LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Joe Hardesty, a local attorney and longtime Jefferson County Board of Education member, died suddenly Monday, his nephew confirmed.

Hardesty, 63, was a partner at the Stites & Harbison law firm and specialized in construction law, winning recognition as one of the top construction attorneys in the U.S. by the trade publication The Best Lawyers in America from 2009 through 2018. The publication named Hardesty the Louisville area’s best construction attorney in 2017 and 2018.

He graduated from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law in 1984 and started as an attorney with BellSouth in 1987 before joining Stites & Harbison in 1997.

Bob Connolly, chairman of Stites & Harbison, called Hardesty “an outstanding lawyer” who worked hard for his clients.

“Joe was a consummate team player, always cheerful, always asking how he could help, and willing to do whatever it took to get the job done – work long hours, do whatever’s necessary,” Connolly said. “You could always count on Joe.”

Hardesty, a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army following his graduation from West Point in 1976, was elected to the school board in 1990 and retired in 2012, representing District 4 in southwestern Jefferson County. He served as the school board’s chairman in 1997, 1998 and 2004 through 2008.

He also served on the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation’s board and was appointed to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees in 2013.

Retired Jefferson District Judge David Holton, Hardesty’s nephew by marriage, helped Hardesty win his first school board election in 1990.

Hardesty, he said, had young children of his own at the time and wanted to see public schools in Jefferson County be “as good as they could be.” He was a strong supporter of Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment plan and had a say in hiring three superintendents at the district during his time on the school board.

“He was the kind of man you’d like to see your sons grow up to be like,” Holton said.

Diane Porter, chair of the Jefferson County Board of Education who served with Hardesty for two years after her 2010 appointment, called Hardesty an “ultimate professional” who offered her advice and encouragement even after he retired from the school board.

Porter, who worked for JCPS during Hardesty’s time on the board, said she was “honored” to serve alongside him.

“He was committed to educational improvement in our district,” she said.

“He wanted opportunities for our students. One of the things that I appreciated as we had discussions in board meetings as we talked about various schools, he would always want to hear from the board member in that district to see what their thoughts were because he thought that they were more involved in knowing what was going on in their district, and I appreciated that from him.”

Hardesty is survived by his wife, Julie Lott Hardesty, and three children, John, Joshua and Kathryn Hardesty.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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