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

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.

WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University students struggling with mental health issues can now tap into an on-campus support group.  

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is starting the free and confidential program which is available to students in all degree programs.

The group’s first meeting is Feb. 1 from 6:00-7:30pm in room 211 of the Academic Complex. Meetings will be held twice a month.

WKU Social Work Professor Jay Gabbard is the faculty member overseeing the group, along with trained NAMI staff.

He wants students to know that having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in school and in the workplace.

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 20, and through management of the illness over the years I’ve managed to have a successful life,” Gabbard said. “But I think it’s best to utilize a three-pronged approach: medication, therapy, and support resources.”

WKU

Governor Matt Bevin wants to influence any performance-based funding model used by Kentucky universities.

The leaders of the state’s public schools and the Council on Postsecondary Education have been working for 18 months on a proposed formula for any new funding they receive.

But not only are universities not in line to receive new funding in the next state budget, they’re facing significant cuts.

Western Kentucky University Vice President of Public Affairs Robbin Taylor says Bevin has indicated he wants any such model to be based largely on how well schools help address workforce development needs.

Taylor says she thinks schools now have to re-evaluate what they’ve been working on.

"I don't want to say this negates all that, but it sort of puts all that on hold. As the Governor has indicated, he didn't think it went far enough, and he'd like to be a part of making those decisions, and has indicated his desire to work with the university presidents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with those measures."

Abbey Oldham

As U.S. Senator Rand Paul prepares for a Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a former Kentucky House Speaker says Democrats could benefit from Paul’s White House bid.

Glasgow attorney Bobby Richardson was a state Representative from 1972-1990, and served as House Speaker during the 1982 and 1984 General Assembly sessions.

Richardson says whoever emerges as the Democrat’s nominee for U.S. Senate should remind voters Paul is seeking two offices at the same time.

“I think he needs to say he’s running for the United States Senate, and I’m going to be a Senator. I’m not going to be running for President, and I’m not going to be running for anything else. I’m going to be there taking care of business.”

The Kentucky Republican Party is holding a presidential caucus March 5 so that Paul can run for re-election to the Senate and seek the White House simultaneously.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is filming a video aimed at helping students and employees handle active shooter situations.

The video will include scenes of university police entering a building as if a shooting had taken place inside. Filming will begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Mass Media and Technology Hall.

The video is based on a training program created by the city of Houston called, Run, Fight, Hide.

"The basic premise is, in a situation like that, is if you can run and put distance between you and the shooter--safely do so, “said WKU Media Relations Director Bob Skipper. “If you can't, you hide and barricade yourself in. And if all else fails, then you take a stand and try to fight."

Skipper says WKU students and workers have asked for more information on how to handle violent encounters following several high-profile mass shootings in the U.S.

William Merideth had just finished grilling dinner for his family when he saw a drone hovering over his land. So he did what he said any Kentuckian might do — he grabbed his Benelli M1 Super 90 shotgun, took aim and unleashed three rounds of birdshot.

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