Sunday, January 09, 2000

Nonsurveyor finds success in board, club




BY KAREN SAMPLES
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kenton County's former surveyor, who never knew much about surveys, is making better use of his talents these days.

        Newport's former mayor is still considering a return to the fray. And the Fort Wright woman who befriended her carpenter, only to see him charged with several rapes, is now dealing with his conviction.

        I called these people and others to see how the new year finds them.

        • Hi-Ho Williams! Jimmy Williams lost his 1998 reelection bid for Kenton County surveyor to a man who happened to be a real surveyor. Since then, the effervescent 40-year-old has:

        • Been appointed to the disabilities advisory board for the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky. Mr. Williams has a slight mental disability — he calls himself a slow learner — and he rides the bus everywhere, so disabled riders will be well-represented.

        • Been named vice-president of the Democratic Club of Kenton County.

        • Mourned the recent death of Clayton Moore, the actor who played the Lone Ranger.

        “He'll always be immortal in our hearts,” Mr. Williams says.

        • To run, or not to run? Johnny “TV” Peluso, 76, was mayor of Newport twice in the '60s and '70s. An old-style political operator, he was beloved for helping the poor but also imprisoned in 1985 for defrauding the government.

        Mr. Peluso says he's still contemplating a run for mayor. The filing deadline is Jan. 25, and so far only current mayor Tom Guidugli is on the ballot.

        Much will depend on a doctor's assessment of his health, Mr. Peluso says. On Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, a cement truck plowed into his vehicle, he says. Fortunately, he was wearing a seatbelt and ended up with only a compressed spine.

        • The charming carpenter: A Fort Wright couple's carpenter has been revealed in court as a Jekyll and Hyde.

        Howard and Michelle Myers hired Franklin “Buddy” Roark Jr. in 1998 and were charmed by his polite manner and skilled work. But around the same time, rapes were occurring in nearby communities. Unbeknownst to the Myerses, Mr. Roark had spent much of his adulthood in prison.

        Last month, he was sentenced to life in prison for a 1997 robbery, burglary and sexual assault in Campbell County. Now he's awaiting trial in a Boone County rape case.

        Mr. Roark insists on his innocence. He has called the Myerses from jail and sent them holiday cards.

        Fed up, Mr. Myers has ended his contact with the inmate. His wife says she's still grappling with the spiritual question. “Do I say, "This person is worthless,' or do I say, "This person has some value?'” she says.

        • Disabled funding proposed: Good news: Gov. Paul Patton is proposing an extra $12 million over two years to provide more services for the disabled.

        Northern Kentuckians have campaigned for change since last year, when an elderly Fort Wright man killed himself and his son, who had Down syndrome. Elmer Dedden was despondent over the death of his wife and worried that his son would be helpless without him.

        The extra state funding, expected to easily pass the legislature this spring, will bring an extra $40 million in federal dollars to the state.

        • Cat adoption increases: The Kenton County Animal Shelter has seen its first improvement in cat adoption rates in 14 years. For that long, the rate had hovered around 13 percent, with the shelter forced to euthanize theremaining animals. For 1999, the adoption rate was 25 percent, shelter director Aline Summe says.

        Just as positive, the shelter now has a policy of sterilizing all cats before they can be taken home. To adopt a pet, call 356-7400.

        Karen Samples is Kentucky columnist for the Enquirer. Her column appears Thursdays and Sundays. She can be reached at 578-5584, or by e-mail at kasamples@yahoo.com.