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

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul predicts Saturday’s Republican presidential caucus will help his party in Tuesday’s special state House elections.

Four vacant House seats will be decided. A clean sweep by Republicans would create an even 50-50 split in the chamber.

Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921.

Sen. Paul says Saturday’s caucus gave GOP House candidates an easy way to meet a lot of Republican voters, something the Bowling Green lawmaker believes will pay dividends Tuesday.

"Those candidates stood there and greeted thousands of Republicans. Think how hard it is to go door-to-door and meet Republicans. But what if 2,000 show up and you can sit there and shake their hands, and remind them to turn out three days later?”

Rhonda Miller, WKU Public Radio

Donald Trump is adding Kentucky to the list of states in his win column during the 2016 primary season.

Trump won Saturday's presidential caucus in the Bluegrass State with 35.9 percent of vote.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz placed second with 31.6 percent. Trump collected almost 10,000 more votes in Kentucky than Cruz.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was a distant third, with 16.4 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich was fourth, with 14.4 percent.

Both Warren and Daviess counties went for Cruz. He took 34 percent in Warren County, a seven point win over Trump. Cruz took Daviess County by 12 points over Trump. Hardin County Republicans narrowly went for Trump by one percent over Cruz.

Trump won Pulaski County by ten percent.

Long lines formed at caucus sites throughout the state Saturday, as Republicans gathered to choose their presidential pick. An official with the Warren County Republican Party estimated GOP turnout in that county at around 17.5 percent. By comparison, 16.2 percent of Kentucky Republicans participated in the 2012 presidential primary.

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital

A hospital in Daviess County is using new technology to connect parents with their babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has installed a camera system that allows parents to view images of their child on a secure, web-based video stream. The Owensboro Health Foundation funded $50,700 for equipment, installation, training, and a one-year remove service contract to help get the system up and running.

Owensboro Health’s NICU medical director, Dr. Bridget Burshears, said the new camera system allows parents with a child in the NICU to see images of their baby at any time.

"Any parent who has signed up for the program can log on to the internet website, and log in with a specific log-in name and password for that specific baby, and be able to see that infant in their isolator crib, and see what they are doing at any given time,” Dr. Burshears said.

WKU

An effort at Western Kentucky University to provide dental care to underserved children is getting a boost.

The WKU Institute for Rural Health has been awarded a two-year, $120,000 grant from the Florida-based Jesse Ball duPont Fund.

Institute director Matt Hunt says students from the WKU College of Health and Human Services will provide care in rural counties in the Barren River Area Development District.

“A lot of the communities we serve don’t have any dentists in that particular county. So we’ll be able to provide preventative care, such as exams, cleanings, fluoride varnish, and sealants for the children.”

The WKU project is called Saving the Teeth of a New Generation of Kentuckians. Hunt says the goal is to serve 1,600 children in the next two years.

According to WKU, students in the College of Health and Human Services have logged nearly 18,000 hours in patient care and education via the IRH.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The amount of snow that’s fallen in southern Kentucky over the past year is enough to make the upper Midwest proud.

Bowling Green has seen 43.5 inches of snow between February 14, 2015, and the same date this year.

Western Kentucky University meteorology professor Greg Goodrich says that’s more than five times the normal amount of snow in Warren County over any 12 month period.

“Normally, in that period, we would expect about eight inches. And in some winters we struggle to get even that. So for us to get this many big snow storms is really amazing, and there’s only a few other times when we’ve experienced anything like this.”

The total snowfall seen in the past 12 months in Bowling Green is all the more impressive when compared to cities normally associated with cold weather.

The nearly four feet of snow seen in Warren County is more than what fell during the same time period in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City.

Here’s a look at the total amount of snowfall in select cities between Feb. 14, 2015 through Feb. 14, 2016, courtesy of Professor Goodrich:

WKU

Western Kentucky University is encouraging American workplaces to nurture and support female leaders.

A one-day conference on Friday, Feb. 19, is called Women Leading and includes talks given by women who have achieved leadership positions in academia and the military.

WKU communications professor Cecile Garmon says conference organizers hope to broaden the definition of the word “leadership”.

“If young women and young men realize that leadership is not masculine or feminine—it’s leadership—then both groups can do it, and they can both learn from each other and support each other,” Garmon told WKU Public Radio.

Garmon says the subject started getting more attention following comments made by Facebook Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg about the low number of women leading Fortune 500 companies.  

The Women Leading conference will feature talks by:

WKU

Efforts to expand Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act are getting a boost from a Western Kentucky University legal scholar.

History Professor and Constitutional law expert Patricia Minter is testifying Wednesday in Frankfort in support of a bill that would offer greater legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The measure would expand the reach of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to cover LGBT individuals.

Minter says Kentucky’s LGBT community shouldn’t face discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

“It won’t be long before Americans all over the country will look back at using sexual orientation or gender identity as discriminatory categories, and wonder what people were thinking,” Minter said.  

The Kentucky House Judiciary committee will hear testimony regarding the bill Wednesday at noon eastern.

Minter acknowledges the bill faces an uphill climb in this year’s legislature. Opponents of protecting LGBT individuals under the state’s Civil Rights Act say such a move would infringe upon the religious beliefs of employers and landlords.

