Louisville state senator becomes first African-American elected to leadership in KY legislature
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A state lawmaker from Louisville has made history.
Sen. Gerald Neal is the first African-American ever elected to a leadership position in Kentucky's General Assembly.
Democrats elected Neal as their caucus chair on Monday, breaking new ground for African-Americans at the State Capitol.
The day after his election, Neal attended a concert in the Capitol Rotunda by Kentucky's historically black university, Kentucky State.
He looked on, in his signature bowtie, as a man who just made history himself.
"Someone else could have done this as opposed to myself. I just happened to be here at this time and I'm honored," said Neal.
Neal is the first African-American ever elected to a leadership post in either the state Senate or the House.
"I'm not quite sure what it means for me, personally," said Neal. "But I think what it says for the General Assembly is that it's just one step forward.
Neal will help lead a shrinking minority of Democrats in the Senate.
He says his new role is to make sure issues important to Democrats are brought to the table, such as raising the minimum wage.
"I think that we have an obligation to continually raise those issues that we think are important to the people of the Commonwealth. We will be doing that, and we will be doing that aggressively," he said.
"I have a great deal of respect for him. We've become friends. He even got me to wear a bowtie last year," said Sen. Damon Thayer, the Majority Floor Leader.
The Republican from Georgetown says he looks forward to working with Neal.
"I hope we can find some common ground where we can work together on some issues. And when we don't, we can disagree agreeably," said Thayer.
"We should always leave the door open for discussion, and we should always think in terms of the people of the Commonwealth," said Neal.
For Neal, the leadership post comes after 25 years of work in the Senate. But he prefers to look ahead.
"So when I look at it, I sort of look at it like, boy we got a lot to do," Neal said.
Neal says what may be just as important is that his election gives Louisville and Jefferson Co. another strong voice in Frankfort.
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