A look back at Jeff Earlywine’s 41 years in public service: ‘Local government is where the rubber hits the road’

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After 17 years as the Boone County Administrator and 41 years in public service, Jeff Earlywine will hang his beloved hat and retire on July 31.

“Local government is the level that’s closest to the people,” Earlywine told LINK nky. “I think it’s the level where you are afforded the opportunity to have the greatest influence on people’s quality of life. Local government is where the rubber hits the road.”

Earlywine didn’t always know that he wanted to have a career in public service; he started out at Northern Kentucky University as an engineering major.

“Looking at my strengths, they were math and science, engineering,” he said. “But my junior year I got a job with a public planning agency and it was my first kind of contact in terms of exposure with local government and I really enjoyed that.”

Earlywine ended up changing his major to administration with an emphasis on local government. He was hired by Fort Thomas as an assistant to the city administrator, David Noran, in 1982 and two and a half years later, he became the city administrator.

“Looking back, I was really really fortunate to be around some really good elected officials,” he said. “The department heads really afforded a great opportunity for me to enjoy my 24 years with the city of Fort Thomas.”

Earlywine wasn’t looking to move careers, but in 2006 the same position, only in Boone County, opened up.

“A friend of mine was the county administrator there and he had just announced his retirement,” Earlywine said. “He called me one day and asked if I’d be interested in his position. I ended up having a conversation with Judge Gary Moore and we both decided it would potentially be a good fit, so I accepted the offer.”

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Earlywine started in June 2006 and hasn’t looked back since.

He notes he really enjoys working on regional issues as they’ve given him lots of different opportunities and exposure across Northern Kentucky.

“One of the first projects I worked on upon arrival was when we were trying to develop and design a major transportation project around the southeast area of the airport,” he said. “At the time, it was simply referred to as South Airfield Road and now it’s known as Arrow Parkway. It’s hard to imagine Boone County today without Aero Parkway. Now, that’s where Amazon comes in. It was an unusually large project for a county of our size.”

Earlywine said that in 2012 they finished the project and cut the ribbon.

“When we cut the ribbon, it was so gratifying to see a major project like that completed,” he said. “Public service is not only important, it’s a privilege. You are given an opportunity to deliver services that people rely on everyday. I saw that when I started the profession 41 years ago.”

He added that in the end, it all comes down to the fundamental things public service leaders have to do day in and day out that matter most.

“Safe streets, clean neighborhoods, good parks, good snow removal,” he added. “No matter what else you do, if you don’t do those things well you’re probably not going to be overly successful. All the other stuff we do, while it may be important, we better focus first and foremost on those mission critical services that our customers rely on everyday.”

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After his retirement, Earlywine said he is looking forward to slowing down and spending more time with his family, especially because he is a first-time grandparent to 4-week-old Avery Rose.

“I love what I do and I’ve enjoyed every moment,” he said. “It’s a big commitment of time and maybe with some better work-life balance I’ll be able to find some other things I love to do that I haven’t always been able to do.”

If there’s one thing Earlywine emphasizes, it’s how fortunate he’s been to work where he has.

“I’ve only worked in two organizations over 41 years,” he touted. “If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s picking out successful teams to be a part of.”

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