BIRDWHISTELL: Well I've got it on now, it's, uh, September 4, uh, 2003. I appreciate you, uh, taking time out of a rather interesting day, and a busy day to reflect back on -- on your, uh, career as mayor. As you know, this is a project for the, for the League of Cities.


BIRDWHISTELL: And they've had me running around the state for the last couple of years interviewing, uh, former mayors. The last mayor I interviewed was Doug Castle down in Paris, I don't know if you -- you knew him or not.


BIRDWHISTELL: But, uh, it's been a very interesting project. What I-- what I'd like to do, uh, Representative Callahan, is, uh, start with having you, uh, reflect back a little bit on your, uh, life before you became mayor. And of course, you've had a busy life after you've been mayor. We'll try to get that in a later interview at some point, but tell me a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and a little bit about your family.

CALLAHAN: Well, before I ever got involved in -- in public office, I, I had another life besides that. And, uh, I, uh, started out with 1:00basketball, coaching basketball. And then ultimately even teaching in --

BIRDWHISTELL: Where are you from originally?

CALLAHAN: Here in northern Kentucky. Bellevue, Kentucky was where I was --


CALLAHAN: -- born and raised. Or actually, Dayton is where I was born because they had a hospital at that time, Spears Hospital.


CALLAHAN: So that's where I got my first breath. (Birdwhistell laughs) But then I actually lived in Bellevue in, uh, uh -- I came from a family that, uh, was always involved in the public limelight, particularly my father. Uh, he, uh, he served for a number of years as mayor of the city of Bellevue.


CALLAHAN: And, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: What was his name?

CALLAHAN: Richard Callahan. And he, uh -- I had no idea that I was ever going to get involved in, in politics, so to speak. And, uh, after I got into teaching and coaching, I thought that that was going to be where my future was going to lie. Well, that's fine, until you start having children --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and you find out you can't 2:00exist on a, on a -- at that time, it was about five thousand dollars a year. That sounds like a, like a little money, at that time, it was pretty decent money. But, in any case, I, um, my dad never, ever said to any one of his children, me included, I have two brothers and a sister, "I want you all to get involved." In fact, if anything, he discouraged it. (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh, I, I respected him very much, and I knew, I knew that deep down, while he was saying what he did, he didn't want anybody to run, I think he was saying, "One of you run." And my other two brothers had no desire. Uh, my sister obviously didn't have any desire to, and it came down to myself. And we had, um, we had moved to Southgate, bought a house in Southgate. And, uh, I thought that that was going to be my future. Living in that house, working, and, and, and then, uh, just moving ahead, uh, in my life. 3:00----------(??) whatever came along. But, in any case, uh, we had a terrible fire in Southgate in 1977. And it was about two minutes from my house, my car.


CALLAHAN: And, uh, it was a sight that, lo and behold, I don't wish anyone have to see. But I did, and the reason I did is because, uh, the company I worked for, Carlisle, was called up to the -- to Beverly Hills to try to move some of the huge beams and everything that had caved in. And, uh, Griffin Carlisle, at the time, was the one that was going up. Well, he called me to go up with him, and the reason, I was handling all insurance at that point in time. And, to be very honest with you, while he's compassionate, he also has to be concerned in what he was going to do. So we went up there, and, uh, um, to make a long story short, we went around the back where the rose garden was, and I had never been in the service --


CALLAHAN: -- but laying on the ground was person after person, some of 4:00them with tape across over their face, others with sports jackets of, of men, you know, it was, it was very depressing and very emotional. And, uh, that, in and of itself, was probably the beginning of me saying I want to run for council, because now is when they need it more than ever. So I ran for council, I lead the ticket. Uh, I was vice-mayor. Ken Paul, who, uh, was the mayor at that time, did a phenomenal job in, in his very young age of, uh, of, uh, dealing with the press. Not in local newspapers, I'm talking about national press. And, uh, at that time when I ran, I -- that was probably the -- not probably, it was the single most important source of revenue in the city of Southgate. And when that happened, that really took 5:00us down on the revenue side. But we still knew we had to exist, and we, we worked our -- but, uh, when I got on council, uh, uh, we had some major shortfalls in the revenue, major shortfalls. Needless to say, uh, that's from Beverly Hills. But, uh, as time went on, we, we dealt with the problems, uh -- in specific, I think we had to raise some fees on things. And, and, something to give us some income that we c-- couldn't just pull out of the air, we had to, we had to have some new income. And the people, people realized that very well, and they responded to it. I think the -- one of the, one of the strange things here is, that property's been sitting there for years and years, and for this -- it's still sitting there today. However, in front of that is a fairly large building, it's called a medical plaza, Southgate Medical Plaza. I thought it was so ironic, so ironic that the first, 6:00and at this point, the only piece that has been built on and what it was, was a building that dealt with, with life and death. And it was so -- to me, you look up on the Beverly Hills and you look down there, these people are trying to keep life where life was taken at the top.


CALLAHAN: So I just think that was so coincidental.


CALLAHAN: But, um, as uh, I, I ran for a second term on council. Again, led the ticket, and uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: I want to go back to this, uh, being there that night of the -- of the fire, and uh, and you're saying that inspired you to -- to get more involved. Had you been involved in any, any way in politics or public policy?

CALLAHAN: Only with my dad, and my dad -- and, and, uh, this is the part of the story that's probably, probably, uh, very important. My dad was as honest as the day was long. He decided to run for sheriff, and he did. And I remember going around with him at the festivals, at that 7:00time, that was the way you did it --


CALLAHAN: -- you know, you went to the festivals, and so on and so forth. And I remember going around with him, and I remember very distinctly, an individual who didn't know me from Adam, but who was, uh, uh, one of my dad's opponent's friends, came over to a booth where I was at, not knowing me, and uh, I heard him, I heard him talk to my dad's opponent, and saying to him, uh, that, "Dick, don't worry, I've got my vote, and the whole rest of the family, we've got twelve votes." And that, uh, was strange, because the next thing he did was -- he was going to come over to the booth where I was at. And he said, uh, said the same thing to this guy that he did to my dad. I saw the phoniness in politics. (Birdwhistell laughs) I mean, that's -- that, to me, that's -- that incited me more than anything else to want to run. So to answer your question, it was probably that particular incident. And I guess 8:00knowing that my dad, deep down, even though he didn't say it. But the thing that really hurt in that one, my dad was predicted to win that.


CALLAHAN: And some of the people in the Newport light-- nightlife at that time, didn't want my dad in there because he was too honest. And uh, subsequently, uh, when -- the night, night of the election, that's the first time I sat in the living room of my dad's house with the whole family, that's the first time I ever seen him cry.


CALLAHAN: And uh, I, I know it, I know it bothered him, and I was determined that I was going to be able to do something that, that was going to be good. So that -- that's really -- he's the catalyst, why I'm in -- I was in public office as a mayor.


CALLAHAN: I enjoyed it very much, I did get put, put on, uh, the Kentucky League of Cities board of directors. And, uh, I think another strange thing at this point, I was thinking about it when one of those reporters was calling yesterday, in the General Assembly, you're 9:00usually assigned three committees, and maybe an unknown number of subcommittees. I had been there seventeen years, and will be eighteen next year, and I have always been on the city's committee.


