Secretary of state honors four as ‘iconic Kentuckians’

Secretary of state honors four as ‘iconic Kentuckians’
(L-R) Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams, III, Mary Sue Helm, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Tamara Sandberg and Raoul Cunningham. (Source: Office of the Secretary of State)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Four Kentuckians were honored Thursday for their unique contributions to the commonwealth.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes invited the four to a Medallion Ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Raoul Cunningham, Tamara Sandberg, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams, III, and Mary Sue Helm were honored with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award. It's the highest award given by a secretary of state.

The honor was a surprise to one woman considered a staple of the secretary of state's office for more than 30 years.

Mary Sue Helm has served the commonwealth under six secretaries through the years.

Helm is oftentimes seen as elected officials make the first step of filing for office.

'She has the most famous hair and nails in the state because she has overseen 80-plus elections. Do you know how many thousands of candidates that is?" said Grimes.

“Who else in state government is such a beacon of both unquestioned knowledge and integrity,” said John Y. Brown III, a former secretary of state.

Helm said she was humbled by the recognition.

Cunningham is a titan of civil rights in the state. He first joined the NAACP as a young teenager in 1957. He led demonstrations that would end segregation in Louisville.

"Just being in his presence makes you a better person," said Grimes.

Executive Director of Feeding Kentucky Tamara Sandberg was honored for her nearly six decades of service to the country and state.

Brig. Gen. Adams has spent 40 years in the U.S. Army and the Kentucky National Guard and has been assigned to several active duty tours, both in state and abroad.

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