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.

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Health
9:31 am
Wed August 28, 2013

New President and CEO Hired for Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital
Credit Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has hired a new president and CEO.

Philip A. Patterson will take over the positions November 1 after accepting an offer made this week by the Owensboro Health board of directors.

He inherits the posts from Jeff Barber, who resigned in January, but who has stayed on at Owensboro Health until a full-time replacement takes over.

Since 2009, Patterson has been CEO of the New York-based Bon Secours Charity Health System, a three-hospital system with net patient revenue of nearly $500 millions.

Owensboro Health Board of Directors Chairwoman Deborah Nunley told WKU Public Radio one of the challenges facing Patterson is finding ways to expand the system's geographic footprint.

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Economy
5:00 am
Sun August 25, 2013

Bowling Green Mayor Sees Gains, Pains for Manufacturing in the Region

Trace Die Cast is a Bowling Green manufacturer constantly looking for workers with high-tech skills.
Credit Kevin Willis

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says that while it feels like "slogging through mud", the area economy is slowly starting to turn around.

However, Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio the city is still subject to manufacturing job losses that can have a big impact on its labor force.

"In a community our size, when something like Eagle Industries shuts down and puts 275 people out of work, we feel that hit. Fruit of the Loom has decided to reduce its workforce by close to 100 this year, and those are 100 good-paying jobs that are very meaningful to our economy. So when they're gone, we notice it," Wilkerson said.

Recent data compiled by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet show the Bowling Green Metropolitan Statistical Area with a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for the month of July, which is two-tenths of a percentage point below the national jobless figure.

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Politics
2:00 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Rep. Embry Considering Run for Kentucky's 6th Senate Seat

A Butler County state Representative says he's strongly considering a run for a Senate seat following today's signing of new redistricting maps. The newly drawn boundaries place Morgantown Republican C.B. Embry, Jr., in the same district as Warren County Republican Jim DeCesare.

Embry gave his reaction to WKU Public Radio earlier Friday afternoon.

"Now I'm not fixing to announce or anything, but I'm leaning toward running for the sixth Senatorial district next year. That would be Butler, Ohio, Muhlenberg, and Hopkins counties," said Embry.

The sixth Kentucky Senate district is currently represented by Madisonville Democrat Jerry Rhoads. Embry admits it would be a tough challenge to take on Rhoads, given that the voter registration in the sixth Senate district is majority Democratic.

Warren County Representative Jim DeCesare told WKU Public Radio today that he plans to run for the 17th District House seat.

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Arts & Culture
6:29 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Bulgarian Bluegrass Musician and Fulbright Scholar Lilly Drumeva Lands at WKU

Lilly Drumeva (center) is a bluegrass and country musician from Bulgaria who is visiting WKU as part of her Fulbright Scholarship.
Credit ebma.org

Kevin's interview with Lilly Drumeva, and some excerpts from Lilly of the West's album "Swings and Heartaches"

When you think of bluegrass and country music, places like Kentucky and Tennessee probably come to mind.

A scholar and musician who has been studying at WKU has another location for your list: Bulgaria.

Lilly Drumeva is a Bulgarian bluegrass and country musician who has been conducting research at WKU as part of her Fulbright Scholarship. During her time in Bowling Green, Lilly has worked closely with the WKU Folk Studies Department and Erika Brady, host of WKU Public Radio’s Barren River Breakdown.

Lilly will also travel to Nashville to research the business side of country and bluegrass music, as well as attend an international bluegrass conference in Raleigh, NC. She returns to Bulgaria in November, and will begin crafting her research into a Bulgarian-language book on bluegrass and country music.

She stopped by WKU Public Radio to talk to us about how she first encountered bluegrass music, and how the genre’s roots can be traced back to different part of Europe—including her native Bulgaria.

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Regional
2:12 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Despite Fewer Options, Cave Tour Attendance is Up at Mammoth Cave National Park

The "new entrance" into Mammoth Cave National Park
Credit Emil Moffatt

Mammoth Cave National Park is overcoming federal budget cuts to register some of the strongest summer attendance in recent memory.

The park's public information officer, Vickie Carson, says four cave tours were not offered this summer because of cuts related to the federal sequestration. But that didn't stop cave tour numbers from increasing one-to-two percent this year over the same time in 2012.

"If we continue at this rate through the end of the year, we'll probably be at 405,000 visitors through the cave this year. That would be a high point for at least the last ten years," Carson told WKU Public Radio.

Carson says with gas prices still well above $3 a gallon, Mammoth Cave has remained an attractive day trip option for those within close driving range.

