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

J. Tyler Franklin

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says many Kentuckians are just now starting to pay attention to the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Gray is the Democratic nominee who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green.

The race isn’t receiving the same kind of national attention as several other U.S. Senate campaigns across the country, including Indiana’s.

But Gray says he’s not worried about perceptions that Kentucky’s race is uncompetitive.

“I’m accustomed to being in an underdog position. Every time I’ve run, I’ve been behind when I started the race—and I won the race.”

Gray says Congress currently lacks the ability to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. The Lexington Mayor says he would work as a bridge-builder between Republican and Democratic Senators, in an effort to find compromise on issues like job creation, infrastructure, and national security.

Administrative Office of the Courts

During his annual State of the Judiciary address on Friday, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton asked lawmakers to raise salaries for the state’s 284 judges and justices.

Minton said the state compensates judges at the lowest rate compared to surrounding states, which he said makes judges feel discouraged and undervalued.

“It also provides little incentive, really, for the best and brightest lawyers to leave a lucrative law practice to mount an expensive campaign for election to judicial office,” Minton said.

Salaries for judges and justices range from $112,668 to $140,504 per year. Minton proposed that during the 2018 budget-writing session, lawmakers grant a 5 percent pay raise each year for two years. The total cost would be about $5.7 million.

Bowling Green International Festival

Downtown Bowling Green will be a showcase for more than 50 international cultures this weekend.

The 27th annual Bowling Green International Festival is being held Saturday at Circus Square Park.

The event will feature information booths, musical performances, and food from more than 50 cultures. Festival board member Hannah Barahona says it’s a showcase for the many refugee and immigrant communities in Bowling Green.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to come learn about other cultures, and experience new things and new foods, and new music. But at the same time, we’re really unique in that we offer the international community here in Bowling Green an opportunity to showcase and share the things that are most special from their cultures.”

Barahona says the event has seen major growth since she started volunteering eight years ago.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is changing course on its plans for a new campus sports medicine complex.

WKU announced in August it was partnering with The Medical Center of Bowling Green to build the facility. The medical provider Western Kentucky Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates filed a protest against the school last week.

The group said WKU awarded contracts to The Medical Center in violation of state procurement laws and regulations.

The school issued a statement Tuesday saying it will issue a Request for Proposals next week for bids on all parts of the sports medicine complex.

The statement says the decision to formally bid the project came after WKU officials went before the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight committee in Frankfort Tuesday.

The group that filed the complaint against the school is part of Graves-Gilbert Clinic.

Here is the complete text of the statement issued Tuesday by WKU:

WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University is announcing several initiatives following a pair of incidents on campus involving hate speech.

Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff in an email Tuesday that the school will create a President’s Committee on Diversity and Embracement.

The group will focus on strengthening “campus civility and respect” and deal with any issues on campus involving racial intolerance.

An African-American WKU student found a racial slur carved into her car last month following a dispute over a parking space. An African-American assistant dean reported earlier this month finding three threatening messages containing racist language in her office.

Both incidents are being investigated by WKU Police.

Ransdell also said in his email that the school will increase the number of campus events it holds that center on the themes of "civility, respect, and the embracement of everyone in our campus community."

Here is the full text of Ransdell's email:

Kevin Willis

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said Wednesday that his recent speech containing remarks about shedding blood was a warning against American apathy.

Bevin made the controversial comments Saturday during a speech in Washington at the Value Voters Summit hosted by the conservative Family Research Council.

During that speech, Bevin said it might be necessary for “patriots” to shed their blood and the blood of “tyrants” if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Here is some of what Bevin said during his Values Voter Summit speech:

"Somebody asked me yesterday, I did an interview, 'Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive, that we’d ever be able to recover as a nation?' And while there are people who have stood on this stage and said we would not, I would beg to differ. I do think it would be possible, but at what price? At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood of who? The tyrants, to be sure, but who else? The patriots.

Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and our indifference, have given away. Don’t let it happen."

After several Kentucky Democrats criticized Bevin for encouraging political violence, the Republican Governor issued a statement saying his speech was aimed at the dangers of “radical Islamic extremists.”

Speaking Wednesday to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club, Bevin said his speech in Washington was targeting the indifference he believes many Americans feel towards the political system.

“We have an opportunity to battle ideologically, politically, spiritually, morally, economically—we have the ability to have these levels of debate. Because, if in fact, we don’t, we will ultimately be forced to fight physically. That’s the point I made. That’s exactly what I said.”

WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University is denouncing what he calls a pair of “cowardly” and “heinous” acts involving hate speech against African-Americans.

An assistant dean recently reported finding three typed notes in her office that contained racist threats. A student last month had a racist slur carved into her car following a dispute over a campus parking space.

WKU President Gary Ransdell denounced the acts in an email to faculty, staff, and students Monday.

Read President Ransdell's Message Here

He said the two incidents are not reflective of the majority of students and employees at the school.

Youtube

The president of the University of Kentucky says he’s confident higher education leaders will be able to finalize a performance-based funding model.

The state’s publicly supported colleges and universities are working on a plan to base a percentage of each school’s funding on certain metrics. The plan was ordered by Governor Matt Bevin.

UK President Eli Capilouto says degree productivity is a measure he thinks will play a big role in determining performance-based funding.

