WOW! Magazine: These Two Paducahans Vow to Take Their City Seriously!


Elaine Spalding and Keyth Kahrs marry commerce and culture in their devotion to the city they’ve now personally and professionally embraced. Both arrived at the shores of the Ohio from westerly locales and both made a solemn vow to take this city as their own—to have and to hold, in downtown and in Lower Town!

Elaine Spalding and Keyth Kahrs

Do you take the Chamber to be your newly wedded responsibility?
Elaine Spalding said, “I do!”

“Don’t they do that here?” Well, they do now.

After a POPS concert a couple of years ago, at which Elaine Spalding and Keyth Kahrs cut a bit of a rug in the aisle of the Carson Center to Terry Mike Jeffrey’s Beatles revue, Elaine says she got some phone calls and e-mails. “Apparently they thought it was funny to see the Chamber exec dancing in the aisles. Don’t they do that here?” she queried. Well, if they didn’t before, they do now (and they should)!

And if you know Paducah’s number one business booster you know that open exuberance and spontaneous energy are part of the promotional package that, in 2000, the Chamber search committee identified and embraced when they asked Elaine Spalding, “Do you want to come to Paducah and lead our Chamber of Commerce?” To which she happily said, “I do!”

Elaine actually began her educational and intellectual journey here at Murray State University when she got her BS degree in 1980. But she wandered around the west coast for awhile learning her trade and getting some valuable experience. She promoted the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce from 1981 to 1991, provided marketing expertise for the Louisville Area Chamber until 1996, then moved to the far ends of the continent to become the president of the Beaverton Oregon Chamber of Commerce working with the likes of Nike, Inc. and Intel Corporation. Wow! And then?

Well, being the sunny personality that she is, the cloud cover in Beaverton began to get her down and the blue skies over Paducah looked warm and welcoming. “When I interviewed for the job, the committee took me on a tour of Paducah. I could not believe all the changes that had occurred since I was in college in the early 80s,” Elaine remembers. “We used to come over to Paducah for dinner at Stacy’s but you didn’t go any further downtown than that. Now, the downtown area is so beautiful. I still love the cobblestone streets, the locally-owned restaurants and being so close to the river.”

And for the past six years, she has loved being the head honcho of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are blessed with wonderful business leadership here in this area. My first boss was Tim Farmer, followed by Susan Guess, George Sirk, Glenn Denton, Dan Key, Kelly Nuckols, and next year’s chair is Barbara Veazey. What a great line-up of leaders to work with and what a supportive membership I’ve found in this region. The depth and breadth of this business community has really impressed me.

Elaine (literally) basks in the sunshine of the region’s eclectic business culture. “So many folks have lived in other parts of the country or traveled extensively. They bring a great deal of expertise to the table. They have a passion for their business and our community. So many other communities really struggle to get good business leaders involved,” she adds.

Elaine has sought from day one to be a real voice for the business community. Her infectious laugh and contagious excitement can transform even the most staunch boo-bird into looking at life in the greater Paducah environ as one of great possibility. It’s hard to be down when the voice of the Chamber is so up. And she’s not just after the locals. She sees the greatest potential when everybody’s in on the happiness.

“We need to continue to build our relationships with our regional partners. The successful communities around the country don’t worry about county or state lines. They approach their economic development efforts with a regional strategy that makes sense for the business community,” Elaine advises. “We need to encourage government leaders to embrace regional thinking. Think about where the jobs are located, where people live, where they shop and where they spend their entertainment dollars.”

As a matter of course, Elaine practices what she preaches. She works very hard to maintain productive working relationships with the governing branches of the city and county, the Economic Development Council, the local Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, Main Street and the many other agencies and organizations whose purpose is in line with that of the Chamber—to create a climate that welcomes businesses and industries that further enhance the success of this historic city and surrounding region.

One of the entities that she’s frequently worked with and that she lauds for its sense of community is the one and only Paducah Bank, of course. “The people at Paducah Bank are such strategic thinkers. The whole Lower Town program is a signature project for them. What a great deal of time and talent they have devoted to the revitalization of this neighborhood,” Elaine comments. “They practice the concepts from the book, Good to Great, every day. I have so much admiration and respect for Joe Framptom, Wally Bateman, Susan Guess, Marty Nichols, Maurie McGarvey, Tom Clayton, and the list goes on and on. Their employees are all wonderful people that you enjoy being around. They really care about this community and volunteer with every major civic organization. When you have a new project, you want to make sure you have someone from Paducah Bank on board. Having Paducah Bank as a locally-owned bank is one of the best things we have going for us!”

