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Making a Difference: Russell Coleman

For All Kentuckians

As a boy growing up in Western Kentucky, Russell Coleman dreamed of being an FBI agent —  perhaps an audacious dream, he admits, for a kid from a modest background in a rural area.

But Coleman, now an attorney with Frost Brown Todd in Louisville, did indeed realize his childhood dream, spending five years with the Bureau in the Indianapolis field office and in Washington.

“I wanted to be an FBI Special Agent since I was a kid in elementary school out near Yellow Creek where Wendell Ford grew up in Daviess County,” said Coleman, who now lives in Louisville with his wife, Ashley, and their two children, Annie and Clay.

“I came across these old black-and-white G-Man books that were in the library. When I probably should have been reading Berenstain Bears, I was reading about J. Edgar Hoover,” he recalled.

And the magna cum laude graduate of the University of Kentucky gives KET credit for contributing to his intellectual curiosity by offering him broader horizons, which propelled him to follow his dreams.

“As Kentuckians we can have the best of both worlds. We can live in a place like Logan County — a beautiful place, great people — and still have access to content. KET has leveled that playing field: you can live in a wonderful place but yet feel part of the broader world,” he said.

“Because of that mechanism, of keeping you included and engaged, it helps fuel the fire that a kid from a very rural area, from a manufacturing background, could become an FBI Special Agent.”

Coleman — as a former employee of the Justice Department under Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft, as an FBI agent, and later, as legal counsel to Sen. Mitch McConnell — says that KET’s exceptional public affairs programs are a “lifeline” for Kentuckians in the nation’s capital.

“For those who are there serving the Commonwealth, KET provides a way to stay connected to what is actually occurring in the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Weekly, we know that Kentucky Tonight and Comment on Kentucky are ‘must-watch’ to stay plugged in. For those in Washington, and in Frankfort, there’s finite time. And we want to invest that time wisely — in a substantive mechanism — and KET provides that.”

Further, Coleman says, KET is vital for all Kentuckians, connecting the disparate regions of the state and helping it function as a whole.

“What KET does, whether you’re in Logan County or Lexington, you feel relevant as a Kentuckian. The level of coverage, the level of engagement you are afforded. Absent KET, I don’t think there is a comparable source out there that bridges those gaps.”

KET’s public affairs lineup, Coleman maintains, is an oasis for those interested in meaningful public debate.

“The issues of the day are discussed with the relevant players with moderation that is as prepared and professional as anything in journalism,” he said.

“At a time when public-affairs programs involve screaming from the right and the left, KET provides a great platform for not only providing a civil degree of discourse but one that can be more substantive.”

While a serious spinal tumor ended his career with the FBI, Coleman continues his keen interest in criminal justice issues.

He particularly focuses on the critical problem of opioid addiction now facing both Kentucky and the nation — an issue KET has deeply addressed on its public affairs programs, particularly Connections with Renee Shaw and Health Three60. KET’s coverage continues in a documentary airing in February.

“I applaud KET for addressing the single most significant public-health and law-enforcement challenge to our Commonwealth and our kids: the opiate addiction crisis. It’s not comfortable to talk about … but it’s a Kentucky issue and it affects every family in the state.”