Monday, October 15, 2001

Ky. woman leads federal agency

The Associated Press

        KNIFLEY — When Hilda Legg was growing up in Adair County, she didn't go shopping on Saturdays.

        Those were the days to trudge down to the creek for more water than the family's shallow well could produce for doing the laundry.

        “We literally went down to the creek down below the house and loaded milk cans full of water and hauled it up to the house to use in the washtubs,” Ms. Legg recalled in an interview with The Courier-Journal. “I remember when we got running water in the house.”

        Now Ms. Legg, 49, holds a job with a lot of influence in bringing safe, treated water to the one in eight Kentuckians who don't have it, and in improving other rural utili ties, such as electricity, telephone and Internet service.

        Last month, the Senate confirmed President Bush's appointment of Ms. Legg as the first Kentuckian and first woman to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service. The $5-billion-a-year agency was created in 1994 from the old Rural Electrification Administration and the old Farmers Home Administration.

        It's the fourth federal job for Ms. Legg, who has close ties to two Kentucky Republicans in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers.

        Ms. Legg, a former teacher, worked in the Education Department in the Reagan administration, and was the No. 2 administrator of the Appalachian Regional Commission in the first Bush administration. She most recently ran the Somerset-based Center for Rural Development, a nonprofit institution founded by Mr. Rogers.

        “Someone's going to make decisions that affect the lives of folks who live in rural America, and I mean true rural America,” said Ms. Legg, referring to places such as her native southern Kentucky, where many people still drink from cisterns, wells and springs that are often contaminated. “I think knowing what it's like not to have water, knowing what it's like to haul water to wash your clothes in, somewhere along the line that hopefully will contribute to make me a better administrator of those programs.”

        Ms. Legg's agency is the biggest source of loans and grants for rural water in Kentucky.


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