CALLAHAN: You say, "Well, that's good, that's what you should be." You won't find an individual who has stayed on the city's committee. To be very frank with you, to many people, it's very boring --


CALLAHAN: -- city's committee. But when I announced for state representative, I thought it was very important that I make this sta-- this point to, to the people who were there at the press conference. And that was that I know where I'm coming from. I'm coming from a city base, and that's what I'm going to do when I get to Frankfort. So for eighteen years, seventeen years, eighteen's coming next year, that, uh, g-- gave me an opportunity to work for the cities.


CALLAHAN: And my track record will show, in virtually every city that I represent, that I was able to help them in some way, shape, or form. Not always monetarily, but in other ways. But monetarily, I was able 10:00to help them enormously.


CALLAHAN: And uh, that was the commitment that I made, uh, with two mayors incidentally standing on my s-- side, uh, Steve Goetz of Newport, and Tom Beehan of Covington.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. You think that's, uh, uh, something, uh, particular to northern Kentuckians, the fact that, uh, northern Kentuckians say they --[telephone rings]-- live in this little city, or this little city, and not, uh -- go ahead.

CALLAHAN: I'm sorry.

BIRDWHISTELL: What I was thinking was that these small cities in northern Kentucky --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- have very distinct identities within the region --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- and perhaps a person from this region would think more about those cities than they would a county. If a person's coming from a rural area, they think more of a county government as the, as the ----------(??).

CALLAHAN: True, but that's not true in northern Kentucky --


CALLAHAN: -- particularly in Campbell County, with all the -- all of the small cities we have.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, so it's only natural for you to think of, think of cities ----------(??).

CALLAHAN: Oh, no question about it.



CALLAHAN: And let me add to that, I had no desire, no looking down the tunnel as to where I was going. Uh, there was no in -- no indication whatsoever to anyone that I had any ambition to be where I am today, and I, and I didn't. And I can tell you how I got there and --

BIRDWHISTELL: What -- do you remember what year you moved to Southgate, you ac-- you, you actually lived there?

CALLAHAN: Probably '69 maybe, '67?

BIRDWHISTELL: 'Sixty-seven. So, um, you lived there around roughly ten years before you ran for the --

CALLAHAN: I'd say it was more like six or seven years.

BIRDWHISTELL: Six or seven?


BIRDWHISTELL: A lot of times when I interview mayors, uh, by and large, they're from the cities that they rep -- that they're serving as mayor. And they've grown up there, and they've watched change over time --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- in these communities. And I guess in your case, you've just -- yours wasn't specific to Southgate, you've watched northern 12:00Kentucky, this region change over time.

CALLAHAN: No, it was pretty much specific to Southgate because as I indicated, the disaster in the Beverly Hills fire led me to believe that I could contribute something to the community in a time of crisis.

BIRDWHISTELL: I meant as you were growing up, and, and before you became involved with Southgate. Just watching you change in the, in the, uh, in the region up here, not a change in a specific town like some mayors.


BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I was --

CALLAHAN: Yeah, that, that's, that's accurate.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, so you decide to run for, uh, council. What's a council race like in Southgate at the time you ran? Do you, uh, are you like your dad, do you go to festivals? Do you go to ----------(??).


BIRDWHISTELL: My father ran for sheriff in Anderson County, he went to every funeral that happened for two years. (Callahan laughs) I don't know how you all do it up here --

CALLAHAN: I'll be honest with you --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- I'm, I'm not a guy that likes to lose, so I give it my ultimate best shot --


CALLAHAN: -- and if that doesn't do it, then I then know that I at least 13:00tried the way I should. But, um, I had yard signs out.


CALLAHAN: I walked every single door in the city of Southgate. And, and the thing that was interesting there is, uh, uh, a lot of the people knew me simply because they had seen me around Newport ----------(??), or I went to high school where I ultimately coached and taught. And, uh, a lot of the people, um, were very receptive. I think that I put a new, new hat on the way the politics in Southgate -- because not too many of them ever went door-to-door. [background conversation] I mean, they just kind of put their name on the ballot and went ahead. But because of what you said before, it's very true. Because I wasn't a native Southgateian --


CALLAHAN: -- I had to rely a little bit on --


CALLAHAN: -- some people knowing me outside the city of Southgate that could tell the people in South-- Southgate who I was. But, so that was, that was very important.

BIRDWHISTELL: So when you went door-to-door as a council candidate, you told them who you were. What'd you tell them you wanted to do?

CALLAHAN: I said I'd like to be one of those individuals that helps the 14:00city of Southgate in a time of crisis.


CALLAHAN: And there was no sense beating around the bush, because that's what it was, it was a time of crisis.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. So you, you win the election, and you start on council. Had you been to any council meetings prior to your, uh --

CALLAHAN: Yes, I went, I -- in fact, when I decided I was going to run --

BIRDWHISTELL: You started going?

CALLAHAN: -- and I thought -- oh, yeah, I went to every council meeting.

BIRDWHISTELL: What did you think about at the council meetings at that time? (laughs)

CALLAHAN: Well Ken, Ken Paul ran a good meeting, I, I, I -- he did run a good meeting.


CALLAHAN: We had, in a small city, what you run into a lot, you've got your volunteer firefighters --


CALLAHAN: -- usually, they, they like to get several of their members on, on council, and, uh, and if it's for the right reason, I, I support it. But, uh, I had found that you're, you're much, much, much more close-knit in a small community than you are in a large community. Uh, 15:00I've been -- I was accepted very well in both terms of, of council.


CALLAHAN: Both times I said I led the ticket, and both times -- and not that that's noteworthy, but I think I did prove to the people after the first term that I deserved a second term. [background conversation] And then Ken Pa-- the reason I, I went into the mayor's position wasn't because I was running against Ken Paul, Ken was going to run for county commissioner. And, uh, again, there was a situation where somebody had to run, and I thought there -- I put my name in right away, because I felt that after two terms of council, I could do, do the job. Um, and, uh, I didn't have anybody file against me.


CALLAHAN: So there was no, no race at that time.

BIRDWHISTELL: When you served on the council, uh, you were employed by --


BIRDWHISTELL: This company?


BIRDWHISTELL: Was it called Maxwelton (??) then?

CALLAHAN: No, Carlisle -- Carlisle Construction Company.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you -- you were employed by Carlisle Construction. How did you, uh, was it, uh, easy to juggle the, the work with Carlisle, 16:00and your, your, uh, responsibilities on the council?

CALLAHAN: Yes, because there wasn't nearly as much involved. Now if you get into another question about another position, it would be a totally different answer.


CALLAHAN: In a mayor-council form of government, the ultimate decision- making is the mayor is in charge day-to-day.


CALLAHAN: The council, the only time they have any authority is when they're meeting in the council meetings. Uh, unfortunately, some -- you get an individual in there sometimes who does want to go beyond and thinks that he's running the city. Well, they're not. (Birdwhistell laughs) And you have those -- you have those problems some -- watching on, on, uh, cable TV at home in my office. I, I watch, I watch some of the cities, particularly now that I'm a representative, I watch the cities and how they, uh, and, and how they conducted their meetings. And, uh, it became apparent Southgate was doing a pretty good job overall.


BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So when you, when you joined the council, uh, you were accepted well, you got along well with the, the other members of the council. And, uh, I think you mentioned earlier, you thought the main issue was getting past this tragedy, and making sure that city revenues were main-- everything was maintained to the level, to, to provide basic city --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- services.

