s tenure include:

  • Johnson Controls
  • Fuli Univance Corp.
  • Ainak Industries
  • Sonoco Products Co.
  • Wintech Inc.
  • Timken Co.
  • Matsushita Appliance Corp.
  • Mecondor LLC
  • MCI

While in Frankfort serving as the Executive Director of the Capitol Community Economic/Industrial Development Authority, Phil successfully recruited 15 new companies representing 477 new jobs as well as assisting 30 existing industries expand creating 857 more jobs that brought investment to the community totaling $87 million.  In addition Kerrick was able to secure over $1 million in grants to support new business locations and creation.

Some of the Industries recruited to Frankfort during Kerrick’s tenure include:

  • EDS
  • First Health Services Corporation
  • Lukjan HVAC Supply
  • LifeNet
  • Stock Building
  • AccuTec
  • Aska Engineering
  • MQ Automation
  • Phillip Morris USA

Kerrick began his career in Economic Development as a Projects Manager in the Industrial Development Division of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development in 1985.  In 1990 Kerrick became the Industrial Development Coordinator under the New Business Development of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.  In 1994 Kerrick became the Director of Economic Development for the Winchester/Clark County Industrial Authority.  In 2004 Kerrick returned home to Frankfort as the Executive Director of the Capitol Community Economic /Industrial Development Authority.

Kerrick graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981 with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration.  Kerrick graduated from the Basic Economic Development Course through the University of South Florida in 1986.  Kerrick was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute and earned his Certified Economic Developer status in 2000.  Phil joined the Kentucky Industrial Development Council (KIDC) in 1985, was elected to its Board of Directors in 1997 serving through 2004.  In 2005 KIDC became the Kentucky Association for Economic Development (KAED) and Kerrick continued his membership and involvement until his passing. He served on the Board of Directors from 2005 through 2008; he served as Secretary/Treasurer in 2005, Vice Chair in 2006, and served as Chairman in 2007. Phil also served on numerous committees while associated with KIDC and KAED.

Kerrick served on the KAED Foundations Board from 2009 until his passing.  Kerrick was a member of the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) and served as Alternate Director for the year of 2002. Phil was a member of the American Economic Development Council (AEDC) from 1990 through 2000 and a member of the International Economic Development Council 2000-2010.

Recipient of the James Norris Gray Award for Professional Development in 2000.

Recipient of the KIDC President’s award in 2003.

Recipient of the James J. Coleman Community Professional of the Year Award presented by East Kentucky Power in 2004.

Recipient of the KAED Outstanding Service Award in honor of the KIDC Founders for numerous years.

Additional memberships and involvement include: Bluegrass Alliance, Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board, Bluegrass Area Development District, Bluegrass Tomorrow, Frankfort Area chamber of Commerce, United Way, Franklin county Extension Service, Partnership for Workforce Development, Winchester/Clark County Chamber of Commerce, Winchester Entrepreneurial Center, and a host of others. Kerrick was a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.

Phil Kerrick’s legacy is seen every day by the citizens of Winchester, Frankfort and across the commonwealth. Kerrick was an economic engine in the communities he served and while with the cabinet he promoted the commonwealth as a whole. He always had a smile on his face, he always had a kind word and was always willing to help and support his fellow man. Phil Kerrick was an affable man of faith and always brought out the best in people personally and professionally. This award would be a well-deserved recognition for a long, outstanding and dedicated service to the commonwealth, communities and the citizens within. His work stimulated the quality of life in the communities in which he worked by providing jobs and opportunity. Although his practice was cut short his accomplishments were many and he was certainly able to establish a storied career as a certified, professional economic developer.

Phil Kerrick’s life, career and actions define the spirit of economic development and he was the essence of community; he spent his lifetime seeking growth, prosperity and opportunity.

Gene Royalty

Gene Royalty was born in 1930 in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  His parents, Hollie G. and Emma Sallee Royalty, were well known and devoted citizens in the community.

Gene initially planned to follow in the footsteps of his father – a small business owner with investments in tobacco warehouse and a grocery store.

