Heather French Henry to Replace Ken Lucas as State Veterans Commissioner
Heather French Henry, the former Miss America and wife of former Lt. Governor Steve Henry will be the nexy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) replacing former Boone County Judge-Executive and Northern Kentucky Congressman Ken Lucas.
Governor Steve Beshear made the announcement Friday.
Lucas will oversee the completion of the construction of the state's fourth veterans nursing home in Radcliff. He was appointed Commissioner in February 2009.
“Commissioner Lucas has done an outstanding job these last five years working with my administration and the veterans community across Kentucky,” Beshear said in a news release. “I am pleased he will continue his service to the Commonwealth on a part-time basis and oversee the completion of our fourth veterans nursing home, in Radcliff. He has worked tirelessly for our veterans on this project from its very beginning, and I’m glad he’ll see it through to its opening.”
The Governor said his appointment of Henry is part of his ongoing commitment to help Kentucky veterans and their families.
“Heather is highly motivated and has vast experience assisting and creating programs for veterans throughout the Commonwealth and the nation,” Gov. Beshear said. “As the department’s new commissioner, she will continue our mission to raise awareness and offer services to our veterans.”
Henry, a longtime advocate for veterans affairs, started the Heather French Foundation for Veterans in December 1999, shortly after being crowned Miss America 2000 in September 1999. Her foundation partners with public and private organizations to assist veterans and their families.
Henry, who will start as commissioner July 1, has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work and advocacy on behalf of veteran’s issues. These include: the Patriot Award from USA Cares; the Americanism Award from Veterans of Foreign Wars; the Humanitarian Award from AMVETS; the American Patriot Award from NCOA (Non-Commissioned Officers Association) and the Martha Washington Spirit Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Ladies Auxiliary.
In 2001, the U.S. Congress passed the Heather French Henry Homeless Veterans Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation focusing on the eradication of homelessness among veterans nationwide, especially homeless female veterans.
“I greatly appreciate Gov. Beshear’s confidence in my experience as a national veterans advocate and look forward to continuing my work as the commissioner to serve the veterans of the Commonwealth and their families,” Henry said. “Honoring our veterans has been and will always be my life’s mission, and I am honored that I can serve them in this way.”
Henry has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.
As commissioner, Henry will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department, as well as the coordination of eighteen statewide field office locations, health care outreach and cemetery services.
Lucas joined the Air Force shortly after his graduation from the University of Kentucky. During his 12-year career – first in the Air Force and then the Air National Guard – he maintained a reputation as a first-class pilot, eventually attaining the rank of major.
He served the people of Boone County as county judge-executive from 1992-1998. He was elected in 1998 to represent Kentucky’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served his northern Kentucky constituents for three terms based on his decision to “term limit” himself.
“The Governor made an outstanding decision in choosing Heather,” Commissioner Lucas said. “Over the years, as a member of Congress, I worked with her on numerous veterans issues. I know firsthand she is passionate and committed to making the lives of our heroes better. I predict she will take our department to new heights to the benefit of our Kentucky veterans.”
Construction on the Radcliff Veterans Center began in July 2013; the facility is scheduled to open in September 2015 providing 120 beds to veterans, in addition to the more than 500 beds at the existing facilities. The state’s other centers are the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, the Paul Patton Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center in Hazard and the Joseph “Eddie” Ballard Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson.
Photo: Heather French Henry via her Twitter page