CALLAHAN: Yes. South-- and I'd add that Southgate's a very unique community. Unique in the sense that it's, it's actually what they call downtown Southgate, and up on the hill. Up on the hill meant, there used to be a place out on US-27 called The Oasis. It was a cocktail lounge. If you go up past The Oasis, and turn up what they call, uh, Blossom Lane, that's another portion of Southgate. So you had the hill, and you had the lower part of Southgate, with the expressway in between.


CALLAHAN: And it, it made it a little bit difficult. Now, I came from the hill. And uh, I -- I tried to do something, I almost ran into my 18:00political end. (Birdwhistell laughs) The, the part up on top of the hill was in the Campbell County School District.


CALLAHAN: The other was the Southgate Independent School District. They go K through twelve, the county goes K through -- or K -- the, uh, Southgate Independent does K through, uh, eight --


CALLAHAN: -- and the other one goes K through twelve. Well, I came up with this brainy idea that, that communities are built upon social life of parents, and the elderly, and so on and so forth. So why not let's get them to be part of the Southgate School District?

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, merge the school districts, yeah. (laughs)

CALLAHAN: So I called for -- I called for a, uh, uh, public hearing, just to get their feeling, and I got their feeling. (Birdwhistell laughs) The people, I thought the people up on the hill were a little unrealistic as to what we were trying to do. But their complaint was, "This goes K through twelve, this goes K through eight; where do we go 19:00then?" Well, you -- they can go to Newport ----------(??). In other words, what they did is they'd pay tuition in these school districts, Southgate School District, uh, was paying part of that. But it became very apparent that the people up on the hill, for the most part, did not want to merge or integrate school systems for the reasons that I had. My reasons were good. My reasons was that I, I felt that it brings the community together better, and to bridge that gap that I felt was there between downtown Southgate, and Southgate on the hill.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I'm glad you pointed that out to have two distinctive parts of the same city with --

CALLAHAN: The only way to get to about a hundred and forty-some some homes up off of Blossom Lane, which is the hilltop part of Southgate, was to go up Blossom Lane, and at the hill. And, uh, the one thing that was always clean first was the Blossom Lane. And to be very honest with you, it was, it was done for a couple of reasons, because 20:00it was a problem hill in the city, and, and also, it was the only means of ingress/egress to that area up there, and if there was an emergency, it had to be open to [background conversation] get up to it. So, uh, uh, there was good reasons for it.

BIRDWHISTELL: And looking at the history of Southgate, it has a, a really interesting history in its development, and now it's sort of just surrounded by, by --

CALLAHAN: It's, it's, it's landlocked, there's no question about that, with the exception being the Beverly Hills property.


CALLAHAN: That is a real strange, I, I just can't understand, with the view that it has up there, why no one ever grabbed on to it.

BIRDWHISTELL: How many acres is it?

CALLAHAN: Eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. Wow, that's big. Um, so, uh, as a council member, you wanted to raise revenue, and uh --

CALLAHAN: Well, raise revenue that would take the place of what we lost 21:00at Beverly.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay, so how did you do it, could you tell me again?

CALLAHAN: We did a couple of things. I call them Mickey Mouse taxes. (Birdwhistell laughs) Drew might pay them more evenly that. But, uh, the insurance premium tax, we had put a little surcharge on, uh, property insurance, and various types of insurance. I was vehemently opposed to putting it on health insurance, and that goes back a long way when health insurance wasn't quite as bad as this, but I just felt that was a necessity, and we don't want to be taxed in addition to any health insurance, so we didn't. And, and one of the problems that came about, probably, I spent more time when I became mayor than any other time in trying to take care of a problem that existed, and the problem was this: Newport is four ten seventy-one, Southgate is four ten seventy-one, Wilder is four ten seventy-one. And what we found out when we got into this insurance premium tax, which Newport already had, 22:00we had people in Southgate that were paying this premium tax, they had no idea it was going back to Newport --


CALLAHAN: -- and theirs was 10 percent. Total. So right away, we did a survey trying to find out, uh, who was getting insurance tax charged, because it, it, it couldn't have been from Southgate, because we didn't implement. (Birdwhistell laughs) So as a result, when, when we told these residents, and they had to go from ten -- and it went from 10 percent, what Newport was charging, down to the 5 percent that we put on, a significant difference in what it cost. However now, there is a large contingent of people that, uh, hadn't been paying the Newport or anybody's else --

BIRDWHISTELL: They had their ----------(??).

CALLAHAN: -- they -- they didn't like -- but you had to get, you had to get more revenue. And that, to me, was the most, uh, le-- least offensive of all of them. If you didn't have something that had property value to it, you didn't pay anything.


CALLAHAN: So, uh, I, I think that started us out, city stickers, that's 23:00another one people were really upset about a lot. These little decals you put on the back of the license plate, at least up here it was. Cities are getting away from that now. And, uh, I was a diehard -- I was a diehard believer in that Southgate, you didn't have to be big to be better, and uh, I agreed with that philosophy for a while until I began to look around, I said, "Hmm, we've got the city of Wilder, it's got a fire department, no squad, got public works de-- department, it's got a full time police department." Southgate's got a volunteer fire department with a squad, uh, we've got public works department, and, uh, we have, uh, what was the other -- third one I said? Public works department, uh, fire department -- oh, the police. And I thought, this is crazy. We ought to somehow get these communities together. Don't change the name Wilder, don't change the name Southgate, but why have 24:00two administrations with a population under, way under five thousand of two different police stations? Why have two different fire departments? For that matter, why have two different city buildings? Well, again, one of my public meetings --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and uh, I brought it together. And Wilder, and probably if I had been sitting in Wilder at the time, I live there now --


CALLAHAN: -- but probably had I been sitting in a city position in Wilder, they thought that the only reason that Southgate wanted to merge was because there was a financial base in Wilder in the Newport Steel. And that was not the case. We felt that we had some amenities that we could contribute, and, and basically the same type of people. Some blue collars and white collars, and, uh, I thought they were going to do it until finally they just come back and said, "No, we can't do it." And I still, I seem -- and I'll get into that when we 25:00talk about something else a little later, go ahead.

BIRDWHISTELL: No, go ahead ----------(??). Um, so when you, when you, uh, started working on the council, the city, the infrastructure was okay, but things needed work, things needed an infusion of --------- -(??)?

CALLAHAN: Yeah, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing dr-- dramatic obviously, you know what I mean? I mean, we, we, we still, to this day, haven't really overcome the loss of Beverly Hills, but, uh, in, in Southgate. But, um, I, I, I, I think that as a result of, of me being in council, and you asked me a question earlier about, uh, how did you fluctuate your time in that?


CALLAHAN: We're sitting here, and it takes me five minutes, ten minutes less to get to Southgate. I was up there every day.


CALLAHAN: I basically was not a full-time there, but coming close to it. It's like working nights, and, uh, the one thing I did on that insurance premium tax, I start writing letters, and telling them that 26:00I want lev-- evidence of where this was going, the name, et cetera, et cetera. We were losing a ton of money to Newport because that's where they were getting charged. So what we did is we effectively took away some income from Newport, which shouldn't have been there to begin with, and, uh, that was the type of income we had. It was the best income. I don't like it, but it was the most desirable at the time, because I think it's a Mickey Mouse type of tax, and, uh, with, uh, some of the things the legislature has done, House Bill 44, you can't go over so many percent, and, and, I, I'm not one that likes to raise a lot of taxes, but we were in a crisis without Beverly Hills.