At age 21, he started his first enterprise, G & H Furniture Showrooms.  “G” was for Gene and his older brother James Huntley, was the “H”.

As the business grew and thrived, Gene became more and more involved in other community activities, serving on the boards of two local banks and chairing a committee to restore nearby Shaker Village.

Soon, this smart, rising young business leader turned his attention to the larger picture of jobs and economic growth in his home county.  A conversation with then lieutenant governor Wilson Wyatt was a turning point.  Jobs required companies and companies required industrial parks, he soon discovered.  “I just got involved and have been doing so ever since,” he says.

Gene organized Mercer County’s first industrial authority and was its chairman from 1961 to 1988, a period that saw the arrival of such companies as Hitachi, which remains an expanding and crucial part of the county’s economic success.

His devoted but voluntary efforts on the part of his community did not go unnoticed outside of Mercer County.  Governor Wallace Wilkinson tapped him as the administrations Secretary for the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Though reluctant at first, telling Gov. Wilkinson “he wasn’t looking for a state job that what he really wanted was to do something for the community.”  But Gene discovered that Wilkinson was “a determined type individual.”

In 1988, Gene Royalty found himself traveling the world, and selling companies on the many attributes of the Bluegrass State, the way he had sold them on Mercer County.

When Wilkinson’s term ended, another state agency needed a marketing expert, and Gene stayed on in Frankfort to serve as the Executive Director of Markets in the Department of Agriculture.

With tobacco waning, it was critical time for Kentucky, and through three administrations and three agriculture commissioners, Gene played a key role in helping Kentucky farms find new and innovative cash crops.

Gene retired from state government in 2002, but not from economic development.  At nearly seventy years of age, Gene thought it time to return to Harrodsburg – not to retire mine you but to explore more work and more opportunities in his hometown.

To no one’s surprise, a county to the south wanted to snag one of the state’s most seasoned and effective advocates of business and industrial growth.

“We were having our annual Chamber of Commerce banquet and I invited some people from Frankfort to attend the meeting,” recalls Russell County Attorney, Don Byrom.  “I gave Gene a call and said come a little early, I want to show you something.”

“I knew what they wanted,” Gene later said.  “They wanted me to run their Economic Development office.”

Gene’s accomplishments as executive director of the Russell County Industrial Development Authority alone would merit his induction into the hall of fame, wrote Greg Jones, in the nomination form.  Under his leadership, the county gained more than 550 new jobs over $87 million in new business investment – plus more than 200 new jobs in major expansions of established businesses.  For a small community like Jamestown, these numbers are significant.

Gene Royalty has worked tirelessly for the advancement and economic success of his community and for the state of Kentucky his entire life.  And it was always a labor of love.


Jerry Rickett

Jerry Rickett is President & CEO of the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp., a 22 county regional economic development organization covering Southern and Eastern Kentucky. Under his leadership KHIC’s assets have grown from $15 million to $56.8 million and KHIC has become an internationally recognized model for community investment and entrepreneurial growth.

Mr. Rickett was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation in 1989, after previously holding the positions of Vice President and Marketing Manager. The company, a community development corporation which focuses on venture capital and entrepreneurial development, is recognized as one of the premier business development organizations in the United States. Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation has been designated the Lead Entity of one of three Rural Empowerment Zones, one of eight Rural Tax Credit Community Development Corporations, a partner Community Development Corporation of Rural Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and a Community Development Entity by the U.S. Department of Treasury and has received allocations of New Markets Tax Credits. Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation became the nation’s first nonbank lender under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Business & Industry Loan Guaranty program and the first SBA guaranteed lender under the Community Advantage Program. Kentucky Highlands sponsors Entrepreneur Development programs and has developed the Kentucky Highlands Business Innovation and Growth Center. Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation also co-manages with Tech 2020 of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the Southern Appalachian Fund, a New Markets Venture Capital Fund as well as Meritus Ventures, the only Rural Business Investment Company approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration.

