An expert marksman with a cowboy hat and remarkable intuition, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens was a fictional lawman from Harlan County known around the nation for his exploits on the award-winning TV series Justified.
While Givens was sent back to Harlan County in the opening episode of the FX series as a punishment for killing a suspect, the highest-ranking police officer from Harlan County in real life found a way to stay home, even when his job took him to the state capital or numerous other locations around the Commonwealth.
Jack Miniard spent 25 years fighting crime at numerous locations with the Kentucky State Police, beginning as a trooper and advancing through the ranks to where he was second in command to Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer when he retired earlier this year. During the entire quarter century, Miniard called Harlan home as he and his wife, Stephanie, maintained their Mound Street home with Miniard traveling back on weekends before an early-morning trip to his job on Mondays.
“It was tremendously important for me to maintain a connection to Harlan. The whole thought process for me was that we wanted to be home. This was where our families were,” Miniard said. “My promotions would sometimes take me away longer than I thought, but I’ve always been a proud Harlan Countian my entire career.”
From the KSP to the Clover Fork Clinic
A black belt with a business administration degree from the University of Kentucky, Miniard is a rare mixture of brains and brawn that made him a perfect fit for the Kentucky State Police. He briskly worked his way up the ranks, from trooper to Lt. Colonel, with numerous promotions along the way, eventually serving as the director of the operations division at KSP headquarters in Frankfort for the last three years of his career.
Miniard is back home now full-time, taking on a new challenge as the chief financial officer at the Clover Fork Clinic, helping with the opening of the new Harlan office at the site of the former Harlan Hospital, while also working at the main offices in Evarts.
“I had been living out of a suitcase, basically, since moving to Frankfort in 2008,” Miniard said recently of his decision to leave the state police. “After that tenure, from 2008 to 2015, and with my service years and what we had accomplished with Commissioner Brewer in moving the agency forward, I felt it was the right time for myself and my family to turn the page and look to the next chapter.”
Miniard found the next chapter at a familiar place, where he could use his leadership, business and people skills. Miniard and his wife were both patients at the Clover Fork Clinic, which has been led for many years by his father in law, Britt Lewis.
“I still feel I have a lot to contribute, and I want to help people, so I knew I would do something,” Miniard said. “I had some opportunities in Frankfort, but I had also been approached by some board members at the Clover Fork Clinic, and we talked a few months after I retired.”
“Jack has had a vast amount of experience in his work with the state police. He was in charge of a lot of things that will be applicable in managing the clinic,” said board member Wayne Collett. “He’s a real people person and is a good manager. We felt he could do the job, and so far we’ve been real pleased with what he’s done. People up there like him and they respect him.”
“He was in charge of a big budget with the state police, which we were concerned about, and he was in charge of a lot of people, which we were concerned about. He knows a lot about the clinic. We just felt he was a good choice,” added board member Bill Ellis.
Miniard joined the clinic during a time of expansion. The new 6,600-feet Harlan office of the Clover Fork Clinic opened on Nov. 2 at the former location of the Harlan Hospital, which was later the Smith Howard Building. The previous Harlan office was on Central Street.
“It didn’t provide us with the environment we wanted for our patients,” Miniard said. “All that work was done by Mr. Lewis and the board before I got here. They did great work in getting everything set, beginning with purchasing property. This is something patients have told us is really needed, to allow primary care for people who are working. We’re now in a tremendous building that I encourage everyone to come and see. It’s a nice facility.”
Joining the Thin Gray Line
After graduating from Harlan High School in 1984 and then the University of Kentucky in 1989, Miniard decided to take on a different kind of challenge with the Kentucky State Police.
“Some of the troopers were people I held in high-esteem and had gotten to know through the years,” he said. “When I graduated, they were getting ready to accept applications for another class. I applied and luckily got in and my KSP career started in May of 1990.”
Miniard soon discovered the job as a trooper fit his personality and skills almost perfectly.
