J Hampton

MADISONVILLE, Ky. (2/15/19) — Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton visited Madisonville Thursday morning to converse with Heritage Christian Academy students at Grapevine Baptist Church Family Life Center.

Around 50 children listened intently as Hampton spoke about her Air Force service in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. She explained her experience in the military was a mission to serve her country. Hampton told the kids she had a goal early in her life to become an astronaut, noting it was a long shot, however.

She joined the Air Force after college while in her late 20s, saying, “It was now or never.” Hampton was a computer systems officer and became a captain during her seven years of duty.

She is the first African-American to hold a state office in the commonwealth, and the third African-American woman to serve the office in the U.S.

“I can remember one lieutenant colonel who was always barking out things,” she said, referring to her time in the military. “I looked way younger than I was — I was in my early 30s — I probably looked like I was in my 20s. You should never assume anything by people’s looks.”

She believes the color of a person does not matter, noting her role models were not required to look like her growing up.

“I was the nerdy kid in school,” she told the students, showing off the Star Trek pin on her blazer.

The 61-year-old said she grew up poor in Detroit, and always liked to take things apart and put them back together, which eventually led her to obtain a college degree in engineering. She also loved computer programming classes in high school, back when computers were very large in size.

Hampton mentioned she was inspired by her mother, who was honest and hard-working despite dropping out of school after the eighth grade. She also upheld late Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“She set an example for us on basically how to live,” Hampton said of her mother. “She could stretch the dollar.”

While Hampton never planned to enter the field of politics, she told the students they just have to have the heart to serve. She moved to Kentucky from Syracuse, New York in 2003 after accepting a job offer, and began following the Tea Party Movement in 2009. The Bowling Green resident served as a plant manager, and lost her job in 2009.

“The day Matt called me to ask me to be his running mate, I was researching how to program apps without sitting in a classroom … I was actually interested in government and how it worked,” she said. “It’s a testament to what happens when you follow God. He has bigger plans … I would have been content programming.”

She turned down a job offer from Pres. Donald Trump shortly after he was elected, saying she did not want to abandon her lieutenant governor post due to all the positive feedback she received from parents and students about making a difference in their lives.

Hampton told students not to be shocked about changes related to their careers, and focus on their talents. She recommends students talk to teachers and adults to help them figure out what they want to be in life.

“I never talked to my guidance counselor to help me figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. “It would help if you at least get started doing something that you kind of like,” and build on it from there.

Hampton has chosen not to be Bevin’s running mate next term, and has no definite plans after her term at the end of the year.

She plans to continue her busy tour across the state to address two new topics including Youth Suicide and Emergency Preparedness among the amateur radio community. She is a licensed amateur radio operator and a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

“My final year is going to be just as busy as the first three,” Hampton said. “I’ve been active as lieutenant governor and I have a lot of things to ramp up … I’ll have a great Christmas and then think about what to do in January.”

SurfKY News

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