Mr. Rickett has served as the Board Chairman for The Center for Rural Development and continues to serve on the board and executive committee of the Center for Rural Development, and past Chairman of the Kentucky Appalachian Advisory Commission. Mr. Rickett served as a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati Advisory Committee for six years. He serves on the Advisory Council at Eastern Kentucky University School of Business. Mr. Rickett was appointed to the Tennessee Valley Corridor Board of Directors by Congressman Hal Rogers. In 1996, Mr. Rickett was named the recipient of the first Governor’s Economic Development Leadership Award. In 2005, Mr. Rickett received the Pioneer in Excellence Award and the Mike Sveridorf LISC Leadership Award from the Local Initiative Support Corporation. In 2009, he was inducted into the Kentucky Association for Economic Development Hall of Fame.

Mr. Rickett is a graduate of Cumberland College and holds two Masters Degrees from Eastern Kentucky University.

Marvin E. "Gene" Strong, Jr

Marvin E. “Gene” Strong, Jr. served as Secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development for 14 years, working for three Kentucky Governors. During his tenure more than 274,500 new manufacturing and supportive industry jobs were created, the total estimated capital investment in the state increased by more than $34.5 billion and Kentucky was consistently ranked as one of the top ten states in new job creation, investment and business retention.

Jiro Hashimoto

As the “face of Kentucky” in Japan for 25 years, Jiro Hashimoto has had an enormous impact on the Commonwealth. Working with seven Kentucky Governors he has assisted over 110 companies in relocations and expansions resulting in more than 28,000 jobs created.  Just a few of the key projects that Mr. Hashimoto has worked on include Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Toyota Motor  Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems, Kito USA, and AKEBONO Brake.  These numbers are a true testament to Mr. Hashimoto’s dedication and commitment to Kentucky.

Jim Martin

Jim is retired as an economic development field representative and project manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) working in the Kentucky region since 2005.   The KAED Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the Economic Development profession.  Martin was recognized for using his knowledge, expertise and perseverance to make projects work and is noted to be a “can do” person.


Bill Lear
Bill Lear has nearly 20 years of experience involved with all levels of community and economic development. In 1992, Mr. Lear was instrumental in the formation of the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board and was the Founder and Chairman of the Lexington Partnership for Workforce Development.
Jim Coleman
The late Jim Coleman worked at every level of economic development during his distinguished career. He served as Director of Industrial Recruitment for Gov. Ned Breathitt, Manager of Industrial Development for East Kentucky Power Cooperative and served for many years as Chair of the Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority. Jim was also a Founding Member, Past President and Lifetime Member of the Kentucky Industrial Development Council (now known as KAED).
C. Bruce Traughber
C. Bruce Traughber, Director of Economic Development for Louisville Metro Government, has been an important leader in Louisville’s economic growth since the 1980s. He has overseen the development agreements, design, and construction of Louisville Slugger Field, Downtown Louisville Marriott, 4th Street Live!, and currently is involved with development plans for Museum Plaza, the Louisville Downtown Arena, and the redevelopment of the former Haymarket site into a $2 billion biomedical research facility.


Jim Catlett
Jim Catlett dedicated his life to doing work that is among the most important in a community – creating jobs. Good jobs, with well-known American businesses that chose South Kentucky communities as their operating location. Committing his boundless energy, attention to detail and never-give-up attitude to South Kentucky Industrial Development Authority, Jim was a “closer” who didn’t demand credit, only jobs for his fellow Kentuckians.

Catlett learned that “work was very important” from his father, Leon Catlett. Born in 1936 and a native of Mercer County, Jim’s work ethic was a leading factor in his success in economic development. According to those who knew him, Jim, a yeoman in the U.S. Navy from 1958-62, came home to work for the Kentucky Department of Commerce/Economic Development in 1960-61. He met and worked for Jim Coleman and Katie Peden, and the rest is history-a history of service and dedication.

In the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, some well-known names in American business chose South Kentucky communities as their operating location. Names like General Motors and Corvette, Fisher-Price, Quebecor World Printing and Logan Aluminum. The name that played a key role in the recruitment of these stellar companies: Jim Catlett.

Catlett became the assistant director of the South Kentucky Industrial Development Authority (SKIDA) in 1962. He retired from SKIDA 32 years later – Jim spent a lifetime recruiting jobs for his constituents, the 22 counties of South Kentucky.