BIRDWHISTELL: A lot of mayors that I've gotten to know over the course of this project don't come to the public service through a -- through the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, they -- and they don't have ambition to move on. Uh, and that seems to be the story of your, 27:00your career too, that you got interested in public service, not ------- ---(??) --

CALLAHAN: Democratic.

BIRDWHISTELL: Running for mayor and then running for the House of Representatives. That's what happened, but that wasn't your --

CALLAHAN: Every city --(Birdwhistell clears throat)-- in Campbell County has a non-partisan election. So you've got either six or four commissioners, whatever the case may be, sitting up there, and unless you know them personally, you don't know if they're a Democrat, and you don't know if they're Republican. And, and what this --(Birdwhistell clears throat)-- has done, this has helped breed some pretty good people, be they Democrat, be they Republican, to run for office. And, uh, I, I think that's good, because I don't think you need, and I don't think you could be successful in small cities of twenty-five hundred, three thousand; I just don't think you can be successful in doing things if you're bickering on a partisan basis. So, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Let's deal with another stereotype. As you're coming into public service and public office here in northern Kentucky near Newport, 28:00uh, the history of Newport was about, uh, nightlife, and gambling, and those types of things. That's what -- that's one of its legacies.

CALLAHAN: No, no question, you're right.

BIRDWHISTELL: No question about it. So here you are, mayor of, of, uh -- council member and mayor of, of Southgate, just a, a nearby -- uh, in the late seventies, has -- have things settled down to the point that, uh, corruption, and uh, uh, issues of the past are in the past, and not, uh --

CALLAHAN: You mean as opposed to today?

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, as opposed to when you were on the council and running for mayor, did you have to deal with any of those issues? Were there any lingering parts of that legacy still in place?

CALLAHAN: Very, very little -- well, you've got to remember, we're not talking twenty-some years ago, some of that was still in the, in the, uh, daylight. You know, it still existed, some of the problems that you just mentioned. But, but as far as it having an effect on Southgate, 29:00no, I did not see where-- anywhere it did, even after I was in office for a while. But, uh, I guess in, in retrospect, we don't have any of that anymore. I'm talking current instead of the past. But --


CALLAHAN: -- we've had some good city administrations, uh, excellent people. And I didn't know if they were Democrat or Republican, I didn't really care. How Newport went, is how, a lot of times, Southgate went. From the standpoint of we're so close, Newport and Southgate were so close, as was us and Wilder. But, um, I, I think you've got an interesting mayor down there, Tom Gadooly's (??) the mayor. Believe it or not, I taught him in high, in high school. (Birdwhistell laughs) So, I like to say, "Did I have anything to do with -- no, he, he did it on his own."

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, what did you teach in high school? What subject?

CALLAHAN: Well, I started out teaching English --



CALLAHAN: -- and that's -- I was at a school called St. Stephen's in Newport. And, uh, I had an opportunity in mid-year to go to Newport Catholic, that wasn't Newport Central yet at that time, to Newport Catholic. And the only thing that was open, the priest that was teaching English left. (Birdwhistell laughs) And, uh, so it was freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior. I told them that I would not -- this wasn't always going to be there in the future. I don't want to save it all, I can do it maybe for the few months that we have left in the school year, which I did, and then I got into, uh, just general subjects, uh, world geography, a real toughie, uh --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- a lot, lot of things. Teen teaching and the s-- and the senior plans, I took labor management, other ones took other ones, you rotated to classes. So, but, but really, I guess my real claim to fame up there is, is, uh, I coached St. Anthony and Bellevue, uh, in, in 31:00a grade school league up there. And then I became very close with Jim Connor, and, and Drew Nosium (??). Uh, Jim Connor was kind of an icon in northern Kentucky. And, uh, he's, he's -- unfortunately, he's dead now. But he's the one that got me to come up to Newport Catholic.


CALLAHAN: And uh, coach up there, and he left then, and uh, I ended up being assistant basketball, assistant baseball. But, uh, I, I, I guess at the time, all together, even when I got out of it, and came here to Carlisle, I was a teacher, and, and one night, a guy two doors up from me, Gene Gerdian's (??) his name, no relation to some other Gerdians that Drew and I know. Uh, but, uh, Gene Gerdian came up to me one, one night, and he says, "Can you come on down?" He says, "I want to talk to you." So I went down, and -- this is when I was still in, uh -- at Newport Catholic. He offered me a job that was double what I was making at Newport Catholic. I felt that I can always come back, but I may 32:00not always have the opportunity to go forward. And, uh, so, so, I went there, but then I continued to announce our home basketball games --


CALLAHAN: -- and I ran the grade school league, and uh, just got myself totally -- I'm not one that can sit for very long, I like to get out and about.

BIRDWHISTELL: Another trait of mayors, I've found, they're involved.


BIRDWHISTELL: Involved. No matter what, you just -- they're doing something in the community all the time.

CALLAHAN: I feel so strong about what I'm going to tell you now, I would challenge anyone to prove me wrong. I think the best thing that happened to Jim Callahan, who had no concept whatsoever that he would ever go beyond mayor; mayor was the epitome of anything and everything I ever wanted to do, until the person that sat in this seat prior to me, Terry Mann, came to me personally, and said, "Jim," he said, "I'm 33:00going to probably run against -- uh, for Congress, U.S. Congress." And he says, "I know when I make the announcement," he says, "I'm going to have them coming out the wall." He said that everybody's going to want that seat. He said, "What I'm asking you is, 'Would you be interested?' I want to see somebody get -- good, get down there." I said, "Terry, you've got to be joking. I don't have any idea." He says, "Well, think about it, talk to some people." So, I went and I talked to my family, and not knowing how much depth that was going to be, they -- my wife, in particular, agreed. And, uh, the other person I had to convince was my employer. And I remember very, very well, I had, on my fourth meeting, with Wayne Carlisle about coming and do-- and running for that. He says to me, he says, "I'll tell you what." He says, "I'll support you, I'll support you 110 percent, but you've got to tell me you're not going down there for just one term and then coming back.


CALLAHAN: I said, "Wayne, I don't have any control over that," -- 34:00(Birdwhistell laughs)-- "It's the people who elect me."

BIRDWHISTELL: Some other people will decide that, right. (laughs)

CALLAHAN: And, uh, I, I, he got his point across. I could not be where I am today if it had not been for Wayne Carlisle.


CALLAHAN: You cannot live, you cannot exist from what you get out of Frankfort. There is not eno-- and I wound up giving most of it away anyway to somebody. Di-- different charities, and so on, so forth. But he gave me the ability to be wherever I had to be, whenever I had to be, and he always said, "Whatever you've got on your desk, we'll get somebody to do it if you need the help." So I, I, I didn't feel, like some, that there was a hot breath on my neck. I felt that I, I had a complete opening to do what I wanted to do, and the point I'm leading into is now being there eighteen years, I've seen the quality of legislators who come in. There's some people that just aren't cut out to be a member of the General Assembly.



CALLAHAN: And, uh, I think those that had the background in local government, be it at a council level, be it at a mayor level, whatever the case may be, I think they were better far that when they went to the General Assembly. We got some people that don't even know where the bathrooms are down there, that's an exaggeration. (laughs)

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's, uh, sort of what I've found about mayors. Mayors want to get things done, mayors want things to improve, regardless of politics sometime-- in most cases.


