GLASGOW – Governor-elect Andy Beshear has chosen a Glasgow native to become general counsel of the Office of the Governor.
La Tasha Buckner, now of Lexington, is also serving as co-chair of the governor's office transition team. Beshear announced Buckner's selection along with a few others Thursday.
The Office of General Counsel serves as a legal liaison to the governor, provides legal advice and coordinates with general counsel across state government.
The 1992 Glasgow High School graduate is the daughter of Linda and LeRoy Buckner, and she said that one major influence this community has had on where she is now was the education she got at GHS.
“Since then, we've seen how consistently well it's performed,” Buckner said.
She mentioned a couple of teachers – Jim Nelson and Richard Benningfield – who were particularly influential for her.
Buckner said GHS had “a very nurturing academic environment” that presented her with multiple academic opportunities, including participation in the governor's scholars program.
“That academic focus really helped me prepare for a very competitive environment,” she said.
She went on to become a 1996 graduate of the University of Kentucky Honors Program, now the Lewis Honors College, and is now a member of the advisory board for the college.
She had been considering going into the psychology field when she took a year off school and came back to Glasgow, where she worked as a clerk for then-Commonwealth's Attorney Phil Patton.
“He ended up being the reason I went into law school,” Buckner said. “I worked on murder cases, assaults and robberies, and it was fascinating. I wanted to go into the FBI eventually and a law degree was one way to get in.”
Patton was commonwealth's attorney for the 43rd Judicial Circuit, composed of Barren and Metcalfe counties, from 1993 through 2001. He then became circuit judge, a position from which he retired four years ago.
He said that when Buckner worked for him that year between her undergraduate and graduate studies, she handled organizing cases, including preparing them for the grand jury and preparing indictments, along with a multitude of other things, and the experience helped her decide to go into law rather than psychology.
“She is extremely bright and had a great aptitude,” Patton told the Glasgow Daily Times.
He said that even though at that time she wasn't an attorney, she had a good perception of what the important issues were in a case.
“She was very helpful with trial preparation,” he said. “She was good with victims, too. Just all around, I couldn't have higher praise for anybody. I'm very proud of how well she's done.”
After earning her degree from the UK College of Law, she was an assistant commonwealth's attorney in Fayette County and then in the circuit containing Jessamine and Garrard counties, she said.
“With extensive litigation experience before federal, state and administrative bodies, she has served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney, deputy executive director for the Public Protection Cabinet’s Office of Legal Services and served as general counsel to the Department of Charitable Gaming and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” according to the press release from Beshear's gubernatorial transition team.
As assistant deputy attorney general for the Civil Division in the Office of the Attorney General, which she started in January 2016, Buckner has argued on behalf of some of the Commonwealth's most notable cases, including challenges related to pension reform and budget cuts to universities.
“I am excited and privileged to be chosen by the governor-elect to counsel him and the lieutenant governor-elect as we prepare to move Kentucky forward,” Buckner is quoted in the press release as stating. “The governor’s office sets the tone for an entire administration so it’s our pledge to create a state government that’s open, accessible and responsive to our citizens. I am looking forward to continuing to work to address the issues that matter to Kentuckians.”
The pension reform and university budget cut cases, were two that definitely impacted her growth as an attorney, she told the Daily Times.
“We created historical precedents in suing a governor successfully, in particular with the pension case,” the 45-year-old said. The Kentucky Supreme Court's ruled in the case that the legislature approved the revisions to Kentucky retirement systems' rules through illegal procedures, and she said those types of actions had been happening for multiple years, to the extent that too many thought it was OK when it actually wasn't.
She said it was good to be able to get it on the record that those processes were in violation of the Kentucky constitution.
Beshear also announced that J. Michael Brown of Louisville, his current deputy attorney general, will be the secretary of his executive cabinet. Travis Mayo of Louisville, who currently heads Beshear’s Office of Civil and Environmental Law, will join Buckner as deputy general counsel for the Office of the Governor. Crystal Staley of Lexington will be the director of communications for the governor’s office. Staley is currently the communications director for the Office of the Attorney General, all according to the press release.