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Vic Hellard Jr. and Peggy HylandPeggy Hyland, who served the Kentucky General Assembly in increasingly responsible roles over a distinguished 26-year career with the Legislative Research Commission staff, has been named recipient of the 2010 Vic Hellard Jr. Award for excellence in public service.

The lard Award has been given annually since 1997. Hyland, of Louisville, was selected for this year’s honor by the 16-member legislative leadership that comprises the LRC. The LRC assumed responsibility for the award this year. Hellard himself was the executive director of the LRC staff for 19 years, a period covering most of Hyland's service.

In announcing the award, LRC co-chairs David L. Williams, President of the Senate, and Greg Stumbo, Speaker of the House, said Hyland’s selection was especially well-deserved, given her long service on behalf of millions of Kentuckians who’d never heard her name.

‘In her 26 years here, Peggy was an unsung hero who embodied the best in legislative staffing,’ Williams said. ‘She developed with everyone a well-earned reputation for professionalism, even-handed nonpartisanship, fairness and good humor. And she devoted her whole career to serving the people without seeking or expecting public credit or applause. This public recognition is long-overdue.’

After joining the LRC staff in 1976, Hyland rose from committee staff to assistant director, deputy director and acting interim director. Her focus was seeing that the Legislature’s all-important committee system was staffed and run smoothly.

But she was in some ways most noted for her advocacy of a concept considered innovative at the time: The use of agency staff and resources to identify emerging issues and trends, and to brief lawmakers in advance on problems -- and solutions -- before a cloud on the horizon became a full-blown storm.

Peggy Hyland‘Peggy virtually invented the concept of long-term issues identification within legislatures,’ Stumbo said. ‘She saw clearly that too often, a legislature is simply a reactive body, careening from problem to problem and crisis to crisis. Her ideas were visionary. She advocated them tirelessly, with Vic Hellard's enthusiastic support. And she taught them to others on the LRC committee staff and got them involved. She was a champion of legislative independence, and saw that a strong Legislature is built on a solid base of knowledge.’

She retired from the agency in 2002.

Hyland herself expressed ‘surprise and deep gratitude’ upon learning of the award.

‘That the award bears the name of my great friend and mentor Vic Hellard Jr. only deepens my sense of being humbled and truly honored,' she said.' But most especially, I don't consider this just a personal recognition. I share it with the hundreds of legislative staffers who have worked long hours in virtual anonymity, far from any limelight, to serve the people of Kentucky and the branch of government closest to them, what Vic always called The People's Branch. Their names should be on this award along with mine.'

Current LRC Director Robert Sherman, a close colleague of Hyland’s for 23 years, said throughout her career, she embodied the traits that Hellard most admired in public servants.

‘Vic taught Peggy from early in her career here, and came to rely on her for her steadiness and solid counsel,’ Sherman said. ’He always had absolute faith in Peggy as an exemplary legislative staffer. I’m sure he’d be pleased that a member of his legislative family was chosen the first year the award is being given by the LRC itself. And I know he’d be especially pleased it was Peggy.’