A local servant leader has been reappointed by Gov. Andy Beshear to the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.
Kevin Russell, of Radcliff, has served on the commission since 2014, appointed by then Gov. Steve Beshear.
“I enjoy serving. Serving is in my blood,” Russell said, adding he is a 20-year military veteran and community volunteer. “There’s just something about serving and helping others that helps me. When I see a young person smile because they didn’t have this or that and whatever organization I’m involved with who helps them get what they need to make them smile, it helps me get quite a bit. I just have a serving spirit. I’d rather give than to get. I don’t use that as a cliche. I would just rather see somebody happy by receiving than you giving me something.”
The commission is designed to “promote the annual MLK holiday each January as an occasion to reflect upon the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” according to the commission’s website.
That entails organizing and holding contests for youth, said Russell, who has served as vice chairman for the commission since Sept. 2016 and currently is assuming duties as chairman in absence of a governor appointment since 2019.
“Our biggest work is working with the youth in the commonwealth,” he said. “We’ve had a poetry, art and essay contest and we invite all the students of Kentucky to be a part of that contest. We get pretty good results from that contest.”
Russell said the contest typically generates between 200 and 300 entries each year and culminated with an awards ceremony where the top three winners in each contest and each age division are presented a plaque and a certificate by the governor or his appointee.
“It’s a big highlight for a lot of the students because some of them never get to see a governor,” he said. “They come from all over the commonwealth, from as far as Western Kentucky down in Paducah or all the way up to Hazard.”
The commission also awards two Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards – one for adults and one for youth younger than 18 – who are recognized at the ceremony, Russell said.
“The adult leadership award winners are individuals working in the community in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, doing community service and just a high profile person in their community,” he said.
For the youth award, Russell said the winner “is a young person working in their community to preserve the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Russell said the commission is comprised of community leaders and advocates from all over the state to include Stan Holmes of Radcliff, who was appointed in October by Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We’ve got a lot of community-minded people on the commission,” he said. “We have a variety of people and a variety of mindsets, and we all come together. … We make things happen.”
Russell, who also is a member of the local NAACP chapter, hopes this year the commission can expand its work to include a Juneteenth celebration by partnering with Louisville and Mayor Greg Fisher’s committee.
“The MLK is a good commission. We’re growing,” he said. “We have members on the commission that range from city mayor pro-tems to college basketball coaches, community leaders to Sunday school teachers. We have a variety of professional people to local advocates.”
“I think this year will be a phenomenal year,” he said. “We’ve got some newer members. … We’re going to move forward.”
This is Russell’s third appointment to the commission. He will serve a four-year term.