“I personally believe that the degree is the most important outcome, and funding should follow our success in awarding a degree,” Capilouto told WKU Public Radio during an interview Thursday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to halt the sale of $1 billion in U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The Bowling Green Republican said he planned to introduce what’s known as a privileged resolution Wednesday that would block the sale. Paul says the move guarantees the Senate will have to vote on the matter before going on a break in the next few weeks.

Paul cited two reasons why the U.S. shouldn’t ship the arms to the Saudis.

“One, I think they're an uncertain ally. Two, I think they have an abysmal human rights record. They treat women as second-class citizens there. Women who are raped are often then victimized by the state by imprisonment and whipping.”

Creative Commons

Kentucky has the fifth highest obesity rate in the nation.

The commonwealth also has the dubious distinction of being only one of two states that saw an increase in obesity levels between 2014 and last year.

The figures come from a new report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Read the Full Report Here

The latest data show that 34.6 percent of Kentucky’s adults were obese in 2015. Kentucky had the third-highest rate of obese whites, and the fifth-most African-Americans who were obese.

Only Kentucky and Kansas saw an increased rate of adult obesity. Four states saw a decrease, and the rest were stable.

Paul and Gray campaigns

A new political action committee is hoping to boost the chances of Kentucky Democrats winning the state’s U.S. Senate race this November.

Kentucky Moving Forward is a Super PAC that will raise money for a media campaign aimed at helping Lexington Mayor Jim Gray defeat Republican Rand Paul.

The Super PAC’s spokesman, Jared Smith, wouldn’t say how much money it has on hand or plans to raise. “I’m not really ready to get into budget requirements and how much we’re going to spend. I can just tell you we’re going to have a very healthy paid media campaign statewide across Kentucky that includes TV ads.”

Smith said the Kentucky Senate race is currently the group’s sole focus.

"Almost positive this is the only race that we will play in this year. Kentucky Moving Forward does expect to be around in other races to come down the line."

Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has named its next President and CEO.

Greg Strahan has been promoted after serving in the roles on an interim basis since mid-April. He previously helped oversee construction of the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital as the system’s chief operating officer.

Strahan says increasing primary care opportunities in the region is one of his biggest challenges.

“In Owensboro, we’re always looking for more primary care access points, because there’s a shortage of primary care in the general region. I wouldn’t say just in Owensboro, but in our region.”

Owensboro Health has 4,445 employees, and is the largest employer west of Louisville.  

He says Owensboro Health’s expanded footprint outside Daviess County has allowed for more healthcare access points in largely rural areas.

“Part of what we’ve done to eliminate some of their needs is that we’re putting these healthplexes in Henderson, Muhlenberg, and Madisonville. And we manage the hospital in Muhlenberg County.”

Strahan says another goal is to increase telemedicine opportunities at Owensboro Health’s hospitals and clinics across the region. Telemedicine allows physicians to diagnose and treat certain patients through the use of telecommunications technology.

Kevin Willis

A Bowling Green boxing coach wants to create new opportunities for anyone in the world to learn the sport.

Chadrick Wigle runs a small gym in Bowling Green called BGKY Boxing, and is the coach of the Western Kentucky University intramural boxing team. He says he wants to connect with anybody who would like to learn the basics of the sport known as “the sweet science.”

So he’s put online about 100 free videos he recorded of practices featuring WKU boxing club members.

“We filmed every practice of WKU since March 16th, and we put them up online,” Wigle told WKU Public Radio. “That way anybody who wants to learn boxing, all they have to do is grab their brother, cousin, sister, Dad, go to the garage, and do the same drills they’re doing.”

Wigle says the videos he posts differ from much of what is found elsewhere on the internet. He says his goal was to provide an unfiltered view of what it’s like to learn boxing fundamentals.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Governor Matt Bevin’s administration is counting on a growing apprenticeship program to help fill Kentucky’s future workforce needs.

More than 1,100 Kentucky employers are currently partnering with the state to provide apprenticeship opportunities. Apprenticeships allow high school upperclassmen and those who have a GED to gain on-the-job training tailored to a company’s needs.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey is touring the state in an effort to encourage more companies and schools to participate in the effort. He says a wide variety of skills can be learned through the program.

“When we talk about the skills, and when we talk about the apprenticeships, we're not only talking about construction--road construction, building construction,” Ramsey said in Bowling Green Wednesday. “We're talking about I.T.--we're apprenticing that, as well. We're talking about health care."

Ramsey says those learning blue-collar skills in the apprenticeship program could help build the next generation of roads and bridges in the commonwealth.

Kentucky State Parks

Four Kentucky state resort parks will receive $4.9 million in funding for renovations.

The announcement this week is part of a campaign called “Refreshing the Finest”—a statewide effort providing structural repairs, painting, and other upgrades.

The latest round of funding will be used at Barren River, Dale Hollow, Lake Cumberland, and Rough River Dam State Resort Parks.

“Most of the money is either going toward safety upgrades or other aesthetic improvements," said Kentucky State Parks spokesman Gil Lawson. "For example, at Lake Cumberland, we had several sidewalks that were cracked or in disrepair, and work on that is nearly complete.”

Lawson said the funding will also provide new dining room finishes and painting at Dale Hollow; electrical repairs and painting at Barren River; and conference center painting and repairs at Rough River Dam.

A total of $18 million has been dedicated to state resort park improvements that are scheduled to be done by the end of next year.

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