Dave Armstrong, a former Kentucky attorney general whose long public career included helping guide the state's largest city and its most populous county toward a merged government, died Thursday after battling an illness. He was 75.
Armstrong, a Democrat, was a fixture in Louisville politics for years, first as a two-term Jefferson County judge-executive and then during a term as Louisville's mayor.
His death was confirmed by Mike Poole, a funeral director at Pearson Funeral Home in Louisville, which is handling arrangements.
In recent years, Armstrong had battled myasthenia gravis, a physically debilitating disease.
"I was proud to know Dave during his nearly five decades of public service, and I firmly believe that the city of Louisville and the entire commonwealth of Kentucky admired him for his leadership and care," said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, himself a former Jefferson County judge-executive. "We will all miss Dave's compassion, dedication and vision for our city and our state."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer remembered Armstrong as a "true public servant" who dedicated most of his life to the city and state.
"He had a vision for a vibrant downtown and passion for Louisville being a great place to live, work and play," the mayor said. "And his dreams were realized."
Armstrong was the last mayor of the old city of Louisville, in a term that ran through 2002. He held the job during a time of transition, playing a high-profile role in supporting the ballot measure that resulted in the consolidation of Louisville and Jefferson County governments in 2003. He also was remembered for promoting economic development projects, especially downtown.
Armstrong's role demonstrated "what it really means to be a public servant," said Andrew Melnykovych, who had a role in promoting the pro-merger vote and who later worked with Armstrong at the state Public Service Commission.
"He knew full well that if the (consolidation) referendum passed, it could mean the end of his career in elective office, but he set his personal considerations aside because he believed merger was the best thing for the community," Melnykovych said.
Armstrong decided against running for mayor of the new Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, avoiding a Democratic primary showdown with former longtime Mayor Jerry Abramson, who became the first mayor of the merged government.
Early in his career, Armstrong served as the Jefferson County commonwealth's attorney. That role served as a springboard to statewide office in 1983, when he was elected as the state's attorney general. Four years later, he set his sights on becoming lieutenant governor, but lost in the Democratic primary to Brereton Jones.
Armstrong returned to his political roots in Jefferson County, where he served two terms as judge-executive, the county's top-elected official, from 1989 to 1999.
Late in his career, then-Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Armstrong to the Kentucky Public Service Commission. He served seven years as the regulatory agency's chairman until retiring in 2015.