“I really thought it was suited to me, it was suited to my mentality. There’s a lot of training involved, things you don’t know when you’re young and starting out,” Miniard said. “I knew KSP had a high caliber of people, and I knew what an impact they had on the community. Those things are evident when you grow up in Harlan and see troopers up close and the good they do. It’s something I gravitated toward and wanted to be a part of.”
Miniard experienced some good fortune early in his KSP career in the days when troopers drew their assignments out of a hat to find out which of the 16 posts would be their home.
“I drew Pikeville, and a friend of mine from the class asked if I could trade with him, and he had Harlan. I guess it was just meant to be,” Miniard said. “I got to immediately come back home, which was terrific. It worked out for both of us, since his family was in Pikeville.”
He started in Harlan in October of 1990 and worked as a road trooper and accident reconstructionist through August of 1997. He moved to Post 8 in Morehead when he was promoted to sergeant and stayed there for three years. Miniard then returned to Harlan briefly before being promoted to lieutenant in 2000, which meant a move to Lexington to work in special operations.
He soon found himself back in Harlan.
“It was one of my longer tenures because I didn’t take any promotional exams,” Miniard said. “I was back as a lieutenant and assistant post commander, and I stayed here four years.”
When he was promoted to captain in 2004, Miniard was initially assigned to Frankfort where he worked in internal affairs but soon was asked if he’d be interested in moving to London.
“I stayed as post commander in London from 2005 to 2008, then Rodney Brewer called me and said he’d like for me to come to Frankfort to be on his staff,” Miniard said.
Brewer was promoted to commissioner of the state police in December of 2007 when Steve Beshear was sworn in as governor. When Beshear called on him to come out of retirement and leave a teaching post at the University of Louisville to lead the state police, Brewer began the task of filling out his staff and was impressed by everything he could find about Miniard.
“I had heard about Jack and had seen him coming up through the ranks, so I decided to interview him and, in retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I ever made as a commissioner,” Brewer said. “Jack was a leader in our organization. He is extremely balanced, measured, insightful and just very much in tune of the ebb and flow of what’s going on in our agency, particularly when it comes to traffic and criminal investigations. He is an extremely talented individual on multiple fronts.”
Miniard continued his rise through the KSP ranks after he left his job as the commander of the London post and joined the leadership staff of the KSP in Frankfort.
“Jack migrated up through the staff. He was with me since the couple of months,” Brewer said. “He started off as a major but eventually gravitated to operations and became a colonel over one of our four divisions. That’s really the workhorse of our agency. Jack was perfectly suited for that.”
Miniard moved to the leadership post of the operations division, a position he held for several years before deciding to retire earlier this year.
“I said at his retirement party that of all the lieutenant colonels in charge of operations I have seen and worked with, and that includes me, I don’t think we’ve ever had one who was better than Jack,” Brewer said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had one that was effective at reducing traffic fatalities, he’s won multiple awards for that, and also his ability to combat crime, especially on the drug front.”
Making a difference
Miniard said much of his philosophy is summed up by a speaker he once heard at a graduation ceremony.
“Your goal in life shouldn’t be material things, but your goal in life should be to change people’s lives,” he said. “I thought that was powerful when you think about it. There are multiple ways to change people’s lives — education, law enforcement, health care…”
Miniard believes he’s found a different way to change lives with his work in the medical field.
“The thing that impressed me and sold me was that I knew 100 percent that the board of the Clover Fork Clinic and the employees want to do the right thing and help people in this community and make the community healthier and a better place to live. My wife and I are patients here, and we always said we would remain patients here, even if we ever decided to move. We take our time. We don’t herd people in and out, and I think it makes a huge difference with their care and the way they feel,” Miniard said. “That was a selling point for me. It reminded me of my early career with the Kentucky State Police.”
Miniard knows those reminders of his years with the state police will probably follow him the rest of his life as he showed a visitor his last KSP badge, which had the No. 1 next to his name, signifying his rise through the organization. The higher your rank in the state police, the lower your badge number.
‘It’s tremendously satisfying,” Miniard said of his time with the KSP. “The most satisfying part for me is not only the people you work with but the people you help within the communities. It was an honor to be a part of a professional organization. I hope I was able to make it a better place while I was there.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134