Blanton leaves UK for Frankfort

Jay Blanton, head of UK public relations, announced late last week that he is leaving UK to become communications director for Gov. Steve Beshear.

Blanton, 40, said his departure is something he has been considering since before Beshear was elected in November.

“I’ve always had an interest in politics and I’ve been given the chance to work in something I love,” Blanton said. “I am taking this position for a large part because I have a lot of respect for Beshear. I think he is a man of real intellect and real commitment.”

Blanton replaces Dick Brown, who will become spokesman for the cabinets of Energy and Environment and Public Protection and Labor.

“Jay brings a unique set of talents to a position like this,” said Beshear in an e-mail to the Kernel. “He’s not only got a communications background, he’s a person with a lot of background in politics.”

Blanton said recent budget cuts at UK, including many for faculty raises, had nothing to do with his decision to leave his position at the university.

“If you know anything about state government, you know budget cuts at the state level, if possible, have been even larger than ones at UK,” Blanton said. “We’re living in challenging economic times and we’re all suffering.”

Blanton, who has worked at UK for almost 4 years, said he will miss his work at the university.

“I love UK, I have loved every moment at this university and with (UK) President (Lee) Todd,” Blanton said. “And it will be hard to leave my alma mater, especially at a time when this university is aspiring to national prominence, something the state really needs it to do.”

Tom Harris, associate vice president of external affairs, will be in charge of replacing Blanton and will be making a decision regarding how to go about filling the position in the next few days.

In the meantime, Blanton’s responsibilities at UK will be divided among three of his former deputies: Kelly Bozeman will handle marketing, Amanda Nelson will be in charge of the medical campus and hospital and Kathy Johnson will handle main campus, according to the office of public relations.

“In the interim, we are just going to do our best to continue day to day work,” Johnson said.

Blanton said he is confident the university will be in good hands with these “three very capable individuals.”

His wife, Carla Blanton, served as one of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s communications directors but left her position during the state hiring investigation.