Lisa Autry


Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

Ways to Connect

Flickr/Creative Commons/Bill Rogers

A manufacturer of non-cigarette tobacco products is increasing its footprint in Owensboro. 

Swedish Match opened its new $3.5 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion Tuesday at the company’s current location.  The expansion will increase product research and testing capabilities. 

Thord Hassler, Vice President for Research and Development, says despite efforts in the U.S. to discourage smoking, the use of tobacco-related products remains consistent.

"There's been a gradual shift away from cigarettes to other products," Hassler told WKU Public Radio.  "I think all in all, in the U.S., there's a slight decline year by year, but it's very slow."

The expansion of the company’s research and development department is not expected to create jobs, but could lead to the creation of new products. The company has a current workforce of 355 in Owensboro.

Swedish Match produces chewing tobacco, cigars, and matches.

Western Kentucky University will share in a $47 million grant to improve training for principals.  WKU is one of seven schools across the country selected by The Wallace Foundation to participate in the initiative. 

Dr. Marguerita Desander, head of the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research at WKU, said good leadership is the foundation for student achievement.

"Every school is different.  Every community is different," Desander told WKU Public Radio.  "Having leaders who are adequately prepared for the things that are unique about communities is so important to ensure that our students get the best possible education they can."

Dr. Desander says many districts lack the capacity to train principals in how to take on challenges such as poverty, diversity, and curriculum. 

During the four-year initiative, WKU will bring together all 11 principal preparation programs in Kentucky and help revise curriculum by examining the changing needs of schools and their leaders.  WKU will also partner with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

Communities around Fort Knox have launched a capital campaign to help grow the Hardin County army post and the regional economy. 

A new partnership called the Knox Regional Development Alliance was announced Thursday in Elizabethtown.  Co-chairman Ray Springsteen said part of the goal is to bring new missions to the post and retain existing ones.

"A few years ago, we certainly had some contraction in the military, and in some cases, this is driven by that," Springsteen told WKU Public Radio.  "Instead of us reacting when there's a problem, someone is getting up every day, going out, and finding ways to protect this incredible asset."

Another goal of the alliance is to attract and retain military-related businesses to Hardin, Meade, Larue, Bullitt, and Jefferson counties.

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky has hired a full-time executive director for the first time in 16 years.  Scott Watkins was introduced during a news conference Monday at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center in Bowling Green. 

Watkins credits the local orchestra with re-inventing classical music.

"In a day and age when you're losing a lot of classical music lovers, we're trying to reinvigorate and bring new people to orchestra," Watkins told WKU Public Radio.  "We bring in new ideas, new shows and new programming, which is something this orchestra does very well already."

Watkins comes to Bowling Green from El Dorado, Arkansas where he headed the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  Before that, he managed the Dallas Symphony and served in leadership roles at Symphony Arlington, Corpus Christi Symphony, and the Las Colinas Symphony.

He says he’d like to continue efforts to introduce a new breed of classical music to the public while also increasing the budget and audience for Orchestra Kentucky. 

Watkins replaces Darrell Edwards who retired in August.


The Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University is celebrating its 10th year with the largest class yet.  The academy is a residential high school for gifted juniors and seniors pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program is preparing to increase its number of students from 160 to 190.

Only 24 percent of Gatton’s most recent graduates continued their education at WKU. Gatton Director Lynette Breedlove says most students, historically, have transferred to other universities to finish their degrees.

“About 33 percent of students historically have stayed at WKU. About 30 percent have gone to UK, about 12 percent to U of L. And the rest of the students have gone hither and yon. Probably the next largest group is about 4 percent going to Vandy,” Breedlove said.

John Null, WKMS

As the Bowling Green Police Department prepares to equip its officers with body cameras, the police chief of a neighboring community is praising the technology. The Russellville Police Department began using body cameras in 2013.  Police Chief Victor Shifflett said the cameras have made officers more accountable, while also changing the public’s behavior toward the police.

“We actually arrested and charged a couple of people for false statements that they’ve made against police officers, and since we’ve done that, that’s when the complaints have really dropped off. They’ve made just blatantly false accusations about the officer, and then when we play the video, it’s just completely opposite,” Shifflett said.

The police chief said there have been fewer complaints against Russellville police officers since they began using the body cameras.  He said the technology has prevented possible lawsuits against the Russellville Police Department. In one case, a woman under arrest claimed an officer inappropriately touched her while conducting a search. Shifflett says the video proved otherwise.

A report from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services shows most of the children who were abused or neglected in the past year suffered at the hands of adults. 

An annual report on child fatalities and near fatalities shows parents were the most frequent abusers.  Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says most of the children who died were in families that were under investigation or had prior involvement with the Department for Community Based Services.

"That is not to place blame on any individual worker because they have heavy caseloads and lots of pressures, but in a majority of these cases, they were not surprises," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "We have to speed up DCBS response and investigations.  We can't afford for kids to be in danger and action is so slow that a fatality results because of it."

At least nine Kentucky children died in the past year from abuse or neglect, but the number is preliminary because of pending cases. 

More than 40 children suffered life-threatening injuries.  Most of them were under the age of three.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s Attorney General is accusing Governor Matt Bevin of “dragging his feet” on returning millions of dollars to the state’s colleges and universities. 

Western Kentucky University is waiting on about $1.5 million that the school is owed following last week’s state Supreme Court ruling.  During a visit Monday to WKU, Attorney General Andy Beshear said the Governor has yet to release $18 million that was withheld from the state’s colleges and universities.

"The funds are sitting in a special account, so there's no reason to delay," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "This governor's been about cutting the red tape and the bureaucracy, so let's cut the red tape, the bureaucracy, and provide those funds."

