A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown, who brought a customer-service focus to the office, has died


By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown has died.

Brown (file photo).

Brown was found dead in his home Friday evening by first responders answering a call for a welfare check.

He had been speaking with a friend on the phone and it disconnected when Brown suffered an apparent medical problem.

Boone County Coroner Missy Rittinger determined Brown, 53, died as a result of a history of medical problems.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement Friday night:

On behalf of Sheriff Michael A. Helmig and the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, we express our deepest condolences to Kenny Brown’s loved ones tonight. Boone County lost a great man and public servant this evening.

On Friday, March 8, 2019 at approximately 5:20 p.m. first responders were called to the Florence, Kentucky home of Boone County Clerk Kenneth “Kenny” Brown for a check–the-welfare call after a friend, who had been on the phone earlier with Brown, had been disconnected due to what was suspected to be a medical problem.

As there was no answer at the door, entry to Brown’s home was made through an unsecured window whereupon they located Brown inside deceased from apparent natural causes. Boone County Coroner Missy Rittinger responded and determined Brown, 53 died as a result of a history of medical issues.

Kenny is recognized in Boone County as an innovator and true conservative who worked tirelessly to improve and expand the Clerk’s Office services. Funeral arrangements have not been completed as of this writing.

Brown, a larger-than-life personality, was a student of Kentucky history and was especially proud of his Boone County heritage. He played football for Boone County High School and the University of Kentucky.

Brown was widely respected in conservative political circles for his views on individual freedoms and limited government. He is shown here with Kentucky Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton as she endorsed his candidacy for reelection last year (file photo).

During election season, he handed out campaign refrigerator magnets with the UK football schedule on them.

Brown had experienced a series of health problems in recent years. He suffered a heart attack in November of last year, on election night, after being elected to his third term with 70 percent of the vote.

The Boone County Fiscal Court also issued a statement expressing its condolences.

“Our hearts are saddened to hear the tragic news about the passing of County Clerk, Kenny Brown. Our thoughts and prayers go out Kenny’s family, his dedicated staff, and friends during this difficult time.” Judge/Executive Gary Moore, County Commissioners Cathy Flaig, Charlie Kenner, and Jesse Brewer. 

State Sen. John Schickel, R-union, a longtime friend of Brown’s, recalls the day in the mid 90s when he, Brown and former Boone County Jailer Ed Prindle switched political parties.

“We all walked down to the County Clerk’s office and switched on the same day,” Schickel said.

Schickel recalls many other fond memories from his relationship with Brown, both personally and politically.

Sen. Schickel

“It’s a huge loss for Boone County because Kenny was a very unique individual, and I mean that in good way,” Schickel said. “He had an extraordinary mind.”

Brown was also a deputy jailer in Boone County, in charge of the work detail, but left that position to work for Cincinnati Bell.

Brown threw his hat in the political ring as a candidate for Boone County Clerk in 2010, campaigning on a pledge to run the office similar to a private-sector business, with a focus on customer service.

He followed through on that promise through a series of innovations designed to make it easier for the public to access the County Clerk’s services.

He oversaw the promotion and growth of an online license tag renewal and an automated 24/7 Phone-in Tag Renewal System that reduced lines and improved customer service.

Under his leadership, the Clerk’s office also installed a drop box in Walton that allowed residents to drop off a check and pick up their tags later in the day.

He gained some national notoriety in 2012, when he oversaw a coin flip to break a tie in the Walton City Council.

Bobby McDonald, now a Walton City Councilman, finished in a tie with another candidate that year when his wife failed to vote.

Brown used a 1964 Kennedy half dollar from his private collection for the coin toss. Despite being permitted to call the flip, McDonald lost, but the story captivated the nation and the image of Brown flipping the coin was seen in news stories as far away as the United Kingdom.

In 2015, Brown encouraged couples to get married at the Clerk’s office on Valentine’s Day. For the cost of a marriage license, 20 couples got to experience a group ceremony, and a reception, at no extra cost (file photo).

In 2015, realizing Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday, Brown opened the Clerk’s office and 20 couples who purchased a $35.50 marriage license went straight from the clerk’s office to a group wedding ceremony.

In Kentucky, marriage licenses are issued by county clerks.

“We have a lot of couples come in and apply for a marriage license then ask for advice or direction in finding someone to officiate their ceremony (sometimes immediately) in the courthouse,” Brown said then.

The ceremony included a reception with all the trimmings, at no additional charge.

Brown was proud of his conservative values and Schickel said he had a national reputation in certain political circles.

“People sought his advice from all over the country,” Schickel said. “He had a passion for individual liberty. In addition to his duties as county clerk he worked on a lot of causes that had a lot to do with limiting the power of government.”

The Northern Kentucky Tribune reached out to Brown in the months following his heart attack, most recently on January 25, when Brown was cautiously optimistic about returning to good health.

“On the mend, I hope,” he said then.

Funeral services are pending.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com


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4 Comments

  1. My friend Kenny Brown called on me many times to sing Danny Boy and My Old Kentucky Home, including his mass marriage ceremony, and it was always a honor because As former Commissioner of motor vehicles for the Commonwealth of Kentucky I knew he did superior work for the county. His Job was his passion and Jesus was his Lord. Kenny was a true Irishman , not just on Saint Patrick’s day but every day. He was truly a true public servant and will be sorely missed by all our Commonwealth. I will think of him with love whenever I sing “My Old Kentucky Home ” and or Danny Boy. Love to Kenny, like me was a stout man with broad shoulders capable of caring for many responsibilities the Lord presented to him and his family and friends.
    Another Kentucky Irish Gentleman has entered Heaven today and his name is Kenny Brown.
    Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition of Godly Principles and love and prayers for all of us and our Nation and World and Kenny Brown And family and friends.
    Dr. John Stephenson and Ms. June Geiman-Stephenson Former Superintendent of Education for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

  2. Mike Woodyard says:

    Condolences to The People of Kentucky who have lost one of their best and most dedicated public servants. America has lost a great Patriot and defender of Liberty. Anyone who knew Kenny Brown has lost a friend for he never met a soul who wasn’t his friend. Kenny was a big man but, his heart and love for his fellow man were even bigger. Rest in Peace, my friend.

  3. Bernie Kunkel says:

    Kenny Brown had the sharpest political mind in Kentucky. He had great ideas on campaigning and we used them to elect Rand Paul as a U.S. Senator and to elect Thomas Massie as a U.S. Congressman. It was when Kenny Brown came out strong for Matt Bevin that we won the Republican Primary for Governor of Kentucky. His “Kentucky Values” themed postcard helped Matt Bevin win the November 2015 Governor’s race by 9 percentage points. We pray that Almighty God will have mercy on the soul of Kenny Brown. We will honor the memory of our dear friend by working harder than ever in the political field for the limited and Constitutional Government that Kenny Brown always championed!!

  4. Dean Knolls says:

    Kenny was a great fella ! He will be missed. He always flew hundreds of pounds of crawfish in from down south and shared with everyone at Shakeys, usually around 4th of July. He was also credited with defeating the silly park tax a few years ago.

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