Didn’t Make the List

Ken Begley

I’M A SUCKER FOR those “10 best” lists. But are they accurate?

What if you had the best job in a poorly rated company? Would that be better than the worst job in a well-rated company? What if you move to a bad neighborhood in a well-rated city? Would that be better than an excellent neighborhood in a poorly rated community?

You get my point. Even among the worst, you can find some real gems.

Let’s say you’re pondering where to spend your golden years. You might have few connections in the community where you work. Maybe your children have moved far away. Perhaps you simply want to try something different—and maybe warmer. You might start looking at articles and YouTube videos for relocation recommendations, which will be based mainly on facts and figures.

My home state, Kentucky, never appears at the top of anyone’s list of recommended places. It seems to make the top 10 for all the wrong reasons. It shows us ahead on poverty, obesity, cancer and so on. Shoot, if I were looking from the outside, I wouldn’t want to live here, either.

My home is in Springfield, part of Washington County and in the center of the state. Springfield has a population of 2,846, according to the 2020 Census, while the county boasts 12,027 residents. Sounds a little Podunky, doesn’t it? Yet it’s one of those pearls that gets overlooked.

Springfield is 25 miles from Danville and 16 miles from Bardstown, both of which have won numerous national awards for best small towns in America. We’re not too far behind.

Within two miles or so of my house, there are numerous churches, two grocery stores, three dollar stores, several restaurants, a brand-new fire station, a new library, a city park and a new courthouse. A new facility to house our emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is going up as well. As you can tell, government services are good.

My mother is a healthy 96, who chooses to live in the same house that she’s lived in since 1962. She fell recently and couldn’t reach a phone, so she pressed the Life Alert button around her neck. Life Alert contacted the EMTs with information on how to get into the locked house, and then called me.

I was at her house in 10 minutes. The EMTs were there in five, and very gently and sweetly took care of her. She wasn’t hurt, but it felt like they were family, although this was the first time they’d met her.

There are never any traffic jams. It has that small-town vibe and is easily drivable for older folks like me.

My family physician is less than a mile away, and she’s extremely sharp. My eye doctor is less than two miles away. There’s one hospital nine miles from my house and an extremely large regional health center 25 miles away. Lexington and Louisville are within 50 miles. The main roads are excellent and seem to be constantly improving.

I don’t golf. But there’s a course less than four miles from my house. Another is nine miles away and a third is 16 miles away.

We have several factories, but no real pollution that I’m aware of. Jobs are plentiful. Folks are so nice that I know the store cashiers and my barber on a first-name basis.

We have a state-supported community college that was built just a little over a decade ago and is state-of-the-art. Our local Catholic grade school, St. Dominic Elementary, was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education in 2019.

Centre College, which is rated one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, is financially well-endowed and has won numerous awards. It’s within 25 miles of Springfield as well. Two nationally televised vice-presidential debates were held at the college, in 2000 and 2012.

We have a local theater group that puts on plays. You have all the horse events that Kentucky is famous for, plus the popular Bourbon Trail that winds its way around Springfield. We love to buy season tickets to Louisville’s Derby Dinner Theater each year. We see nine plays for a little over $500 for both my wife and me. It’s a great bargain.

Housing is cheap compared to the rest of the country. I live in a 2,300-square-foot home on one-and-a-half acres in one of the county’s nicest neighborhoods. We have four bedrooms and two baths, with a view from the front porch to die for. Yet I’d probably be lucky to get $350,000 for the place. All this and fiber optic internet as well.

Insurance tends to be higher than normal. But with a good credit score, it’s not as bad as it could be—and nothing like Florida. Property taxes are low and there’s a discount for the over-65 crowd.

But don’t take my word for it. A fellow named Leonard M. Spalding Jr. and his wife Susan built a house across the street from me. Leonard Spalding is the former president and CEO of Chase Global Mutual Funds—now J.P. Morgan Chase Mutual Funds. He returned to Springfield, which was his childhood home. His home is a lot bigger and nicer than mine, but it still cost a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere. Heck, even Senator Mitch McConnell comes out to visit Spalding when fundraising.

Another family that moved into the area is big-time movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his wife Linda. They have a farm about 19 miles away, in Bloomfield. They bought a lot of the little town of Bloomfield as well.

Linda Bruckheimer restored local buildings to their historical glory and opened some restaurants, as well as other businesses. Sometimes, the couple even bring well-known actors to eat at local rustic restaurants. I know they have more houses than just their Bloomfield residence. But amazingly, a rich couple like that could live anywhere and yet they chose Kentucky.

I think those are two votes you can count on for my area, which is surrounded by working farms, wildlife, beautiful nature, friendly people, low crime and no homeless that I know of, and just enough factories for some economic opportunity in the middle of the Bluegrass region. Finally, and drumroll please, our climate—with global warming—tends to have milder winters and warmer summers.

I’m not doing this to sell you on my area of the state. There are many other Springfields around the country that are also little treasures. If you go by the “10 best” lists and statewide statistics, you’d probably never find them. Every city and state has its own gems where you can live the good life, even if nobody has ranked them among the top 10.

Ken Begley has worked for the IRS and as an accountant, a college director of student financial aid and a newspaper columnist, and he also spent 42 years on active and reserve service with the U.S. Navy and Army. Now retired, Ken likes to spend his time with his family, especially his grandchildren, and as a volunteer with Kentucky’s Marion County Veterans Honor Guard performing last rites at military funerals. Check out Ken’s earlier articles.

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