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VIProfile: Michael Buchanon

Story by Emily Robertson

For the past 29 years, Michael Buchanon has served as Warren County’s Judge Executive, but back when he reluctantly first decided to run for the public office in the 1990s, he figured he would only stay one or two terms. Now, as he’s recently handed off the position to the newly-elected Judge-Executive Doug Gorman, Buchanon feels that what he was able to accomplish during his time in office has made a difference for the people living and working in Warren County.

Born on a farm 20 miles out Cemetery Road in Allen County, Buchanon came from a large family, having 50 first cousins. His mother and father moved him, and his two sisters, to Bowling Green before Buchanon entered the third grade. He attended T.C. Cherry Elementary, graduating from Bowling Green High School and, later, Western Kentucky University. While he was at BGHS, he met the girl who would later become his wife, Ellen Deemer.

After college, Buchanon worked in business development and retail business. He and Ellen took over her family floral business, Deemer’s Florist, and the couple also owned Midtown Cards and Gifts, along with running a mail center for the post office and operating rental real estate. Buchanon became involved in volunteering with the chamber of commerce and was focused on economic development and promoting the community, but never thought about pursuing public office.

“At the chamber, we were discussing that the current Judge-Executive, Basil Griffin, was going to retire and we were looking for someone to run for the vacant seat,” Buchanon says. “I tried to talk two or three people I knew into running, but then people started telling me I should run. At the time, we had just helped Johnny Webb win the election for Mayor of Bowling Green. Johnny encouraged me to run for the position and my wife and father did as well. When you grow up in a community and make friends, you are interested in everyone prospering and that pushed me to decide to run.”

Buchanon would go on to successfully win his election, but originally planned to only spend a few years in the job. “I thought I would serve one or maybe two terms, but the more I worked in the position, the more I liked it,” Buchanon says. “It did cost me money each year to be away from my business, but the reward and gratification you get from feeling like you made a difference is so much more than the financial reward. I learned that things move slower in government and I would have two or three things I wanted to accomplishment, and by the end of my term I’d have those finished, but I had more things I wanted to do, so I would run again.”

During his 29 years in office, Buchanon witnessed quite a change in the area. One of his very first priorities was to stop the trend of people growing up and leaving Bowling Green for better opportunities elsewhere. Now, nearly three decades later, he believes that this first goal has been realized. “Now, people grow up here and stay or if they’ve moved to Nashville or elsewhere, they move back,” Buchanon says. “We’ve built a community that people want to live and work in and you can see the growth in how much our population has changed. We have a community that people want to live in.”

Buchanon’s initiatives and leadership can be a seen as a huge reason this shift has occurred locally. He is especially proud that the county has not raised taxes in 15 years, but citizens have been able to see vast improvements to water, sewer, transportation and fire departments and the clean up of nearly 1,000 open dumps. He says the sheriff’s department has grown from a staff of around 15 people to close to 100 employees helping keep the county safe. The Kentucky Transpark has dozens of new businesses with thousands of jobs and the downtown TIF program has infused $350 million into the area in the last 10 years, including a 4,500 seat minor-league baseball park to attract the minor-league baseball team, the Bowling Green Hot Rods. Also, Buchanon spearheaded 3 new park expansion projects which developed Phil Moore, Ephraim White and Michael O. Buchanon parks. He believes that all these improvements work together to increase the livability in the area.

“We’ve kept taxes low, our cost of living is low and we’ve worked to ensure safety. We have created spaces where families can spend time together. The number of children playing team sports has grown by twelve times from what it was, so children have activities to keep them engaged and out of trouble. Our local schools have begun to see success in high school sports because of the programs we offer early on,” Buchanon says. “Who wants to move his business or live in a community that doesn’t have these things? Out of 120 counties in Kentucky, only a dozen grow each year and the other 90% lose population. The old saying of ‘you either grow, or you die’ is absolutely true about a community and Warren County is growing.”

Now, as Mike Buchanon begins his next chapter of life, he looks forward to spending time with his family, his wife, his sons, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He also hopes to continue to travel and see even more cultures around the world. Back at home, he plans to be involved in real estate, and in workforce development and will work with The National Corvette Museum and SKYPAC boards to continue to build tourism and the quality of life in an area that he loves and served for so many years.

“I enjoyed serving every day. I loved getting things done for a vast number of people,” Buchanon says. “It gave me the opportunity to make a long-term difference for so many people in the region. It has a level of gratification that you can’t translate into anything monetary.”

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