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THANKS Region owes Pruitt a debt of gratitude

Best wishes and Godspeed to Hickman County Judge-Executive Greg Pruitt, who announced earlier this week that after more than a quarter-century in the judge-executive role, he will not seek re-election.

The departure is not because Pruitt has grown tired of the burden of leadership. He is leaving public life to concentrate on his battle against Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, also know as HSP. The disease is not fatal, but it progressively immobilizes those suffering from it from the waist down. Pruitt says several of his ancestors have had the disease, including his father, who is paralyzed from the waist down because of it.

It's a tragedy for people in the river counties, but Pruitt is philosophical about it. "I simply drew the unlucky straw," he says, "and I have it."

Pruitt says he leaves public life reluctantly, but he needs more time to do the physical therapy and make frequent trips to his doctors at Vanderbilt University in order to stave off progression of the disease.

"At this point, I've got to be able to do what will allow me to be able to be moving and productive," he says.

We wish him the best in those efforts and admire the courage he shows.

Pruitt's departure from public service is quite a blow to Hickman County and the surrounding river counties for whom he has been the most prominent voice for more than two decades. No Kentucky county - large or small - has had a more passionate or determined advocate for their community.

Pruitt has guided Hickman County and its population of about 5,000 people through some difficult times, as the region suffered through a series of plant closings and associated population declines. He exerted enormous personal effort to counter those trends with aggressive job recruitment and cooperation with neighboring counties to combine and streamline services.

Pruitt was a presence on any and every agency, panel, committee or think tank in his region that had the words "industrial development" anywhere in the mission statement. He chaired the Purchase Area Development District, West Kentucky Allied Services and the Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts. He served as administrative agent for the Hickman County Industrial Development Authority and on the Purchase Area Regional Industrial Development Authority. And that's just the short list.

Pruitt also worked overtime to assure newspapers like ours did not overlook or mischaracterize his home county.

Many a Paducah Sun reporter (and a few editors as well) have been schooled by Pruitt over the past couple of decades about the fact that Clinton is the county seat of Hickman County, and that that other city, Hickman, isn't even in Hickman County; it's in Fulton County.

Earlier in his life, Pruitt also survived the misfortune of being a law school classmate of the editor and publisher of this newspaper, who enjoyed his friendship and holds him in highest regard.

The region owes Judge-Executive Pruitt a tall helping of gratitude for his service. We wish the best for him.

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