BIRDWHISTELL: Let's go back to your decision to run for mayor, and uh, and sort of walk through the process you, you went through. I mean, you had to -- you had to make a decision at that point, and if you want to take that on --


BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) talk to your family about that decision?

CALLAHAN: Well, I, I, I did, but it's not nearly the impact of what a state representative is.


CALLAHAN: But that, uh, that was an easy decision. It was easy because Ken Paul had already indicated to us he was going to run for, uh, 36:00county commissioner, which meant that that was going to open up the mayor's spot. And I think that because I had led the ticket in my first run for council --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

CALLAHAN: -- and then on the second -- I think that he just kind of felt, I guess he'll run. And I did, I didn't have any opposition to run for mayor. But, uh, I think it was more though out of the respect that they knew how I would do things, as it was because I was popular.


CALLAHAN: I think they wanted somebody that could grab hold and, uh, steer the ship in the right direction. And I, I feel I've done that. I spent a tremendous amount of time, what's really sad, we've got a lady up there at this -- the city's got a lady, I'm not up there anymore --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- Rose Welcher, who's a city clerk. She is going to be -- she's going to retire next month, and we spent a lot of time together when I was, when I was mayor. But, uh, I don't know that enough people in the community re-- really know the value of 37:00some of their officials.


CALLAHAN: Rose Welcher, for Southgate, for her time as city clerk -- she's really city administrator, not the city clerk. And, uh, I know the time I put in, and probably a good percentage of the time I put in was trying to get this damn insurance tax straightened out so we can get the revenue in.


CALLAHAN: And, uh, it was, it was a challenge. We had a typical, typical call, and a community the size of w-- Southgate, is, uh, garbage collection, potholes, uh, safety from the standpoint of police and fire, and we were able to give the citizens all of that, and not at a really extended increase in, in, uh, c-- cost. But, uh, I, I would say that ev-- everybody has different reasons why they want to serve in their community, and I feel that mine was an interest in wanting to 38:00move forward.


CALLAHAN: And I know that was the case when Beverly Hills fire occurred, when I went to council, and uh, certainly, if anybody's got any sense, I'm not implying I don't have any sense --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- you sure wouldn't go into council, uh, the next year after you found that, uh, Beverly Hills burned down, the primary source of income is gone.


CALLAHAN: So that, that wasn't a pleasant situation, but I liked the challenge.

BIRDWHISTELL: Since you didn't have an opponent, how did you run your campaign? Did you --

CALLAHAN: Well, once you know you didn't have an opponent, you didn't have to worry about running the campaign.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you don't -- you didn't have to do any public appearances just to --

CALLAHAN: I'm a firm believer that you don't continue in public office if the only time you go around is when you have an opponent. I make myself visible --


CALLAHAN: -- to the activities that go on, at that time, in the city of Southgate, both people on the hill, and people down the, down in the valley. But no, I kept myself very visible.



CALLAHAN: And I think that, in and of itself, kept you in a position. Now if you make a major decision that's going to go against the community's will, uh, I'm not saying that that's -- you're going to stay in, but I think for the most part, they respected me and, and what I was doing.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about the transition into the mayor's office, uh, since you'd been on the council, I assume that was a fairly smooth transition for you?

CALLAHAN: It, it, it was, and in, uh -- there was a major difference between Ken and I, Ken Paul. Uh, as I indicated early on, Ken Paul did -- has done a very good job, did a very good job, for a young individual dealing with the national media, and all of those that came forward. But, like anything else, it can be something you become deeply attached to. You know, when you turn the TV on, or when you pick a newspaper up, and, and, and, and Ken handled it well, but, he liked the media. And that's just difference in styles really, I must 40:00say that's wrong.


CALLAHAN: But, uh, I, I think that the council was ready for a change. I don't know if I should say this because I don't know if it's libelous or not, but I'll say it. Tell you, one of the things I think the council respected me for. We have a city attorney, or we had a city attorney. At that time, of the fire, his name was Andy Jolley. Andy, he has since deceased, but he was the guru in Campbell County as far as attorneys go. And, uh, he was the one handling our, uh, Beverly Hills litigation, in addition to his regular city contract. Well, it came to a point where, uh, he wouldn't show up. Part of the, part of the, part of the contract -- part of the obligation, the contract, he has him coming to the Southgate council meetings, you need legal advice here.


CALLAHAN: Well, I, I noticed when he wouldn't show up, or the ------ ----(??) would call and say he couldn't make it tonight, no, no, uh, no one to take their place. Uh, he could send somebody from his firm 41:00if he wanted, but we didn't. So finally one night, uh, I asked for a closed session to talk about personnel. And, uh, I bucked Ken on that one, because Andy Jolley was Ken's real good friend. And, and that's Ken's business. But, uh, I said, "You know, we've got a city attorney, and we're paying him. He don't show up!" (Birdwhistell laughs) "Why are we keeping him on the payroll? We need someone who's got --" Well, Ken said, "Well I'll call him up, we'll get him up here right now and we'll tell him that he don't have the job anymore." I said, "That's a reaction, Ken. Think about what I just said. We're paying him to be here, and he's not here. Have him here, one of the people in his firm, but we've got to have -- with everything we were going through with Beverly, we had to have legal counsel present."


CALLAHAN: And the bottom line was that, uh, he resigned, Andy Jolley resigned, and that was his business. And the guy that, that I recommended even, for the job, is still there since I left after being 42:00mayor, Kevin Quill is his name --


CALLAHAN: -- and uh, I, I, I know Ken didn't like that, but, uh, Ken isn't the only one that put me in office.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Hang on just a sec. Certainly one of the issues with coming in as mayor, of course you'd been on the council for a few years, but coming in as mayor, was this fallout from the Beverly Hills --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- disaster, because, uh, city inspectors and those types of things were issues, uh, fire codes, all of that stuff.

CALLAHAN: We were the center of attention as it relates to the fire codes, and the way they changed the BOCA code.


CALLAHAN: And, um, uh, yeah, it's -- it isn't -- I'm, I'm not proud of saying that we had a fire, a hundred and sixty-five people lost their lives. That's not something to be proud of. And maybe, just maybe that particular incident, and it was a big one too, maybe led to a lot of lives being spared somewhere else because right codes were followed.


BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, but I found that interesting, because you had that large, uh, establishment in this small city, and so, you know, if you had the Beverly Hills Supper Club in, in a small town out in rural Kentucky of only a few thousand --


BIRDWHISTELL: -- people, I mean, you'd run into the same problems with some communities. In Lawson's book on the, uh, on the, uh, Beverly Hills disaster, uh, he, he mentions that, uh, that the city was looking to the state for overall enforcement and guidance on the --

CALLAHAN: Well, that goes back to the smallness of the community, that goes back to what I was saying about --


CALLAHAN: -- merging. I mean, not every city can be everything to everybody. I think that the merging, and the services, and, and the, uh -- give you a perfect example, something that just happened recently. There's a program called the Main Street program, for communities.


BIRDWHISTELL: Right, right.

