Emerging Lane | Kentucky’s young professionals and creatives
At 34, Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball is the youngest female statewide elected official in the country. The Prestonsburg native earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law and has a lot to say about the state’s future.
TLR: As the 38th State Treasurer of Kentucky, you are the youngest statewide female elected official in the country. How does that make you feel?
AB: I hope that my position will inspire other women to pursue the things that they feel called to do. I hope it encourages more young women to get involved and assume leadership positions. So often we think that you have to wait until you are older, when your children are grown, or when you have retired, before you can do something of significance, and this is particularly true for young women. We need more young women to rise to the challenge and become leaders. Studies show that businesses and other organizations are more successful, more productive, and more civil when men and women work together. We need more women’s voices in Frankfort.
TLR: Your colleague, Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles, is the youngest of all statewide elected officials in the country. What do you think all of this record-setting youth says about the Kentucky?
AB: I think it says something very positive about Kentucky. It says that we have people who, at a young age, want to make a difference, serve their state, and bring energy and fresh ideas to old problems. Commissioner Quarles and I are old friends and former classmates, and I am very proud to serve alongside him in Frankfort. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two youngest male and female statewide officer holders in the United States ran on the platform of fiscal responsibility.
TLR: Your career so far has been marked by taking on tough subjects, like bankruptcy and juvenile delinquency. How do you think this uniquely prepared you to be the state treasurer?
AB: Prior to becoming state treasurer, I spent four years prosecuting child abuse cases in Prestonsburg. That experience taught me about the importance of protecting vulnerable people. I also developed a backbone and learned that there are times that you have to fight for what is right. After serving as a prosecutor, a buddy of mine from law school and I opened a practice in Pikeville focused primarily on bankruptcy law. I helped a lot of coal miners who had lost their jobs and teachers who were worried about their retirement. That experience deepened my desire to help people in need and has uniquely prepared me to have the skill set to do the job of State Treasurer.
TLR: What do you hope to do for all Kentuckians through your new post?
AB: I see where our money is going, and that gives me a unique awareness of the seriousness of our financial situation. I understand the necessity of getting our financial house in order. I will continue to do my part as a watchdog on our state’s money, and I intend to fight for sound fiscal policies on the various boards that I sit on.
TLR: What has been the most surprising to you about working in state government?
AB: One of the most surprising and encouraging things that I’ve seen is how many people come to Frankfort to advocate for positions that they believe in and the impact they can have in shaping good policy. I don’t think many people realize the influence that they can have by coming to Frankfort.
TLR: A mutual friend says there is a funny pencil story we need to hear about.
AB: When I was very young, I got an allowance of five dollars a week. I was very happy and felt like life was going exactly the way I wanted it to, until I turned nine years old. At that point, my parents came to me and said, “Allison, we have decided to stop giving you an allowance because giving you an allowance is only teaching you socialism.” True story. They told me that I had become spoiled and expected everything to be given to me. They were probably right, because my first reaction was to pout and show them all that I was still entitled to an allowance simply because I was a child in the family. After a while, it became apparent that my parents were serious, and if I ever wanted to buy toys or go to the movies again, I would have to figure out some way to earn money. That’s when I started my own business. I started Positive Pencils International (I was thinking very big), and sold pencils that had positive sayings on them like “I can do it” or “I’m a winner.” I sold them for 25 cents each or four for a dollar. The week that I started my pencil business, I sold pencils to everyone I could, and by the end of the week, I earned $200. I remember thinking, “Mom and Dad were right!” I suddenly felt that I could do anything if I just worked for it.