FRANKFORT – As a Floyd County eighth-grader in 1964, Greg Stumbo was elected Speaker of the House in a Youth Assembly meeting in the state Capitol.
At age 57 Wednesday, Stumbo took the gavel as the Speaker of the House in Kentucky’s 2009 General Assembly to thunderous applause and cheers.
Fresh from his narrow victory Tuesday in unseating Jody Richards of Bowling Green as the top leader in the state House, Stumbo asked “for all your help” in his first speech as speaker to the 100-member body.
He said Kentucky is in “an economic crisis” which will require hard work from all legislators to address.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he has had “a good working relationship” with Stumbo and wants to continue that.
Williams also expressed sympathy to Richards, who was ousted as Kentucky’s longest serving House speaker. He had held the position since 1995.
“It’s not the way he wanted to go out,” Williams said of Richards.
But Williams, who has been Senate president since 2000, said legislative leaders should realize “all of us are here temporarily.” He added that he can see the Frankfort cemetery from his Capitol Annex office.
With his wife, Mary Karen Stumbo, and their daughter, Cassidy, at his side, Stumbo took the oath of office from Floyd Circuit Judge John David Caudill in the House chamber.
Stumbo’s daughter, Morgan Stumbo-Kidd, held a Bible for the ceremony that state Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, had given to Stumbo years ago. Also present was Stumbo’s granddaughter, Ava Kidd.
In his first speech, Stumbo recalled former speakers he has known in his lengthy legislative experience. He joined the House in 1980 and left it to be state attorney general from 2003 to 2007.
Stumbo especially noted the 14 years his predecessor served as speaker. The chamber then gave two lengthy standing ovations to Richards, who may be in line for an appointment to the powerful House budget committee.
Stumbo’s first job with other House Democratic leaders will be to appoint committee chairmanships and membership.
Asked if Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, is out as chairman of the House budget committee, Stumbo said, “Not yet.
Moberly backed Richards instead of Stumbo in the contentious race for House speaker.
Stumbo quickly added that the appointments will be finalized this week.
With three of the five House Democratic leaders now from Eastern Kentucky, Stumbo was asked if representatives from the area will get committee chairmanships.
He said leadership will “spread the distribution of authority and responsibility as equitably as we possibly can.”
Stumbo also said he tried not to promise chairmanships in his successful campaign to be elected speaker.