Dan Smoot to take over as head of Operation UNITE

04/30/2013 12:54 PM

The board of the Eastern Kentucky drug task force and treatment organization Operation UNITE picked the group’s vice president, Dan Smoot, to be its new CEO.

Smoot, who worked for the Kentucky State Police for 22 years, has worked as UNITE’s vice president for operations since September 2011. He served for the previous eight years as UNITE’s director of law enforcement.

Smoot confirmed to Pure Politics in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon that the executive board of UNITE offered him the job earlier in the day, and he accepted. He takes over May 15 when outgoing UNITE president Karen Kelly moves to her new post as district director for U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset.

Rogers helped found the Somerset-based UNITE and has directed millions of dollars in federal funding to the organization thanks to Rogers’ position on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which he now chairs.

But in light of federal budget cuts, Smoot said UNITE will likely look to attract more donations and alternate funding sources.

“Funding is an issue for everybody. Things are tough right now,” Smoot said. UNITE did take a public relations hit last year when the Courier-Journal reported that UNITE was spending public funds to set up a conference at a posh Florida resort.

“We’re as transparent as we can get, so to speak. The conference had many purposes. We’re trying to raise awareness about prescription pill abuse as a national issue,” Smoot said. “We’re just going to look for creative ways to find funding and get as lean as we can possibly get.”

UNITE coordinates law enforcement task forces to crack down on illegal drugs and also focuses on education and treatment strategies in Eastern Kentucky.

“We’re going to concentrate on what we do best,” Smoot said when asked what his goals for the organization would be.

Jackie Steele, one of UNITE’s board members and the commonwealth attorney for the 27th judicial circuit, said the personnel committee on the UNITE board recommended Smoot as someone who has the experience and the knowledge of both Eastern Kentucky and UNITE to “seamlessly” continue the organization’s work.

“With our drug problem, we don’t have 30 or 60 or 90 days to wait to get someone molded to the job,” Steele said in a phone interview.

Attorney General Jack Conway told Pure Politics Tuesday morning that the new head of UNITE needed to be someone “with a strong law enforcement background” but also someone who understands treatment. Here’s what he said:

Smoot told Pure Politics that Eastern Kentucky “fortunately” hasn’t seen the uptick in heroin that other areas of Kentucky have.

“But at least with heroin, they can’t take out their prescription bottle and point to their doctor’s name on it, as we watch them drive away,” Smoot said, noting that there’s no way for someone possessing heroin to get away with possession of that drug.

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