Larry Begley sits on chairs with young students in a classroom, talking to them.

New Bourbon County Superintendent Larry Begley chats with students at Cane Ridge Elementary School on July 7. Begley said doesn’t just want school to be a part of students’ lives, but a hub and cornerstone of the community. Photo by Toni Konz Tatman, Kentucky Department of Education

It was an encounter with a high school principal that inspired Bourbon County’s new superintendent to want to pursue a career in education.

Larry Begley grew up in Hazard, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, as a coal miner’s son. After his father was laid off, he remembers his principal at Hazard High School, Harold Combs, coming up to him in the hallway to ask him how his family was doing and if there was anything they needed during this difficult time.

“The interactions that he had and the impact that he had on people’s lives, everybody just respected and thoroughly appreciated because it didn’t matter who you were, it didn’t matter where you came from, he was there to truly help people,” said Begley.

That moment of kindness stuck with Begley, but his road to becoming a superintendent was not a straightforward path. He initially planned to go into law enforcement before realizing his true calling was in the classroom.

“[The] people that I respected the most and that have had an impact on my life were teachers,” he said.

Starting out as a special education teacher in Floyd County, Begley gradually moved up the ladder into administration, and eventually took the chance to move to Logan County and assume the role of superintendent for the Russellville Independent School District. Now, he is moving from his position in Russellville to Bourbon County, a school district he says has it all.

“There is no job or opportunity that is not present right here in Bourbon County, and Central Kentucky for that matter,” said Begley. “So every child that we touch every day, we know that they have an opportunity to do it right here.”

As he steps into his new role, Begley wants to be seen as someone who listens and is democratic, but also a “sound decision-maker” when the district needs direction. He said he doesn’t see himself as just a leader, but also a resource to teachers, administrators and students alike.

He doesn’t just want school to be a part of students’ lives, but a hub and cornerstone of the community. Begley wants Bourbon County to be “the place where kids want to go, where parents want to send their kids and where people want to work.”

Ultimately, Begley hopes his passion for teaching and education is infectious, encouraging others to get into the field. Although the profession can be difficult, he said it is rewarding like no other.

“I see these young kids that I may have met when they were 7 or 8 years old, now becoming great citizens and having families of their own,” he said. “I love that.”

That moment of kindness his principal showed him decades ago is still a motivation for Begley. After all, what he really hopes is to make the same impact his former principal made on him.

“If anybody could ever remember me in the same light I remember Harold Combs, that would be pretty special,” he said.