Quick Takes

Harvey to retire as Justice and Public Safety Cabinet secretary

By: - December 7, 2023 4:27 pm

Kerry Harvey, secretary of Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, speaks to a legislative committee. (Screenshot)

Kerry Harvey, the secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, will retire at the end of January. 

Gov. Andy Beshear, who was recently reelected, made the announcement during his weekly press conference Thursday. The governor thanked Harvey for his service and added that Harvey’s decision was “his choice and his choice alone.” 

“He has been a tremendous asset to our team, and he has taken every challenge head on,” Beshear said. “He has been a true public servant in so many different roles, and he’s made Kentucky a better place to call home during his career. No one deserves retirement more than someone who from Day One has worked for our people. It’s always difficult to lose someone on your team who brings creative solutions.”

In a statement, Harvey called it an honor to serve Kentucky as the secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. 

“I have been blessed to work with an executive team comprised of talented, mission-oriented people who work hard every day for the people of Kentucky and who are tasked with meeting some of the most difficult challenges facing our society,” Harvey said. “It has been a special privilege to serve with the more than 7,000 men and women of the cabinet and I’m proud to be associated with their work.”

Harvey added that the commonwealth “has made great advances under the leadership of Governor Beshear and Lt. Governor Coleman, and I’m sure the best is yet to come.” He said working with the Beshear administration was a career highlight for him.

Harvey was appointed by Beshear in 2021, along with Vicki Reed, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner. Reed recently announced her resignation, which is effective Jan. 1. 

Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly have been critical of both Harvey and Reed, calling for a “change in leadership” during the 2023 regular session. Before that, reports of violence in Kentucky’s juvenile justice system regularly made headlines, including a riot in Adair County during which a girl in state custody was allegedly sexually assaulted and employees were attacked at a youth detention center in Warren County. The Department of Juvenile Justice has also faced persistent staffing issues

Harvey was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky between 2010 and 2017. In that role, Harvey created the Overdose Prosecution Initiative to combat the opioid epidemic in Kentucky.

Morgan Hall, the communications director of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said Harvey’s retirement will be effective Feb. 1.

“His leadership has been instrumental in expanding reentry services, advocating for raises for public safety officers, implementing positive changes to the juvenile justice system, supporting law enforcement and creating more secure facilities for those in state custody.”

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.