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14th of August

Monticello, Small Town, USA


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You might’ve seen this post earlier in the week, by Nick James of RoadSnacks, claiming “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky.”

Before I dip into this topic too quickly, I do want to point out that RoadSnacks does put this disclaimer below their article’s headline: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.

So this is me not freaking out. But, the old adage: ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’ never sat well with me. Did it you?

Let me take the topic itself, and more specifically #1 on the list of these Top 10 “worst” cities: Monticello.

Have you been there?

It receives these comments from the RoadSnacks writer:

 

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  • “Population: 6,197
  • When you’re looking at science and data, Monticello is the worst place you can live in Kentucky. Let’s see why.
  • The unemployment rate in Monticello is a sky high 11.4%, which is the 2nd highest in the state. Only folks in Middlesborough, which are unemployed at a 13.1% clip have it worse. Ouch.
  • The average income in Monticello is $20,500. That means 34% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 40 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.
  • Monticello is located in the southern part of the state, two hours east of Bowling Green. Unless you like to fish, there really isn’t much to do out this way.”

And he utilized the criteria below to form this hypothesis about Monticello( and 9 other cities) in the state of Kentucky:

How we crunched the numbers

“We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible…

  • Population Density (The lower the worse – meaning there’s less to do for indoor entertainment)
  • Highest Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • High Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (Low expenditures per student and high Student Teacher Ratio)”

 

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Just like the Everlasting Gobstopper machine in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as the machine comes to life and makes that funny noise…Voila! Here is the list they formed at RoadSnacks:

  1. Monticello
  2. Mayfield
  3. Stanton
  4. Flemingsburg
  5. Mount Vernon
  6. Prestonsburg
  7. Campbellsville
  8. Barbourville
  9. Leitchfield
  10. Grayson

 

To put it simply: it hurts. There’s a lot of connection here for me and my hometown region. It’s hard for me to remain objective. I do admit it’s an economy that STRUGGLES and added business and industry would really help those seeking jobs. And like Monticello, I’ve been to every other city on this list, and I’ve seen (and drawn) comparisons for myself.

James tries to cushion his painful report stating:

Now hold on there. Before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small town America, that’s not the case. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and number of fried chicken joints), there are far better options in the state for making a place home.

 

And my response is simply: While you can’t measure it–beauty, friendliness, and, well, I guess you can measure fried chicken establishments, it doesn’t mean these components don’t make a place less than say a city offering the Mall of America or 23 different Chuck E. Cheese franchises around town.

A place is just a place without people living…breathing…making memories in it. So, infotainment or not, I must always argue against places solely for their large bits of industry, their attractions, and conveniences. If these stories held weight, people would all congregate in NYC, L.A., and Chicago. Wait…I admit many are already doing this. (NYC has seen record numbers in the past 2-3 years in regards to population booms.) But, I still cling to the phrase: bigger isn’t always better.

 

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Small town life is simple. Relaxing. James mentions fishing as the only opportunity in Monticello. Well, yes. Lake Cumberland is a place to fish. It’s one of the largest man-made lakes in the country! But, there’s more. Often these infotainment bits are written by individuals who’ve never left their industry hubs and traveled to said places.

Where was this story compiled? Durham, NC. Home of the South’s only “pseudo ivy” school. It’s comfy. Convenient. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that many jobs? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean every city should mimic the Big 3.

I currently live in Chattanooga. Yes. The one with the tragic shootings recently. But…it’s still a beautiful town. The people (by and large) are kind, soft-spoken, and these numbers aren’t numeric here either. And, I know it would rank higher than towns like Monticello, because of population density and other factors.

But…should we just move from Eastern Kentucky (and small, poor towns) entirely like this guy suggests?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Maybe it’s too near and dear to my heart. But, I can’t just let infotainment creep up onto my Facebook feed, tell me not-so-subtly that my hometown stinks,…and is the biggest stinker of them all. Can I?

