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American litigator and Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said that the most important office was that of a private citizen.
Brad Lanham doesn't like to dabble in politics but he takes his position as a private citizen in Marion County seriously. So much so that he was recently named the Lebanon-Marion County Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Citizen.
According to Lanham, the award was completely unexpected.
"I thought you had to be older to get these awards," Lanham said, laughing. "But, then I realized. I am older. You're not as young as you think you are."
In all seriousness, being named "Outstanding Citizen" was unexpected for Lanham because he does things for the community out of the love he has for Marion County. He doesn't do it for the recognition.
"I don't think you ever do anything thinking you are going to get some award some day," he said.
Lanham, who was born and raised in Gravel Switch and now resides in Lebanon, has served his community in numerous capacities over the years.
He currently serves as a deacon at Lebanon Baptist Church. According to pastor Dr. David B. Whitlock, he has met very few people like Lanham.
"Not many people are as talented as Brad Lanham. Even fewer are willing to share their talent in service to others," Whitlock said. "In the 25 years I have served as a pastor, people like Brad Lanham have rarely crossed my path. When one like Brad Lanham does come my way, I can only stop and give thanks."
Whitlock said Lanham is the type of person that can dress with the best on Sunday but also fit in with the guys at the deli on Monday.
At Lebanon Baptist Church, Lanham does everything from helping with electrical problems to teaching Sunday school.
And, besides being a dependable deacon at the church, Lanham is just a good friend, Whitlock said.
"When my first wife was in the last stages of cancer, Brad and Debbie came by the hospital," he said. "Brad didn't say much. He didn't need to. He was there. When I remarried, Brad was there to celebrate... That's Brad. There when he is needed, to weep or smile, work or play, sing or pray... a rare find!"
In addition to serving his church, Lanham served as President of the Lebanon-Marion County Chamber of Commerce in 2007. As president of the Chamber, he also served for a year on the board of directors of the Marion County Industrial Foundation. Lanham said his involvement with the chamber and the industrial foundation has really opened his eyes to the inner workings of local commerce, business and industry.
"After you get involved you really start to see what is going on," he said. "It is almost like another world. When you just get up and go to work every day you don't see that."
A recent experience that really opened Lanham's eyes was his work during the 2008 election with the Marion County Citizens for Better Schools, which he served as president. He worked tirelessly to fully inform and educate the citizens of Marion County about the importance of its school system during the recallable nickel debate.
"During my 34 years in public education, I have worked with many exceptional community-minded citizens, but Brad Lanham would be at the very top of that list," Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum said. "He cares deeply about his community and is willing to give of his time, talent and treasure to improve the quality of life for all citizens. Brad has a strong desire to make a difference for others. His work on behalf of Marion County's children as the President of Marion County Citizens for Better Schools is a prime example."
According to Marcum, Lanham worked day and night for weeks to help inform the community of the need for additional revenue to improve school facilities for the children of Marion County. Although Lanham has no children in the Marion County school system, he is passionately concerned about the education of all children, the quality of life and economic prosperity of his community, Marcum said.
"Brad will consistently do what he believes is in the best interest of his community, even when his words and actions may not be the popular thing to say or do," he said.
But it's not all work and no play for Lanham.
Lanham took his love for music to new levels when he co-founded the Kentucky Fellowship of Musicians and helped initiate the first Heart of Kentucky Winterfest, which has now grown to be the Kentucky Bluegrass Music Kickoff.
Lanham said his love for music really took off when his mother asked him a simple question when he was in sixth grade. He remembers sitting in his home watching Hee Haw when his mother asked him if he would like to take guitar lessons. His answer was a resounding yes.
"It started as something little and turned into an absolute love for music," Lanham said.
But, he's taken that love for music and used it to help create a successful music festival in Marion County.
"Anybody can do just about anything if they take that first step and just do it," he said. "It's about making things more than just an idea."
Lanham said he wanted to see music make a comeback in Lebanon. With the community's historic roots in music and the infamous musicians who passed through Lebanon in the past, Lanham felt it was important to re-instill that musical heritage, which is what he's trying to do with the Kentucky Bluegrass Music Kickoff.
"Brad wants the community to be special," Lebanon Tourism Director and long-time friend Chris Hamilton said. "It's not enough to start something or work on an initiative that will improve the quality of life here. He goes the extra mile, taking leadership roles, working every angle and leaving no stone unturned. He is thorough and passionate and the community benefits from this. And, frankly, he's got a great demeanor. People feel good when they are around him and they are inspired by him. That pretty much makes him the total package as an outstanding citizen in this community."
In addition to serving in his church, with the chamber, the Kentucky Fellowship of Musicians and the Marion County Citizens for Better Schools, Lanham has also served as a volunteer for many years during Marion County Country Ham Days.
When he's not volunteering for the community he is busy being the co-owner and manager of Lanham Refrigeration, the father of three, and devoted husband to Debbie Lanham, who is his biggest fan.
"Brad's quiet humble manner has set a daily example to our three children of how to unselfishly do and think of others while most importantly not expecting anything in return for yourself," she said. "He takes pride in his honesty not only in his friendships but in business as well."
His faith, love for his community and the example he has set for his children are a few of the reasons why Debbie fell in love with him many years ago.
"I am a better person for having a man like Brad in my life," she said.
But it's his family that Lanham credits for helping him become the man that he is today. He was raised in a Christian home with a mother and father, which set a precedent, he said. That, along with his supportive wife and business partner/brother, Neil, have helped shape the person he has become.
And the love he has for his community continues to grow with each passing day.
"There isn't any place I can imagine being any better than Marion County," Lanham said.