Retired Danville factory owner to help Fletcher build 'better place'

January 02, 2004|HERB BROCK

Most people Basil Turbyfill's age are trying to enjoy the fruits of a life of labor. And Turbyfill had been doing just that since 2000 when he retired from a career in furniture manufacturing.

However, in recent weeks he's been keeping a schedule that hardly sounds like that of a retiree. Every weekday morning he's been leaving his Danville home for Frankfort no later than 6 a.m. and has been returning no sooner than 10 p.m. Some retirement.

But Turbyfill insists he doesn't mind a mile of his daily trip or a minute of his daily doings in Kentucky's capital city.

"It's a lot of miles and a lot of time, but I'm involved in a great experience, a fantastic challenge," he said. "Besides, I'm a workaholic and I thrive on a schedule like mine."


That would be the experience, challenge and schedule of the deputy secretary of Kentucky's newly-reformulated Finance, Administration, Taxation and Technology Cabinet.

Turbyfill parlayed both his lengthy career as a captain of a small industry and his long involvement as a kingpin of state Republican Party politics into the No. 2 position in a cabinet that controls the state's cash and computers. The former owner and CEO of Jackson of Danville and current member of the state GOP's executive committee was named by new Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher to assist Finance Secretary Robbie Rudolph in administering the agency.

Under Fletcher's recent cabinet restructuring and reorganization plan, the old Department of Revenue and Governor's Office of Technology were folded into the Finance and Administration Cabinet. Turbyfill and Rudolph oversee a big payroll and big responsibilities.

"The Revenue Cabinet has 700 employees and is responsible for collecting 43 different state taxes, while the Office of Technology has 600 employees and oversees all of the state's computers and computer systems," said Turbyfill. "All told, the new cabinet has 3,000 employees, and our main mission is overseeing the collection and expending of $8 billion in tax revenue as well as the maintenance of every state building.

"I'm trying to get my arms around this position and the cabinet," he said, saying that he oversees the operations of the cabinet while Rudolph handles administration. "The scope of this cabinet is beyond description. It will be a daunting task, but one I am willing to tackle."

Actually, Turbyfill was tackling Fletcher administration tasks before he was named a cabinet deputy secretary and before Fletcher was sworn into office last month.

"I was a member of the governor's transition team and I interviewed numerous people for different state positions," he said.

Then, Turbyfill became an interviewee himself. When offered the deputy secretary position with Finance and Administration, he decided working for a "man of vision and vitality" was worth giving up retirement.

"As someone who enjoys working hard and doing what it takes to get a job done, I really appreciate the kind of person that Ernie Fletcher is and the kind of other hard-working, committed people he has brought into state government," said Turbyfill. "He has surrounded himself with talented people, both Democrats as well as Republicans, who share his commitment to making government a servant of the people and not the other way around.

"And the governor has impressed me not only with his plans for reshaping and revitalizing state government, but his work ethic in aggressively putting those plans into action," he said.

But one of those plans has come under fire. The Kentucky chapter of Common Cause has criticized Fletcher for increasing the salaries of cabinet secretaries at a time when the state is suffering large revenue shortfalls and when the new governor has instituted temporary hiring and salary freezes.

Turbyfill defends Fletcher, arguing that the bottom line will show the governor has cut the total amount of taxpayer dollars that go to the paychecks of cabinet secretaries.

"Before cabinet reorganization, there were 14 cabinets and each cabinet secretary made $105,000 or so a year. After reorganization, we have eight cabinets and each cabinet secretary makes about $125,000 a year. It's a substantial net decrease," he said.

Based on those figures, the total amount paid to cabinet secretaries in the Patton administration was nearly $1.5 million, while the total amount paid to cabinet secretaries in the Fletcher administration is about $1 million.

But money has not been an issue for most of the men and women joining the upper levels of the Fletcher administration, Turbyfill said.

"Most of these people don't need the money or could be making a lot more in the private sector. And a lot of them, including me, worked during the transition without pay," he said. "The motivation isn't money. It is to make Kentucky government a more efficient and effective structure and Kentucky a better place."

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