The Kentucky Racing Authority appointed Jim Gallagher, a former executive with the New York Racing Association, to the position of executive director effective Sept. 27. Gov. Ernie Fletcher approved the appointment, authority officials said during an Aug. 16 meeting.
The move came only days after John Nicholson was named interim executive director. Nicholson serves as the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park and will move back to that position.
Gallagher wasn't even among the original candidates under consideration by the authority. However, authority officials were in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the weekend of Aug. 14 for the Jockey Club Round Table and had a meeting with Gallagher, who recently left NYRA. Gallagher had also worked for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
"He came to us well after the search was underway," said LaJuana Wilcher, Secreatry of Environmental Protection, under whose cabinet the authority falls. "I think if Jim had come to us on day one the search would have ended then."
The position pays $115,000 a year, officials said.
Racing Authority chairman Bill Street said Gallagher was put on the radar screen after three or four authority members received calls about his availability. Street said Gallagher was the only candidate that met with the governor. Gov. Fletcher and Gallagher met for the first time on July 30.
"We got his name as someone we should consider," Street said. "We went through three to four people with varying views and by far and away Jim fit the total package of what the governor was looking for."
Nicholson briefly stepped into the role filled by Jesse Skees from the office of the inspector general. Skees, who retired from the state July 31, took over the position formerly held by Bernie Hettel, who resigned shortly after Fletcher dissolved the Kentucky Racing Commission and formed the authority.