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Sports
8:26 am
Tue August 20, 2013

NCAA Reverses Field, Allows Former Marine to Play this Season at MTSU

A former marine hoping to play college football this season at a Tennessee school is celebrating after receiving good news from the NCAA.

The collegiate sports governing body had initially said Steven Rhodes would have to sit out the upcoming season at MTSU. But the NCAA came under heavy criticism after it said the 24-year-old Rhodes would be penalized because he played in a military recreational football league during his time serving in the U.S. Marines.

Rhodes described the league as similar to an intramural activity, but the NCAA said it counted as an organized league since scores were kept, players wore uniforms, and officials refereed the games.

Upon further review, the NCAA now says it’s decided Rhodes can play this upcoming season at MTSU.

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Politics
2:30 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Kentucky House Redistricting Plan Would Put DeCesare, Embry in Same District

Redistricting maps released Friday afternoon in Frankfort by Kentucky House leaders would place an equal number of Democratic and Republican incumbents in the same districts.

The Democratic proposal would put Republicans Jim DeCesare of Warren County and C.B. Embry, Jr., of Butler County in the same district.

Embry told WKU Public Radio he and DeCesare are prepared for that possibility.

"He's one of my closest friends in the House, and we talk often," said the Morgantown Republican. "We've discussed this many times, and we will continue to talk over the coming week."

Both Embry and DeCesare have previously said they will wait until the new redistricting maps are passed and signed into law by Governor Beshear before they commit to any future election plans.

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Education
9:14 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Simpson County Groups Combine Resources for New Dual-Credit Scholarship Fund

A group of Franklin-Simpson High School students got a welcome surprise Friday morning.

Those students are taking dual-credit classes at the Southcentral Kentucky Community and Techical College campus in Franklin and were on campus Friday for their fall semester orientation. They also learned that they won't have to pay any tuition for the upcoming academic year.

Those tuition costs are being covered by the Simpson County On-Track Scholarship Fund.

SKYCTC Franklin-Simpson Center Director James McCaslin says the scholarship program is a combined effort of five groups.

"They've each contributed a certain amount of money for this particular year, but our anticipation is that once we show the results of it, that this time next year they'll be willing to put up another set amount of money," said McCaslin.

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Agriculture
5:00 am
Sun August 11, 2013

Kentucky Hemp Commissioner: Hemp a Natural Fit for Healthy Foods, Auto Manufacturing

Efforts to once again make hemp legal to grow in the U.S. have picked up steam lately.

The chairman of Kentucky's Industrial Hemp Commission believes it's just a matter of time before the crop is once again legal in the U.S.

Brian Furnish says it was a major accomplishment to get an amendment regarding hemp added to the farm bill recently passed by the U.S. House. While there's no guarantee the amendment will be included in the version of the measure passed by the Senate, Furnish says he's confident public support for hemp farming is growing.

The Harrison County farmer told WKU Public Radio that hemp seeds could become a popular food ingredient in this country.

"It's high in protein, it doesn't have any cholesterol. It has omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in it. And really nobody knows about it here. They eat it all over the world, but here nobody has promoted it as a food source."

Furnish also thinks the crop is a natural fit with a major industry in our region--auto manufacturing. He says if hemp is once again legal to grow in the U.S, auto manufacturers could follow the lead of their European counterparts who use hemp to build vehicle parts.

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Sports
12:34 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

WKU Athletic Director: NCAA Set for Changes, but Won't Break Apart

WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart

Kevin's interview with WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart

WKU’s athletic director is predicting there will be changes coming to the organization that governs collegiate athletics. But Todd Stewart doesn’t think the country’s most powerful conferences will break away from the NCAA and form their own organization, as some have suggested.

Stewart will attend a summit in January called by NCAA President Mark Emmert in response to pressure by big-revenue generating schools who want more say in how the NCAA is run. Some large schools want to increase compensation for collegiate athletes beyond what is currently allowed—something opposed by many smaller schools who say they couldn’t afford it.

Stewart came to the WKU Public Radio studio Wednesday to discuss the upcoming NCAA football summit, the future of college football, and his approach to putting together future WKU football schedules.

WKU Public Radio: WKU has been invited along with all the other Division I football schools to attend a Jan. 16-17 summit in San Diego that coincides with the NCAA’s annual convention. From what you understand so far, what’s going to be discussed?

Todd Stewart: A lot of things are being discussed right now, and I think what President Emmert wanted to do was get everybody in the room and hopefully come out with some form of solidarity. Because you have what people refer to as the “power five” conferences—the SEC, ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 12, and the Big 12—and there are some reforms they would really want to see.

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