The high court ruled that Governor Bevin did not have the authority to cut university budgets without a budget shortfall. 

The governor has said his office is “looking at our options.”  He has 20 days to ask the Supreme Court to re-consider the case.  Beshear said the outcome is unlikely to change given the 5-2 ruling.

Lisa Autry

Following some high-profile rape cases across the nation, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says Kentucky’s college campuses have not been exempt from sexual violence. 

Beshear was at Western Kentucky University Monday to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.  He spoke of efforts underway to prevent sexual assault on the state’s campuses. 

Beshear's office, in May, transferred $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police crime lab to ease a backlog of untested rape kits. Beshear called it the most profound moment yet during his nine months in office.

"Why?  Because that was every dollar, quarter, dime, nickel, and penny that they said they needed to hire more people, train them, and buy more equipment so that this commonwealth would never ever have a rape kit backlog again," remarked Beshear.

Beshear said his office is also providing training this week to circuit clerks on how to better handle domestic violence cases in the courts.  Next month, prosecutors, law enforcement, and victim advocates will be trained on how to help prevent domestic violence fatalities. 

Voters in Barren County will go to the polls Tuesday and decide whether to expand alcohol sales. 

Residents on both sides of the issue are working to influence voters ahead of the local option election.  Michael Richey formed a group called Citizens for a Drug and Alcohol-Free Barren County.   As a church pastor, Richey says he has seen the negative effects  alcohol can have on families and communities.

"Statistics are out there that show when alcohol comes into a community crime, tickets, and DUI are known to rise," Richey told WKU Public Radio.

Tim Brown, with the citizens group Move Barren County Forward, says county-wide sales will keep locals from driving to Bowling Green for alcohol and driving back home intoxicated.  Brown attributes a recent increase in local D-U-I's with a greater police presence--not relaxed alcohol sales.

"In Glasgow, a lot of restaurants are treated like bars.  People hang out there and have a good time, and the police watch those places," Brown commented.  "That's one of the reasons DUIs have gone up.  They know where people are drinking.  Before, we didn't know."

Certain restaurants in Glasgow already served alcohol while Cave City allows packaged sales in stores and by-the-drink in restaurants.


The U.S. Senate has blocked a measure that would have halted the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. 

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul was one of four lawmakers who forced a vote on the issue.

On a 71-27 vote, U.S. Senators approved continuing to support Saudi Arabia, including the sale of more than a billion dollars in Abrams tanks and other military equipment. 

Senator Paul has called Saudi Arabia an uncertain ally with an abysmal human rights record. 

While the resolution didn't pass, Paul acknowledged the debate was significant in and of itself.

Fort Campbell is hosting a job fair this week for service members who are retiring from active duty.  About 450 soldiers leave the military post each month. 

Harold Riggins is with the Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program which works with veterans to find education and career opportunities.  He says veterans have skills that make them valuable employees.

"Every soldier is on a team in the military from the day they join to the day they leave, and that's huge in the civilian sector," stated Riggins.

A federal law that took effect in 2012 requires military installations to provide exiting service members with education and job assistance.  Since then, the unemployment rate among vets under age 24 has dropped from 30 percent to six percent.

Barren County Detention Center

A Cave City dentist and former Barren County magistrate was in federal court in Bowling Green on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers agreed to allow Chris Steward to undergo a mental competency exam before he is sentenced.  That evaluation will be done in the next 60 days.  Alan Simpson of Bowling Green, one of the attorneys representing Steward, declined to say if he has a mental illness.

"Dr. Steward's been through a lot in his lifetime, the most of which, since he began being prosecuted, he's been going through, an acrimonious would be a nice way of putting it, divorce," Simpson stated.

Steward entered a guilty plea in May to multiple federal charges , including prescribing controlled substances outside the course of a professional medical practice.  Prosecutors say he conspired with patients to obtain pain and anti-anxiety drugs.  The scheme involved Steward writing prescriptions in patients’ names and instructing the patients to fill the prescriptions, which would them be given to him.  

Steward faces up to 30 months in prison.  He is due back in court in November.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Steve Johnson

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a lawsuit against the Warrick County School Corporation, accusing the district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The lawsuit is on behalf of Mycal Ashby who argues she was excluded from attending her child’s Christmas program two years in a row because the venue did not accommodate her wheelchair.  Ashby’s son was a choir member at Loge Elementary School in Boonville.  For the past two years, the school held a holiday program at the Warrick County Museum, which is not wheelchair accessible. 

After being denied access to her son's Christmas program during the 2014-15 school year, Ashby says she and her husband contacted school officials about the program being held at the same location during the 2015-16 academic year.  She claims she was assured the museum had been made wheelchair accessible, but found out accommodations had not been made to open the venue to people with disabilities.  

"Having been disabled my entire life, my son and I have become very close. He's always been my little soldier and my little helper, and we were very excited to attend the concert," Ashby said in a news release from the ACLU. "So when we discovered that the venue would not accommodate my wheelchair, even though we'd been told otherwise, we both broke out in tears."

Creative Commons

A vacant judgeship in Daviess County will remain unfilled until the November election. 

The state budget approved by Kentucky lawmakers this year funded Daviess County’s first family court judgeship.  Monday was the deadline for Governor Matt Bevin to appoint someone to the bench.  The governor’s office issued a statement confirming the position will stay vacant but declined to say why. 

"We have no comment but can confirm the governor passed on making the appointment," Press Secretary Amanda Stamper told WKU Public Radio.

The position won’t be filled until the November election.  Four local attorneys are vying for the judgeship.  They include Angela Thompson, Clifton Boswell, Julie Hawes Gordon, and Susan Montalvo-Gesser.