Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcher announces Commerce Cabinet Secretary

Press Release Date:  Friday, October 28, 2005  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Michael Goins
Jodi Whitaker

Parks Commissioner George Ward accepts appointment 

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today the appointment of George Ward as secretary of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet. 

Ward replaces Jim Host, who resigned October 14.  

“George Ward has a true passion for commerce in Kentucky, and he has shown that passion through his tireless efforts to improve Kentucky’s state parks,” Governor Fletcher said. “George’s knowledge and experience, paired with his tremendous leadership abilities, make him a perfect fit for this position. 

“Jim Host’s shoes will certainly be big ones to fill, but I am certain that George can tackle this challenge and prove to be a tremendous asset to the entire Commerce Cabinet.” 

Host called Governor Fletcher’s appointment a “terrific” one. 

“George Ward has illustrated his management skills by being the best parks commissioner the state has ever had,” Host said. “He has extremely great personnel skills, and he will immediately be able to pick up where I left off and continue to move the cabinet forward. He understands all the cabinet’s issues and programs. I look forward to volunteering my time to help George in any way possible as he assumes this position.” 

Ward has more then 25 years in the hotel management business and began working in various hotel jobs at the age of 16. He graduated from Cornell University’s famed School of Hotel Administration. Immediately after graduation in 1979 he began managing hotels.  

After being named Parks Commissioner in February 2004, Ward and then Commerce Secretary Jim Host set the department in a new direction that emphasized common-sense business principles, staff professionalism and customer service. 

Early on, Ward and his new management team developed five major department goals: to protect the natural environment and historic significance of parks, to ensure total visitor satisfaction, to develop staff professionalism, to appropriately maintain park buildings and recreational facilities, and to help make the parks system self sufficient by reducing the department’s $29 million annual operating deficit.

“I’m pleased about the progress that we have made toward reaching these goals,” Ward said. “I’m proud of how our new members of the Parks management team blended their private sector experience with the long-term parks experience of existing staff. Together we have improved our state parks and our customer service.” 

The parks system is currently in the midst of a $35 million capital improvement campaign. The money is being used for a wide variety of projects including renovation plans at parks like Cumberland Falls, which will begin this winter, and Greenbo Lake where a new amphitheatre is being built. Other improvements include new recreation equipment, new carpet, new drapes and bedspreads, historic preservation and numerous smaller upgrades. 

Under the leadership of Governor Fletcher and Commissioner Ward, state parks now buy beef and produce from Kentucky cattle producers and farmers, thereby keeping tax dollars in the state and expanding markets for local farmers. 

 “George is an excellent selection,” said Commerce Cabinet Deputy Secretary Derrick Ramsey. “He has demonstrated great leadership, integrity and character in his role as parks commissioner. I look forward to George’s continuing the efforts of Secretary Host and the course he set us on during his time as commerce secretary.”