And of course, the Chamber wasn’t the only thing Elaine devoted herself to when she arrived in the heartland. She married Keyth Kahrs shortly after taking her seat at the head of the Chamber table. And this whole wedding thing got even more intricate when Craig and Susan Guess announced that they would marry after a Chamber Annual Dinner a few years ago. “I thought they were kidding when Craig said they were getting married that night. But they had the license and Judge Donna Dixon was there to perform the ceremony right after the awards program. What a kick!” Elaine definitely has a way of bringing people together!

And what’s the best part about being together with Keyth? “He’s so romantic! He leaves me love notes in my luggage and prepares wonderful gourmet meals for us and plans romantic get-a-ways. I’m a very lucky woman.”

Paducah’s Chamber of Commerce is lucky as well.


Do you take these ARTISTS to be your newly wedded compatriots?
Keyth Kahrs said, “I do!”

The vast serene landscapes by artist, Keyth Kahrs, invite the observer to pitch a tent at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range or cast a fishing line into Smith Bay on Kentucky Lake. The calming images in his watercolor paintings belie the adventurous spirit of the world traveler, skydiver, and outdoor enthusiast who relocated to Paducah from Tucson, Arizona.

What motivated this western warrior to forge eastward to the inland waterways of western Kentucky? “I had the opportunity to leave my former position as a computer artist in Tucson with a severance package,” Keyth explains. “But of course, it was much more than that. At that time, Elaine and I were engaged and she planted the seed that got me thinking about the Artist Relocation Program. The idea of doing something different with my career and getting in on the ground floor of such a community project was a terrific incentive for me.”

After his move to Paducah, Keyth wasted no time in getting involved in the artist endeavors of the local landscape. He has painted two commissioned works for Murray State University. The architectural renderings of Pogue Library and Lovett Auditorium currently hang in the MSU Alumni Center. His art entitled Leaping Largemouth was painted in acrylic on a round wood disk and was a part of the 2004 Lower Town Artists Group Show at WKCTC. An avid fisherman, Keyth has done several paintings of Kentucky Lake and Land Between the Lakes, including a panoramic view of Smith Bay on Kentucky Lake. The painting was created in four panels painted from four photographs meticulously spliced together.  Keyth’s most recent work is near completion, a two-mural project at Stone Creek Kennels.  One mural depicts Ginger Bay at Land Between the Lakes, the other is of a Southwestern desert scene including saguaro cacti.  These murals blanket the walls in two state-of-the-art suites offered to pet owners who wish to pamper their pet(s) in style.

Keyth has painted mostly in watercolor but also works in oils and acrylics. He traditionally paints landscapes but has recently started adding figures to them.

His love of fishing and his interest in Native American cultures inspired Keyth to name his new studio/gallery Leaping Trout Studio. The property, located at 723 Madison Street, was an extensive renovation project undertaken with the support and assistance of his partner, Elaine Spalding, president of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.

Keyth describes himself as a photo realist, “but not fanatical photo realism. I do a looser rendition of photo realism-a little more expressive, I hope.”

Keyth often paints from photos and meticulously pencils in each detail on the canvas before he ever touches a paintbrush. On his extensive travels and camping trips, he shoots rolls of film and digital pictures often marking many for future use as subjects for paintings.

Keyth has already played an important role in the community since he arrived here a few years ago to join forces with both the Lower Town Relocation Program as well as his favorite female! He was one of four local artists who rendered the massive mural of Canadian designers Christina Zeidler and Deanne Lehtinen onto the lobby wall of the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, making him forever a part of the center’s history and art.

In addition to joining the Lower Town Artists, Keyth was also joined in marriage to Elaine Spalding upon his move to the heartland. What’s the best part of that union? “There are a lot of best parts,” Keyth wisely responds, “but if I had to pick one, it would be sharing Elaine’s love of travel and adventure. As traveling companions go, Elaine is by far and away the best. We have lots of fun together!”