One of Pike County’s longest tenured public servants recently wrapped up over 45 years of work in the community.
Blaine Beekman has entered retirement, a state he sarcastically called “perfect”, because there isn’t much to do these days but turn on the news and view all the chaos that is taking place.
For a man who has kept as busy for as long as Beekman has, retirement will likely be a significant change of speed, but given the broad and lasting effect he has had on his community, it is a well deserved break.
Beekman began his career as an educator- the occupation in which he says his true identity is found. His first teaching job was at Southeast Community College in Cumberland Kentucky as a Political Science teacher.
Beekman refers to himself as an observer all throughout his lengthy career; and he began making observations about government and local politics early on while teaching, “While I was teaching PolySci at the college, of course I would talk to the state rep., talk to the Governor, and what I noticed is that during that time in Harlan County they were literally transitioning away from company coal towns and into villages that were independent. That was fascinating to me.”
Beekman continued to keep an eye on what was happening around him, and he eventually would write a paper on the progress of Harlan County during that time. That piece was then presented at the annual community college symposium in the city of Lexington, Kentucky. Beekman had begun to establish himself as an up and coming student of local government.
With that newfound interest present in his mind, Beekman returned to Pike County to teach school. In 1975, the opportunity arose for Beekman to run for Waverly City Council and he seized it. After being elected, he took over a position he would hold for the next 10 years.
During his time on the council, Beekman was a teacher and coach at Waverly High School. In 1985, while president of the city council, he received a call that would prolong his journey in local government, “While I was president of the council, the mayor called me up and said ‘Look, I’m going to resign, you’re going to be mayor next week.’, so I was appointed mayor and I held that position for 10 years. It was a great position.”
During his time as mayor, Beekman also worked part-time with the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, which he called a “great job”, because of the experience he was able to obtain in industrial development. The company “Mill’s Pride” also entered the scene in Pike County during this time, which provided for a large boost in commerce for the county. Overall, this was a great time for the county and a great time for Beekman, who was continuing to gain valuable experience.
The next step on the journey for Beekman came unexpectedly, “I had no thoughts about leaving the position I was in until Jim Brushart came in one day and said ‘I think you need to run for commissioner.’ I didn’t think so, but he convinced me, and I did three terms as commissioner.”
Beekman remained an observer during his time in public office, and what seems to be more important to him than any of his accomplishments along the way is all that he learned over the years. “The most important part of local government, in my opinion, is that you’re helping the people in your neighborhood, you’re helping the people in your community, and you’re helping the people that you know. And of course, in my case, there are a whole lot of those people that I’ve taught in school.”
Beekman reached retirement earlier this month, and one of those people he taught in school is Jeff Chattin, who is now taking his place as a Pike County Commissioner.
Beekman remains passionate about local government in his retirement and is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever talk to on the topic. He is currently finishing up a book on the issue and says that it is important for people to understand just how critical it is to the well-being of the community.
One of the first points Beekman was sure to make during the recollection of his experiences was that his identity was not in politics but in education. The evidence of that being true grew more with each account he gave. It’s obvious that it was never about personal gain or accomplishment for Beekman, but about the knowledge he could gain and thus share with both his students and community alike.