CALLAHAN: And, uh, the city of Dayton --


CALLAHAN: -- which is in my district now, applied for an eighty-thousand dollar, uh, T21 money, renaissance. Well, they were going to get it. I'd worked behind the scenes to make sure. But then I got a call. In their haste to balance the budget, it was found that they terminated the director of the Main Street program. (Birdwhistell laughs) And part of the criteria to be able to get it, you've got to have a Main Street director. They weren't doing it maliciously --


CALLAHAN: -- they were doing it because they didn't think far enough, and to be very honest with you, probably their city attorney, or someone, someone should've brought that to the attention of the city: they lost the eighty thousand.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. So when you come in as mayor, uh, do you sit down and talk with the people on the, on the payroll of the city and try to 45:00get things, uh --

CALLAHAN: Yeah, well, well, we had about a -- city payroll, we had two in public works.

BIRDWHISTELL: In public works.

CALLAHAN: And, uh, five police officers, and our fire department was totally, at that time, volunteer.

BIRDWHISTELL: And I think most mayors would agree that, uh, uh, your police force when you're mayor is like your athletic teams when you're president of a university. You're going to have a problem, you just don't know when it's going to happen.

CALLAHAN: True, and, and, and I know in particular, as mayor, coming up there during the day at lunch time, I made sure I contacted -- probably overly so, it wasn't required, but, uh, I kept a pretty good hand on what was going on, and if there was a problem, I wouldn't catch it two, two weeks after it happened, I'd catch it maybe the day or the day after it happened. And, uh, I, I think that was a real advantage. It was an advantage for me to be able to go up to the city.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Mmm. So you didn't have any trouble with the 46:00police force while you were there?

CALLAHAN: No, I mean, the typical problems that you generally have in the -- uh, we had what I always called the finest professional chief in the entire state of Kentucky. And, uh, he was professional from the word go, but he ended up, uh, dying while I was there of, uh, Crohn's Disease.


CALLAHAN: So, but he, he was a good one, he was very professional. And it was because of him, well, we didn't have hardly -- problems in the police department.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Southgate, uh, is, uh, a community that didn't have a lot of diversity, I guess, what 95 percent white, is that, is that something?

CALLAHAN: Or more.


CALLAHAN: Yeah. I don't know where any of them are at in Southgate.


CALLAHAN: You're talking about, uh, African-American?

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, or -- yeah.

CALLAHAN: Or any kind.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

CALLAHAN: No, I, I, I can only speak to what it was when I was there, I can't speak to today.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. But you didn't have those issues to, uh, to deal with. Um, so you're -- for the ti-- you're mayor -- for the term-- 47:00time you're mayor, what were your major goals, what d-- what is it that you wanted to do? Was it to continue to make sure that you have a good revenue base and to try to be progressive within the government?

CALLAHAN: No, no question about it. And, and as I said, I always had in the back of my head that, that there should be some merger. And, uh, I haven't let that get out yet.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you talk to the other mayors about that, did you --

CALLAHAN: We talked about it, and like anything else, they said, "Yeah, it sounds like a good idea, but." (Birdwhistell laughs) And when the "but" came out, I knew then we were in trouble. (Birdwhistell laughs) But, uh, I, I, I like -- I like to see things change, and not change just for the sake of changing, but change because it's the right thing to do. And, and, I, I do feel, I feel very strongly about the merger. And an example you're not familiar with, Drew would be, Bellevue and Dayton, I told you I was born in Spears Hospital in Dayton, grew up in 48:00Bellevue. There was a -- there's a street called Fallon Avenue that runs up and down --


CALLAHAN: -- through the cities of Bellevue and Dayton. That was the dividing line between Bellevue and Dayton. You don't come over on this side of the fence, and we don't go over on that side of the fence. It was a bitter rivalry between Newport and Bellevue. (Birdwhistell laughs) And today, why I'm bringing this up, today, we have something that at that time, if someone would've said, "Do you know that we're going to be doing this?" The Bellevue and Dayton fire departments have merged.


CALLAHAN: And I used that in my talk quite often when I go out to say I grew up in Bellevue, I was born in Dayton, and I know the, the hostility that existed there between Bellevue people and Dayton people. And uh, I, I think it's great that they did this. And, uh, hopefully what they're going to be, or do -- have accomplished, as we move down the road, they're going to show people that you can get along. Even 49:00though there was a lot --[telephone rings]-- that's the -- um, losing my train of thought here.

BIRDWHISTELL: You were talking about the Dayton and Bellevue --

CALLAHAN: Oh, Dayton -- oh yeah, to me, that's a classic example of why, and the fact that it can be done. If Bellevue and Dayton police -- or fire department can merge, anything can be done.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did the Louisville-Jefferson County merger give you hope?

CALLAHAN: Yeah, did you know one time, uh, I, I think I'm right, um, Campbell County, all of this was incorporated into Campbell County. Now we've got Kent and then we've got Boone. Did I -- as far as the merger, and Jefferson County, Louisville? That's a tough one. I think they did the right thing.


CALLAHAN: I really do think they did the right thing. Um, the hardest thing you run into whenever you talk merger are those mayors that feel 50:00they are the epitome of power within the area they live in. Being able to know how far you should go with that is very, very important.


CALLAHAN: A lot of mayors know how far to go with that, some don't.

BIRDWHISTELL: Being from Lexington, uh, we think the only reason Louisville and Jefferson County merged was that we were going to be the largest city if they didn't.

CALLAHAN: (laughs) That might be.

BIRDWHISTELL: And they couldn't stand it, so --(laughs)-- ----------(??)

CALLAHAN: That's a good point.

BIRDWHISTELL: You've got to have motivation.

CALLAHAN: But it, it, it, it -- we just can't continue, with technology being what it is today, putting our heads in the sand and saying we can't look to get better. And, uh, but unfortunately, there are some mayors that, when they get in that position, they're dynamite. And, uh, there's other ones that are just great, and they look, look to better their community, and to better the area around them.

BIRDWHISTELL: When you went to the League of Cities meetings as mayor, I would bet, many, many, if not most of the mayors are sitting around 51:00talking about economic development, their industrial parks, those types of things. What do you do while they're talking about that? Are you, are you -- was that an issue in Southgate, that you wanted to bring in industry, that you wanted to get, uh, some economic, uh, activity, uh?

CALLAHAN: No question, we had eighty acres of prime hill top property.

BIRDWHISTELL: So that's what you wanted to do?

CALLAHAN: Absolutely. I, I, I, I can't believe to this day why that's still sitting there. If ever there was a, a group that I thought would be able to pull that through, it's TRIED, Tri-County Economic Development. They've had people who have been fe-- I remember one time we, we had a guy that was so interested in that site, took us on his plane, the mayor and council, we cleared it -- legal -- it was legal, took us on his plane to show a development that he, he wanted to build on top of Beverly Hills.


CALLAHAN: And, uh, everything filtered away, it just kind of melted 52:00away, it never went to the end. I remember one, one group that had a, uh, uh, a meeting and then they went up to the Highland Country Club and put out a lavish display of food for people who wanted to come up there. And again, anticipation that they were going to bring this huge development to Southgate. It's never happened. I -- and, as I said, think about the fact that, that the Beverly Hills fire site, and that building that's in front, the only building in the whole thing is -- was dedicated to saving human life. It, it's ironic.


CALLAHAN: And I said that when I -- when they had the groundbreaking, and I spoke at it.

BIRDWHISTELL: What kind of economic development did you foresee for Southgate?