I’ve written before about small independent schools closing, including Monticello Independent a few years ago. And, I’ve tried to stand by my convictions supporting local economies, jobs, industry, in recent years.

Simply put: infotainment tidbits shouldn’t be our only precursor to forming an opinion, making an uneducated guess.

My solution: go visit the Bottom 10. Bring a notepad. Stay for a bit. (If we can remove the big city blinders, or, “rose-colored glasses” in my case, we might find that people are still people no matter what the zip code. No matter what the smartphone plan. No matter the square footage of their home.)

Monticello exists because of you. Because of me. A place with immeasurable, intrinsic warmth. People like Mayor Jeffrey Edwards, the Wayne County EMS, the City Clerk’s Office, City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Police, Fire, and Health Departments all working to make a difference. To make it better collectively.

Mission: God loves. Therefore, we love. No matter where we live.

We say ‘Thanks’ to all those who made these 10 towns what they were when they were first formed. And to those still fighting to make them great today, we say, “Keep fighting.”

 

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4 Comments
  • Well said Brian. Monticello is not the worst city in Kentucky by far. We have a lot of things that bigger towns don’t have. We have one of the nicest little parks in the state, we also have a great community center that has many different activities being the Aspire Center. We have Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, Kroger, Save A Lot, Sears, Goodys, Tractor Supply, Rite Aid, Farmers Co-op and many other businesses that many cities do not have. We have many fast food restaurants, lots more than towns our size in other places have. We have Papa Johns, Little Caesars, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, Long Johns, Sonic, Huddle House and two Subways. We have four different banks with 8 different locations in Monticello. We have a nice steakhouse and Mexican Restaurant in town. We have a Best Western motel. Our city has great doctors and a very nice little hospital. We have a wonderful school system. We have four different dollar stores in town. I could go on listing what our town has that lots of town in Kentucky does not have. But this guy making the list has made his own criteria so that certain towns fall in his list. I didn’t get upset with the list. I actually laughed about it. Anyone to think that Monticello is the worst town in the state has to hold a grudge for some reason. Maybe a girl in college from here broke his heart, maybe he got a beaten by Wayne County in some sport, maybe he was not hired for a job here(if so I am glad he wasn’t). Anyways, I am proud of my town and proud to be from Monticello. And that’s all I have to say about that.

    • Todd,
      Love your feedback. You really gave a nice summary of Monticello offerings for family, community! I look forward to seeing how Monticello will continue to grow. Somerset is booming just up the road. And, the list was laughable in so many ways regarding ‘worst’ values. I was in town this past weekend, and I can say, I haven’t seen that many people visiting in a long while. Pray the community keeps loving on one another. Some of the best people in the world live in 42633. (I’m biased, but I know others will feel the exact same way, if they visit.) Thanks for your words! Write anytime

  • Well said! I have lived all over the world (both in big cities and small towns – here in the U.S. and overseas) There are pros and cons to anything but for me, it is the people, not the place, that makes it special and noteworthy.

    Truthfully, I used to have the mindset that the more “stuff” a place had to offer, the more exciting and worthwhile it was. But the longer I live and the more of life I experience, I have realized that it doesn’t really matter where you are or what you’re doing, but who you’re with.

    Monticello is dear to my heart for many reasons. So many memories have been formed there. And I think it deserves more credit than this author gives. Why would folks from out of town travel hundreds of miles to vacation there and enjoy the beautiful Lake Cumberland if it was so bad? (Yes, I’m referring to the “Buckeye Armada”. )

    I think this guy needs to go back to Monticello and the others on this list and take a second look. He clearly missed the beauty and wonder to be found. The sunsets alone make it a great place to be.

    Hometown pride for life! 🙂

    • Love the comments, Leah!

      Just reading the words and thinking about the 100s of miles traveled to be in a town, this town of 6,000, made me smile.

      It’s worth it. If it was so bad, no one would ever visit. Family, friends, still live there. It’s growing as Mike alluded to on the Facebook post.

      May it continue to grow in number (but also in kindness). 🙂

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