Frankfort State Journal
February 21, 2011
It’s a Friday afternoon, and Gippy Graham is taking another mayor on a tour of Frankfort’s City Hall. There’s a lot of handshaking, shoptalk about building costs and new commercial development and a healthy dose of back-and-forth complimenting.
There’s also a running conversation about Wynonna Judd.
Kevin Cohen, the current and five-term mayor of Stewart Home School, saw Judd in a concert the night before and not only got a picture, but also a signed headshot that he proudly shows to those who get a handshake – which is everyone.
“I met Wynonna last night in Franklin, Tennessee!” comes the excited echo.
If you know Kevin, it’s not surprising that he managed to meet the Kentucky songstress and get a picture. Nor is it surprising that he’s trying to let everyone in on the feat.
The 30-year-old North Carolina native has been a resident at Stewart Home School for 18 years, and during that time has effortlessly become a perennial leader – everyone’s friend and the campus go-to guy.
“In all honesty, Kevin is probably one of the most helpful people you’ll meet,” says Eddy Shouse, the school’s eight-year program director and someone who works closely with Kevin. “He’s always offering help, he’s resourceful, respectful and everybody likes him.”
“That’s probably why he always wins elections when he’s allowed to run.”
Allowed to run? “Every other year,” Kevin confirms with a nod.
There was no scandal, says Eddy, he was just winning too much.
“They wanted to let the other students have a chance.”
Kevin was re-elected in November, and his visit with Graham has got him thinking – and talking – politics.
“How do you like being the mayor of Frankfort?” Kevin asks as they sit in the two large, cushioned chairs. He adjusts his suit jacket, runs a hand through his cropped brown hair and gives Frankfort’s mayor his trademark closed-mouth grin.
“Oh, I love it,” Graham responds. “But you should tell me about being mayor. You’re more experienced than I am!”
That elicits a laugh from Kevin, and the two continue discussing how they can live up to people’s trust and make sure every constituent is taken care of. Kevin speaks clearly and carefully, answering Graham’s questions with confidence.
“We just happen to have the title, but we’ve got a lot of good people in our communities who help,” says Graham, and Kevin nods in agreement.
The mayors begin a tour of the city offices. Suits are buttoned up, ties are tightened and Wynonna is in hand.
When they enter the planning and zoning room, Kevin asks about new construction. Cracker Barrel is first on the list – he wants to hear about the progress.
“Good man,” Graham says with a laugh.
Graham makes sure with each introduction to mention Kevin’s political prosperity.
“Mayor for life!” he tells a group of smiling secretaries in the city hall lobby.
He meets the city manager, most everyone in the hallways, the employees in the Public Safety Facility across the street and even sees his seasonal boss from Dairy Queen.
When the time comes for Kevin and Eddy to leave, the mayors exchange one last handshake and Kevin lays down his verdict of the afternoon.
“Awesome,” he says with a thumbs up and a grin.
On campus, Kevin’s life is much the same, save the political pleasantries. Everybody gets a high-five or a “Hey!” when they pass, he’s always brainstorming different ways to improve campus life and more than anyone, Kevin is in the know.
“If we don’t know something, we just ask Kevin,” Eddy says. “He likes to make sure he has his finger on the campus pulse.”
Eddy uses dinner as an example. At least a few times a day, students find Kevin to ask what’s on the menu, knowing he’ll recite it with ease. “Meatloaf and green beans tonight,” Kevin interjects, in case anyone is wondering.
On the way to basketball practice, he calls out to student after student.
“I like spending time with my friends and helping them out,” he says, pausing to greet a couple of buddies near the gym. And between basketball, flag football, golf, working at Dairy Queen and leading student government, Kevin has plenty of opportunity for just that.
In his down time, Kevin likes movies (comedies and the popular fantasy series “Twilight”), country and soft rock music (he’s got the dates and locations of Taylor Swift’s two Kentucky concerts at the ready) and hanging out.
But like any good leader, Stewart Home School’s go-to-guy is always ready to offer a handshake or a helping hand. Especially if your name’s Wynonna.