Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

June 20, 2014

Jean-Marie Lawson Spann campaigns in Glasgow

GLASGOW — Jean-Marie Lawson Spann made her hometown part of her first campaign tour Friday, two days after she officially announced her candidacy for commissioner of agriculture.

“Wow, it’s great to be back home in Glasgow today and look across the room and see lifelong family and friends,” she said at Barren County Democratic Headquarters in Glasgow.

She said some might wonder why it matters who holds the office.

“If you eat or buy gas or ride Ferris wheels or just about everything you do on a daily basis, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has the responsibility to make sure that you are safe and that you get your full measure, so the department affects each of us every day,” Spann said.

Agriculture accounts for one in five jobs in Kentucky, she said, citing a University of Kentucky report.

“Kentucky agriculture can be a huge anchor in improving our Kentucky economy and in bringing good paying jobs to the commonwealth,” Spann said.

With her parents standing behind her, Spann, a Glasgow High School graduate, said she has formed a coalition of supporters called the Ag Mazing Army. She invited the audience to visit her new website – jean-marieforkyag.com – and said she’s already garnered support from past agriculture commissioners and three former governors: Julian Carroll, Paul Patton and Martha Layne Collins.

Spann – vice president for marketing for Lawson Marketing Inc. and previously vice president of marketing for Hartland Equipment – said she wants to use her experience to make the Department of Agriculture “the most efficient, dedicated and focused department in all of state government.”

Preceding Spann’s speech were introductions by sisters Natalie and Catherine McAninch of Liberty.

Like Spann, they were born into an agriculture-oriented family and business. The McAninch girls’ father, Frank, is a member of the Agriculture Finance Board of Directors with the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy and they help with the farm on the Casey County land that has been in their family for 250 years. They touted the importance of agriculture in Kentucky, using numerous statistics.

“We have a lifetime of awareness of farming and farm living,” said 13-year-old Catherine, who said Kentucky needs a strong leader in the ag commissioner position and she believes Spann is the right person for the job.

Natalie said she has already learned a lot about how ag and economics intertwine. Agriculture generates $17 billion in revenue in Kentucky and provides more than 400,000 jobs, she said.

Spann has the experience and expertise on local, state and international levels to take to the role of ag commissioner, Natalie said, noting that Spann is already a role model for her and Catherine, showing them they can make a difference.

From there, Spann’s father, Sam Lawson, introduced a video endorsement by Billy Ray Smith, who said he worked hard to develop a great team to advance Kentucky agriculture when he served as ag commissioner from 1993 to 2002. He said he’s convinced that Spann is the right person at the right time to move Kentucky agriculture forward.

Smith said he has been close friends with Sam and Beverly Lawson for nearly 50 years, serving as best man at their wedding, so he had known Spann all her life.  The potential for her future is clear in her record of achievements and activities, and she has experience developing relationships in agriculture circles, a great work ethic and a deep knowledge and understanding of both Kentucky agriculture and Kentucky politics, he said.

“This background with these relationships will be of great value to the commonwealth of Kentucky, as she works to put together coalitions of the best people to identify and develop the opportunities for Kentucky agriculture – for all of Kentucky’s farms, all of Kentucky’s agriculture-related businesses and employees and for all of the citizens of the commonwealth who want to access fresh, healthy, safe and locally grown food,” Smith said.

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