Everyone knows that Jim Catlett was a real “closer” and a champion of Kentucky.

Martha Layne Collins

Governor Collins’ visionary leadership continues to bring exceptional opportunities to Kentuckians – and to make Kentucky a force in both the American and global economy.  She dedicated her persistence, sincerity and common sense to winning Toyota (any many others) in order to bring well-paying jobs and bright futures for Kentucky families.  She remains at the forefront, reaching to secure relationships to the corners of the globe – all for Kentucky.

Governor Collins was at the helm of one of the most successful economic development events in history – and that’s just one part of her story.  It was a day of first in 1983 when Martha Layne Collins placed one hand on her grandmother’s Bible and took the oath as Kentucky’s 57th Governor.  The first woman elected to Kentucky’s highest office and the only woman governor in the US at the time, Governor Collins was to become the first woman elected to chair a major political party’s national convention.

Collins began her career as a teacher.  Elected clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1975, lieutenant governor in 1979, Collins was elected governor four years later.   Governor Collins’s focus would not be about the ground she was breaking but about opportunities for Kentuckians.  And making Kentucky a driving force – literally – in the American and global economy.

Before Toyota Motor Manufacturing announced plans to open a manufacturing facility in the US, Governor Collins and her team were building a relationship with this major Japanese automaker.  It would take persistence, humility, an armload of facts and the right deal to win.  Collins knew Kentucky had the teamwork Toyota required.  Add in a hostess willing to wait and greet them at the airport, who charmed her guests with fireworks lighting up the night sky behind the Capitol and the beginning of a beautiful relationship was assured.

Twenty years later, Toyota would establish itself as a corporate leader in environmental issues and outstanding community partner.  Toyota’s selection of Georgetown as the site of its first North American manufacturing facility brought thousands of well-paying jobs and led to dozens of automotive suppliers bringing tens of thousands of new jobs.  Later, Toyota chose Kentucky for expansion and as the home of its North American headquarters.

Toyota wasn’t the only economic development achievement of Collins’ term.  Many new companies and groundbreakings came to Kentucky during her administration and she worked for new educational opportunities.

Any way you look at it, Governor Martha Layne Collins contributions are groundbreaking.

Darrell Gilliam
An economic development professional known across this commonwealth as “the guru,” Darrell Gilliam’s diverse career spans more than three decades. Through his passion for his profession, his commitment to leadership and his generosity as a mentor, he has had an impact that will be felt for generations. Gilliam translates his love for Kentucky and his belief in the value of economic development work not only into new jobs but into innovations and leadership development.

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, this economic development professional understood first hand the importance of a job. He helped created thousands of them across the state. For advice on a project, economic development professionals across the state turned to the man they call “the guru.”

With a diverse career spanning more than three decades, there were few economic development challenges Gilliam hadn’t faced. He began his economic development career in 1969 as a research economist at Spindletop Research Inc., in Lexington, where he helped prepare reports on banking regulations and in the coal, horse racing and restaurant industries. Gilliam moved from the private sector into public service in the ‘70s – starting as city manager for Winchester – an exciting time in economic development. As manager of the Kentucky Appalachian Program, he administered the Appalachian Regional Commission investment program and developed numerous policies with far-reaching impact throughout Eastern Kentucky.

As director of community development for the Bluegrass Area Development District in the late ‘70s, Gilliam helped communities create and expand industrial site development projects. Winchester, Stanford, Lancaster, Stanton and Richmond – all benefited from Gilliam’s drive in helping establish industrial development authorities. He devoted nearly two decade to leading economic development efforts in Winchester-Clark County (1987-1992), then in Prestonsburg-Floyd Count (1992-1994) and finally in Frankfort-Franklin County (1994-2004).

Gilliam was a major force in bringing in some 46 industries that created more than 3,000 jobs and millions of dollars in investment. Passionate about his profession, committed to leadership and generous as a mentor, Gilliam has had an impact that will be felt for generations.