CALLAHAN: Well, I knew what I was hoping.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, what were you hoping?

CALLAHAN: I was hoping that we would put up there what the Schillings 53:00were in the process of trying to do, and that was a hotel, a huge hall, and, uh, basically making it the enter-- entertainment capital of this part of the United States. Uh, unfortunately, with the fire, everything went downhill. Nothing was, nothing was ever done. But I, I felt, and as I sit here today, even as a state representative, and I represent Southgate, I help them in every way I can, to try to bring that one individual that can make it, make it a reality. I, I, I'm dumbfounded, I am absolutely dumbfounded with something that's right at the expressway interchange, not overridden with a lot of residential, why something hasn't gone there. There's something, something that I, I just can't put my hands on.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mmm. So did your, did your tax base expand while you were 54:00mayor? Did you -- were you able to generate --

CALLAHAN: Well, you're able to generate the amount that, that the law allowed us to, and that's the 4 percent. And, uh, um, we never were down and out, we were running tough. Um, and that's why the insurance tax was put on, I mentioned.


CALLAHAN: Um, but then, what we started to see, and, and rightfully so, the volunteer fire department, which is a godsend in most small communities, uh, started to -- wanted to see some new equipment, and we worked with them, and not, not with a lot of, a lot of money, but, uh, I, I am, I am such a proponent of the pl-- uh, plaudits that you put out there for volunteer firefighters. And, and just backing up to that night that I was up there, uh, with the bodies being back here, with the tablecloths, and the jackets and everything. I saw some of our young volunteer firefighters, and I've often wondered --[background conversation]-- I've often wondered, "What is this going to do them 55:00as they move on into real adulthood?" And I'll never, ever forget, the next day, we brought the crane up, as I said, we went up to go look at the -- but we brought it up the next day, and I got there before Griffin Carlisle did with the crane. And I walked around the back, and I saw one of our volunteer firefighters, I guess he was in his early twenties, and he says, "Uh, did you see what I -- anything inside here yet?" I said, "No," I said, "I really don't want to." He said, "Well let me, let me show you something." He walked me in, and there in a chair, sat a lady with her hands like this, her purse around her arm --


CALLAHAN: -- she was dead. I, I -- That was more than I could handle.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

CALLAHAN: Now, my, my, my point is, how did some of the -- I don't know what it's done to some of their lives. I mean, it may have done things that we'll never know. But it had to do something, it had to do something. And, uh, that's the disadvantage of not having 56:00a professional fire department, versus a volunteer fire department, because that's what they're trained, and they're, they're guided in how to do that. And, and the volunteer fire department wasn't the only one. There was fire departments from all over the Greater Cincinnati area. And, um, it was --

BIRDWHISTELL: From what I've read, one of the problems was, there was only one hydrant up on the hill, and it didn't work very well.

CALLAHAN: Well, I think it -- there's -- yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um, hmm. As the end of your term as mayor approached and you were going to go to the General Assembly, when you look back on it --

CALLAHAN: Well, let me, let me move back up --


CALLAHAN: -- that's not really how it happened.


CALLAHAN: I, I -- when Ken left to run for county commissioner, Ken Paul left, that left -- that seat was going to be open. I filed for that seat, had no opposition. It was while I was in that office, in my fifth year, that, uh, uh, Ken did -- now, was it -- oh, no, no, I'm 57:00sorry. That's when, um, Terry Mann had come to me --


CALLAHAN: -- and said, "I'm going to run." Now, I'm in the first year of my second term --


CALLAHAN: -- as mayor. And, and Terry said, well, he said earlier about, you know, "Would you consider this? We need somebody." And as soon as I filed, there was going to be a lot of different people. And I said, "That, that's fine," but, I really didn't do anything different. I actually resigned the mayor's position on the sixteenth of, of, uh, December of 1986. And I was elected in '86. Once I got elected, that opened -- that, that's what opened it up, not, not somebody else. I was the sitting mayor, I was in the first year of my second term, and that's when he decided to run. And when he filed for 58:00that, I filed for mayor, and I didn't have any opposition.

BIRDWHISTELL: So as you, as you reflected back though on your service as mayor, what -- what were you most proud of?

CALLAHAN: Probably the way we handled the crisis at Beverly Hills. I mean, that -- you can't take that out of there, not put that as number one, um.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, always, yeah.

CALLAHAN: I mean, it, it affected our community, the people included. Every year there's a memorial set somewhere in the city, and it's something that's never going to go away from Southgate. I mean, it's, uh -- you -- we just have to look back with a great deal of sadness. But by the same token, you couldn't stop and not move --


CALLAHAN: -- you had to -- you had to continue to work with the community. And, and we, we did that, and -- and I happened to be a small part of that. I served a total of nine years in the city, four 59:00as council, two terms, and five as mayor, one term, and then one year, and then that's when I, uh, resigned. But, uh, I would say we, we kept a high degree of professionalism in the police department. Uh, I mentioned that, I mentioned our volunteers.


CALLAHAN: I got -- a lot of mayors get hung up with their volunteer fire department, they (Birdwhistell laughs) want to fight because somebody wants this much money for a, for a truck, or this. I had a great relationship with them. We didn't always agree, I know at, at some of the budget hearings, they'd come in. And, and one, one in particular, a nice guy, but he, he's just a loudmouth. (Birdwhistell laughs) He'd come in and he'd pound on the table --(pounds on table)-- and say, "This is what we need; we can't take a penny" --(pounds on table)-- "under this here," and he'd go on and on --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and when everything had come down, he got what we wanted him to have. (Birdwhistell laughs) But he had to do that for his members.


CALLAHAN: The, the --


CALLAHAN: -- chief's position is a political position --

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??)

CALLAHAN: -- because you're elected by them -- the volunteer fire 60:00department, you're elected by your, your peers that are in the fire department, and he did a great job.


CALLAHAN: But, uh, he was a little too overdramatic.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Other than the, uh, push for a merger, or the merger of the school systems, what is -- which, which the mayor didn't have any control over, but -- what did you want to do that you weren't able to get done as mayor?

CALLAHAN: We didn't have anything that we called our own as it relates to a city park. Now, at first, we had a situation where -- keep in mind, the upper part of Southgate, and the lower part of Southgate -- as you went back this Blossom Lane, where the residential areas began, there was an area, pretty good cleared-out area, that was just sitting there, and the individual who owned it did-- didn't have any immediate plans. So I convinced him to lease that to the city for a dollar a year. And we put a, uh, we put a park up there.



CALLAHAN: Now that's pretty difficult for somebody down in Southgate or St. Therese, to walk out 27 and go up Blossom Lane. So it really was a park that was more for, uh, the hill than it was for any place else. But we got some good programs going, the Optimists Club, which I was a member, we put in -- on programs on the weeknights, and we would transport kids up to that, and it became a real -- the only thing we really had outside of, uh -- down by the Southgate Public School, there was some swings and that --


CALLAHAN: -- small baseball field that was put in by the, uh, by the, uh, Optimists Club. But, uh, we had a, uh, city birthday party up there at that one on Blossom Lane. And, uh, that, that's probably the only time that we had people come together in that great a number from the hill, and from down on the bottom of the hill, because, because of the picnic we had, and the party we had celebrating, uh, uh, Southgate. (Birdwhistell laughs) I think it's seventy-sixth, seventy-fifth 62:00birthday.


