Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production.  Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

Ways To Connect

A drug roundup in Pulaski County is targeting lower-level dealers ahead of future efforts against higher-level offenders.

Forty-seven drug-related indictments with nearly 70 felony charges have been handed down this week by a local grand jury. Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Karl Clinard says this week’s efforts by federal, state, county, and city law enforcement groups have been aimed at those selling prescription pills and methamphetamine, with a growing number of heroin dealers also targeted.

“The commonwealth of Kentucky is suffering a considerable amount of impact from heroin, and we’re trying to work on that. That’s a higher-level drug that we’re trying to incorporate into our round ups.”

Clinard says that information gained from this week’s arrests will be used to target higher-level drug traffickers in the Pulaski County region.

This week's roundup was a combined effort of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, the Lake Cumberland Area Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky State Police Drug Enforcement/Special Investigations East, Kentucky Office of the Attorney General,  Somerset Police Department,  Burnside Police Department,  Science Hill Police Department, Ferguson Police Department and Eubank Police Department.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Vex Robotics

The Hardin County School System is preparing to host a group of international robotics teams ahead of a major competition next week in Louisville.

The VEX Robotics World Championships are being held Wednesday through Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center and Freedom Hall. The competition features teams from elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges from all across the world.

Some Central Hardin High School robotics team members will get some special practice before they head to Louisville for the championships.

Jason Neagle, with the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center, says fifteen teams from China and Singapore will spend Monday and Tuesday in Elizabethtown, where they will practice their robotics and engineering programs.

“Our students are going to get the opportunity to work alongside with them. The Chinese teams are some of the top-ranked teams in the world, and we have some Top-30 ranked teams as well.”

Map Evansville

An online tool with information about Evansville-area businesses and their attitudes towards LGBT customers and employees is looking to expand.

The Map Evansville website is the brainchild of University of Southern Indiana psychology professor Amie McKibban, who asks business owners to fill out a survey, with the results shared online.

McKibban says the recent controversy in the Hoosier State regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has led to a spike in the number of businesses that want to fill out the assessment.

“I think we jumped from 30 businesses to about 71 in a matter of two weeks," the USI professor said.

McKibban and a USI student are struggling to keep the website updated with the amount of new information being sent in.

McKibban is seeking private and corporate support that she says will be used to update the website’s current software and develop a mobile app that can be used by area residents and visitors to learn more about how businesses handle LGBT issues.

“So it’s really easy, if you’re out and about, or if you’re new to the area or visiting the area. You can download the app and find the restaurant you’re looking for, or perhaps a bakery you’re looking for, a clothing store, a place of worship—whatever you’re looking for,” McKibban said.

Credit http://401kcalculator.org / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The head of Kentucky’s Chamber of Commerce says he’s not giving up hopes that lawmakers will fix the state’s troubled pension systems.

Dave Adkisson says his group was disappointed that the recent General Assembly failed to pass both a $3.3 billion dollar bond issue to support the pension fund for teachers, and a bill mandating an independent study of that program.

Adkisson says legislators must eventually act in order to protect not only pensioners, but also the state’s bond rating.

“If Western Kentucky University is building a new building, if you’re building a new city hall, a new courthouse, a new highway, a new dormitory—those things can cost more because the bonds are lower-rates, and the interest rates are higher.”

The teacher’s pension system only has 53-percent of the money it needs to make future payouts to about 141,000 retired teachers. Earlier this year, KTRS officials said if bonds weren’t issued, the state’s required contributions to the system would double by 2026.

Adkisson, a former mayor of Owensboro, also said Tuesday that he hopes the state’s next governor will stick with changes made to Kentucky’s academic standards.

A familiar face is returning to the helm of the University of Pikeville.

Former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton will serve as interim leader of the school following the departure of its current president. A news release issued from UPike Monday says  James Hurley is stepping aside for “personal reasons.”

Patton is chancellor at UPike and served as president from 2010 to 2013.

The school’s board of trustees will initiate a national search for the school’s next leader. In announcing the moves, UPike credited Hurley for the school’s record enrollment growth, as well as its recent additions of new colleges of businesses and education, and global education partnerships.

Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro is the recipient of a $4 million estate gift from a graduate of the school.

Luellen Pyles passed away in late December at her home in Maysville. The 1944 Kentucky Wesleyan alumna taught English and Spanish in Kentucky and Ohio high schools before joining Burke Marketing Research in Cincinnati, where she became an executive vice-president.

Kentucky Wesleyan President Bart Darrell says Pyles led a life filled with great accomplishments.