From the small community of Blair, Gilliam knew that every job could change lives. His inclination toward public service was fostered at Berea College and its values of helping others. The bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics he obtained from Berea College obviously formed a strong foundation for a future devoted to community development.

He played a key role in developing Kentucky’s first Strategic Economic Development Plan. Gilliam helped found the Kentucky Institute for Economic Development, where community representatives learn basic principles of economic development, from organization to marketing. A member of the Kentucky Industrial Development Council, he served as president in 1987.

Gilliam served as the executive director of the Capital Community Economic-Industrial Development Authority in Frankfort until his retirement in 2004.

Governor Paul Patton
Governor Patton was born in Fallsburg, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1959 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After 20 years in the coal business, he began his public service career as deputy secretary of transportation in 1979. He was elected judge-executive of Pike County in 1981, establishing the first countywide garbage collection program, initiating oil recycling, and establishing a work program for welfare mothers in day-care centers. He was reelected and served until 1991, when he was elected lieutenant governor and named secretary of economic development, becoming the first lieutenant governor to serve as an appointed cabinet secretary. He was elected governor in 1995 and reelected in 1999, the first governor in Kentucky elected to a second consecutive term in 200 years. Jobs, economic development, and education are his major concerns. Thousands of jobs were created in Kentucky through incentive programs authored by Patton to attract new companies and help existing businesses to expand. He is past chair of the Southern Governors’ Association, the Democratic Governors’ Association, and the National Governors Association. Patton was picked by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education to head a new education commission to look at the high school senior year. He has chaired the National Education Goals Panel, the Education Commission of the States, the Southern Regional Education Board, and the Southern Growth Policies Board.
Katherine Peden

A native of Hopkinsville, her career started in 1944 when she went to work at radio station WHOP where 20 years later she was general manager of the station and owner of WNVL in Nicholasville. She also worked as national sales manager for five CBS stations.

It was in that capacity that she began opening doors previously closed to women. In conjunction with her work, she joined the Business and Professional Women’s Club, (B&PW) beginning with the Hopkinsville B&PW and leading to positions on the state, national and international level. In 1961 she was elected as national B&PW president.

Three presidents appointed her to prestigious posts. President John F. Kennedy appointed her to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1961. In 1964 she served on the Kentucky Commission on the Status of Women that would later evolve into the Kentucky Commission on Women. In 1967 President Lyndon Johnson appointed her as the only woman to the 12-member National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Executive Committee of the White House Conference on Balanced Growth and Economic Development.
She became the first female state commerce commissioner, appointed by then Gov. Edward T. Breathitt. By the end of her four-year tenure as commerce commissioner, 150,000 new jobs had been created, unemployment in Kentucky was cut in half and personal income had increased by 30 percent. It was during that time that she was instrumental in bringing the Phelps Dodge Co. to Hopkinsville and in the development of the first Pembroke Road industrial park where a street is named in her honor. Business Week magazine referred to her success as “the Pedenblitz.”

In 1968 she opened her business, Peden and Associates and spent the next three decades successfully locating businesses and industries in Kentucky.

In 1969 she was appointed to the board of directors of Westvaco Corp., now MeadeWestvaco Corp, becoming one of the first women in the nation named to a Fortune 500 company board of directors. In 1968, Peden made a bid for the U.S. Senate and was the first woman to be nominated for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky. She addressed the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, but in the fall narrowly lost her Senate bid to Marlow Cook by 30,000 votes in an election with more than one million votes cast.

In 1996, while still working in a male dominated field, she was the first woman designated “Master Professional” by the Industrial Development Research Council, the world’s preeminent association of corporate and real estate executives and development professionals. Through her work and also pleasure, she had visited seven continents and more than 200 countries. She is also a former president of the Kentucky Derby Festival. In 2003, the Kentucky Commission on Women named her as a Kentucky Woman Remembered, and her portrait hangs in the east wing of the Kentucky capitol with other distinguished Kentucky women.

When she died in 2006, the economic development industry lost a true pioneer and Kentucky lost one of the its greatest promoters. Katherine Graham Peden was a true “first lady” of economic development who always put her beloved Kentucky first.