CALLAHAN: But, in any case, uh, eh, eh -- I guess, if I had any reluctance, being very active in, in athletics as I was, I, I wanted to see something in Southgate, and we just didn't have it.


CALLAHAN: We do now.


CALLAHAN: And that's because after I got in as, uh, as a member of the General Assembly, not immediately, but a few years down the road, I was able to come up with a 1.5 million-dollar grant. Now we've got a community center, we've got a baseball field, and we've got, uh, sand volleyball, we've got picnic areas, we've got walking trails. They never had that before. BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah.

CALLAHAN: Now that, that, that, that probably, being very honest with you, is something that is an advantage that I had when I went down there as a mayor because my commitment was to work with the cities within my district, and even out of my district, but more so in my district, and that's why they got the --[background conversation]-- they got -- if I'd have had a different mentality coming in, not being at the local 63:00level, um, I think Sylvia can even tell you this sometime, but, but if, if I had no background whatsoever, would I have been looking for 1.5 million for a community center, and everything for Southgate? No. Not that I was doing it intentionally, but it didn't mean as much as it did when I was sitting there wanting it, but couldn't do it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Did you enjoy, uh, your interaction with the other mayors during the time you were mayor?

CALLAHAN: Oh, yeah, yeah. Around here, uh, in fact, um, as I said, I committed myself. When I went to Frankfort that I was going to, uh, work for the cities within my district, and even out of my district. But I think that, uh, I kind of, uh, I guess, got a lot of that feeling started when I was with the Kentucky League, League, League of Cities.


CALLAHAN: And a lot of the cities up here belonged to that. Not every one, but a lot of them did. And, uh, so when, when I went into the 64:00General Assembly, I had already had in a built, uh, built-in credential base from having been with them prior to me being elected to the General Assembly.

BIRDWHISTELL: What do you think the, uh, most important work or, uh, or service that is provided by the League of Cities to, to mayors and to cities?

CALLAHAN: Say that again?

BIRDWHISTELL: (clears throat) What, what type of, uh, work does, does, uh, that's most important to cities, does the League of Cities do? What type of services do they provide that you find most helpful as a mayor?

CALLAHAN: Well, a lot of them have come about since I've left. I mean, I've been out of there for eighteen years.


CALLAHAN: So, uh, when I was there, they were a resource for information that we couldn't get because we didn't have the expertise on staff to do it.


CALLAHAN: Uh, they helped you with grant programs, they helped you with, uh, low-interest loans. They did things that an individual couldn't, 65:00an individual community couldn't do. But they have, they have won out so much greater in the things, things that they do, and how valuable they are to the cities, but, that -- I wasn't around when a lot of that was done. I implemented, since I've been in Frankfort, a lot of the things that the cities came to me and asked me to do, namely Sylvia, uh, and others, Bill Theone (??), their legal attorney, and uh, I, I handle a lot of city legislation. Not too many legislators are going to say, boy, one of the committees I was on for eighteen years was cities. (Birdwhistell laughs) I could have, I could have, virtually, when I went down there and got leadership of the team, I could have any committee I wanted, any committee I wanted. People could never understand why I stayed in the cities. They could never see any -- "Why doesn't he go down this one? Why doesn't he go down that one?" Because I made that commitment back in '70 -- or '86, when I won and went to Frankfort, that that's who I was going to work for, was going 66:00to be the cities, and I have not broken that promise.

BIRDWHISTELL: Are you optimistic about the future of Kentucky's cities, large and small?

CALLAHAN: Yes, yes. Very much so.

BIRDWHISTELL: You think they're headed in the right direction, based on the things that they're doing?

CALLAHAN: I'd say for the most part, they are, but I mean, volunteer fire departments are shrinking, and the reason they're shrinking is there's a lot of training that's involved. And individuals can no longer take off work and spend the time -- that we, the General Assembly have put this on there as a burden probably, but, but you've got to have well-qualified people. The equipment has changed, the whole concept of firefighting, paramedic service. I was just down there, uh, two days ago, uh, we're, we're putting a bill together on trauma, the trauma centers. And, uh, I'm trying to see if we can 67:00get something started in, uh, Kentucky. I had this surgeon from the University of Louisville there, I had the Hospital Association, I had the KMA, all the key players. And, uh, it, it's going to be difficult, but uh, what I'm really trying to say, getting back to cities, is things are becoming so complex.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, right.

CALLAHAN: I, I think the day of very small cities is probably limited. Now Sylvia won't like that. (Birdwhistell laughs) Um, but, but they are. I just, how many people do you think can go out, and go up here on Route 9, and drive Route 9, and tell us when you go from one city to another. Or the corporate limits, whatever it might be. Most people don't know, except those that are dug in --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and, and know they want it to stay as it is.

BIRDWHISTELL: Or have a vested interest of some sort. [background conversation]



BIRDWHISTELL: Um, I think some people are the League of Cities are optimistic that, uh, our public policy leaders are going to continue to come out of the cities. That the cities are where the progressive ideas are coming from, rather than -- you know, Kentucky has this sort of rural --

CALLAHAN: Um-hm, um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- tradition. Our leaders have come from rural areas a lot, and I think they see that people like yourself, and others who come out of these, uh, cities being, uh, progressive leaders for the state.

CALLAHAN: I'd say there's truth in that, and uh, I, I, I think before too much longer you're going to, you're going to see some mergers. You have to. You just can't keep hoping that you have revenue to, to take care of the services that you've got pl-- uh, uh, in place now. But, uh, there, there's some people who, when they get into that position, they don't want to let go, because this is a position of power. And, 69:00uh, those will fail ultimately. The ones that are willing to step out, and see what's better, I think, will be the successful ones. And I do agree with you on the, uh, the urban centers, and the suburban centers, more so than the rural, uh, are going to be the leadership of the future.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So does anybody still call you mayor?

CALLAHAN: Yeah. (both laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a title for life, isn't it?

CALLAHAN: Yeah, they do.

BIRDWHISTELL: I've almost called you mayor five times during this interview.

CALLAHAN: Well, that's -(Birdwhistell laughs)-- no, I, uh -- I, I, I was, I was very fortunate, and as I said, I never was looking to go beyond the mayor of Southgate. That came to me, I didn't come to it. And, and I guess I had to respect Terry, and, uh, ask him, you know, he thought that much of me, but, uh, it's, um, it's tough. And now the career's starting to come to a close. But, uh --


BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's, uh, I think we covered it pretty well, I know you've got a lot to do today, and things on your, on your schedule, so we'll, we'll stop there.

CALLAHAN: Yeah, three, three county attorneys from this area, uh, not county attorneys, county, um, clerks want to talk to me about some legislation.

BIRDWHISTELL: I appreciate you taking time to do this, and, uh, I look forward to talking with you, maybe at some point about your legislative career, because that's been a big --

CALLAHAN: Well, I apologize because the, the -- this has been a very, very unusual morning, but I'll bet you when I go out there, I've got a bunch of phone calls, and, uh, wanting me -- the last one was he has to talk to you right away. (Birdwhistell laughs) Well, he didn't get to talk to me. But, um --

BIRDWHISTELL: But the word's out that you're, you're retiring?

CALLAHAN: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it was going to happen, I just wish it wouldn't have been right now.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, thank you, Mayor. (both laugh)

[End of interview.]

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