The Senate version of the bill is called the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act. The measure is backed by nearly 200 employers who have formed the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition. The group argues that protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination would make the Bluegrass Stare more attractive to businesses who favor progressive values, as well as workers who want to live in places seen as welcoming to the LGBT community.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Flickr/Creative Commons/John Bratseth

Citizen Foster Care Review Boards in 22 Kentucky counties are searching for volunteers.

Board members review the cases of children who have been put in foster care because of dependency, abuse, or neglect.  Volunteers complete a six-hour training session and must consent to a to criminal record and Central Registry check.

More information and application materials can be found here.

Dolores Smith is a unit supervisor with the review board program. She says the boards are looking for volunteers from many different backgrounds.

“The number one thing we look for is someone who has a genuine concern for child welfare—that’s the overriding feature,” Smith said. “Kentucky statutes also mention that we look for different professions, like education, social work, psychology, medical, and legal fields.”

DCL/Keith Barraclough

A popular TV show featuring rescue dogs from across the country will have a Kentucky connection.

Two dogs from the Barktown Rescue animal shelter in Nelson County are participating in the 12th annual Puppy Bowl. The show airs Sunday afternoon on Animal Planet, ahead of the Super Bowl.

It’s the second year in a row that pooches from the facility in Boston, Ky., have competed in the program that encourages pet lovers to adopt from their local shelter.

The program was taped last fall.

The two Barktown Rescue puppies appearing in this year’s show are a lab mix named Gunner, and a terrier mix named Shylah.

Both dogs have been adopted since the show was taped.

Barktown vice president Heather Nelson helped drive the dogs from Kentucky to New York City to record the show in October.

Glasgow Independent Schools

Glasgow Police have made two arrests in connection with a Wednesday shooting incident.

Twenty-three year old Jaleel Wood was arrested at his workplace Thursday night and charged with attempted murder and two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mary Ash was charged with attempted murder after turning herself into police Friday morning.

Both Wood and Ash are from Glasgow.

Police have an arrest warrant issued for 22-year old Anthony Wood of Glasgow, and are actively searching for him.

Three Glasgow city schools were placed on a soft lockdown Wednesday after 911 callers reported passengers in two cars exchanging gunfire.

No one was injured, and the lockdown was quickly lifted.

WKU Public Radio

The leader of the Kentucky AFL-CIO says labor groups are ready to fight future efforts to pass what supporters call right-to-work laws.

Union groups scored a major legal victory Wednesday when U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled that county governments can’t enact the rules on a local level.

Right-to-work laws prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.

Twelve Kentucky counties enacted local right-to-work ordinances last year after efforts to pass a statewide version failed in the legislature. Hardin County was one of the dozen that did so, and labor unions filed a suit against the county challenging the legality of the move.

Kentucky AFL-CIO executive director Bill Londrigan says unions know the legal battle isn’t over, despite this week’s court victory.

“We fully expect the defendants to file an appeal on this case, and with the strong, strong ruling by the U.S. District Judge David Hale, we feel that they’re going to be unsuccessful at that level, as well,” Londrigan said.

Supporters of right-to-work say the laws make states more attractive to businesses. This week’s ruling against county right-to-work efforts could mean supporters redouble their efforts to get a statewide law passed.

NPR: 50 Years of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map

Londrigan says unions are ready for the challenge.

Glasgow Independent Schools

Three Glasgow city schools were placed on a soft lockdown Wednesday afternoon after police received calls about passengers in two vehicles exchanging gunfire.

Several callers to 911 said the gunfire took place on Columbia Avenue, not far from Glasgow High School, Middle School, and Highland Elementary.

No students were harmed.

Police were not able to locate the vehicles, but recovered evidence from the scene of the shooting.

The vehicles believed to be involved in the incident are a black Ford Crown Victoria, and a goldor tan Chevy Malibu.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact the Glasgow Police Department, at 270-651-5151.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Kentucky’s March Republican presidential caucus won’t feature an active candidate from the Bluegrass State.

Senator Rand Paul announced Wednesday that he is ending his run for the White House.

The move came two days after Paul’s fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

“Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over,” Paul said in statement released to the media Wednesday morning. “I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term."

The Paul campaign helped convince the Kentucky Republican Party to hold a presidential caucus in March instead of its normal May primary, so that Paul could run for both the White House and re-election to the U.S. Senate.

NPR: Why Rand Paul Failed to Capture the Libertarian Movement

Paul’s exit from presidential contest a month before the Kentucky caucus will likely raise questions about the maneuver.

Kentucky State Government

The leader of the Kentucky Youth Advocates is renewing his call for state lawmakers to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit.

Terry Brooks points out the federal government and 32 states offer the program.

The refundable credit is aimed at low-to-moderate working individuals and couples, and is based on income and number of children.

Brooks says the program has gained bipartisan support throughout the years.

“What I love about it from a political perspective is that the EITC was invented by Richard Nixon, and its three biggest fans were Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.”

Brooks says an Earned Income Tax Credit would be an effective tool in fighting poverty in the Bluegrass State.

A report issued by the Kentucky Youth Advocates last fall showed 26 percent of the state’s youth live in poverty.

“Unless, and until, we as a commonwealth begin to address that aspect of what it means to grow up in Kentucky, health outcomes, academic achievement outcomes, safety outcomes are all going to be tamped down,” Brooks said.

Pages