“She was a pioneer for women in business on the ground floor of Burke, which is closely associated with Proctor & Gamble. She was a global businesswoman, and has done so many incredible things in her lifetime.”

During her time at Burke, Pyles helped open offices in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy and Mexico.

Wesleyan plans to use the estate gift to support teacher education scholarships and alumni programming efforts.

Darrell says he spoke at Pyles funeral, something he called a “true honor.”

“One of her last requests was that she be buried in her Kentucky Wesleyan gown, and her 50-year alumni medallion. So, she embodied everything that we want in a Kentucky Wesleyan alum,” Darrell said.

City of Owensboro

The city of Owensboro is allocating $5 million for the construction of the new International Bluegrass Music Center project along the town’s riverfront.

The money is being made available through a partnership between the city and state announced Wednesday by Governor Beshear and city leaders.

Owensboro has been providing matching funds for a federal allocation supporting the riverfront. As a result of the new agreement, the state Transportation Cabinet will invest available state matching funds for a portion of the city’s responsibility for that federal allocation.

The move allows Owensboro to invest $5 million of its funds in the new International Bluegrass Music Center, completing the $15 million project.

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne believes the entire state will benefit from the new music center.

“We told the Governor early on that this is really not an Owensboro project, this is a Commonwealth project. Bluegrass is international, and we will be promoting not only Owensboro, but the state of Kentucky.”

Payne says the new music center is needed because the International Bluegrass Music Museum currently housed in the city’s downtown has outgrown its current facility. He thinks the new center will a jewel along Owensboro’s riverfront.

“It will have an auditorium in the facility, and it’s the intention of the bluegrass folks to broadcast a bluegrass opry out of there throughout the world.”

Construction on the new bluegrass music center will begin this summer, with the opening scheduled for 2017.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Shirley Li/Medill

The man who chaired the Federal Reserve during the most tumultuous time in recent memory is speaking Monday in Evansville.

Ben Bernanke, who served eight years as Fed chairman before retiring in January of 2014, will give a speech and answer questions at the University of Southern Indiana, as part of the Romaine College of Business Innovative Speaker Series.

The college’s dean, Muhammad Khayum, says he’s interesting is learning how the former Fed Chair handled the pressure of knowing that anything he said about the economy could have major ramifications.

“I’m just curious as to how they internally respond to that level of attention and the kind of sway they have over individuals in our society,” Khayum said.

Some of the questions that will be put forth to Bernanke will come from USI students.

“There’s a question, for example, that the students put forward about the issue of student debt, and whether that’s the next bubble in the economy due to the magnitude of that student debt.”

Bernanke’s talk will begin Monday at 6 pm at the University of Southern Indiana Physical Activities Center.

It’s free and open to the public, and overflow seating and a live feed of the event will be provided if regular seating at the facility runs out.

Abbey Oldham / WKU Public Radio

An all-day speaker series in Bowling Green this week is dedicated to encouraging participants to make their innovative ideas a reality.

IdeaFestival Bowling Green is being held this Friday at the Downing Student Union Auditorium on WKU’s campus.  The school’s Innovate Kentucky Executive Administrator, Josh Raymer, says some of the topics discussed at this year’s event will include cancer research, branding and imaging, and making online content more social.

“And what we love is that these speakers all come from Kentucky, or neighboring states. So it truly is an example for everyone that these big ideas that you see in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago—they’re also happening right here in Kentucky.”

Another topic that will be addressed by several speakers is the future of the automotive industry.

“A lot of Corvette tie-ins, which is appropriate, given that it’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green,” said Raymer. “But once again, that’s about how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of innovation, especially in a hyper-competitive field like the automotive industry.”

The Bowling Green event is an off-shoot of the IdeaFestival held in Louisville each fall since 2000.

More information about this year’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green can be found here.

Kevin Willis

WKU is enhancing its commitment to offer fresh, locally-sourced food products at its campus dining facilities.

The school announced Monday that it had been named Kentucky’s tenth member of  the Farm to Campus program. The state Department of Agriculture will assist WKU in locating and procuring products sold under the Kentucky Proud label.

Edmonson County farmer Alan Davis says the effort will allow him to expand sales of his hydroponic lettuces and salad greens to the university.

“We think it will let us increase our new production and hire a few more employees. We’re really excited about having a place to bring our fresh produce to.”

WKU Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan says an increasing number of students are interested in having more local, sustainably-grown food choices on campus.

“Each year, I have more and more students make their way to me and say they want to see more local food here. And even more importantly, they want to know what they can do to help get local food on campus, and I love that.”

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