Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has appointed a new state beekeeper. Sean Burgess replaces Phil Craft, who was fired in January.
When Comer took office at the beginning of the year, he replaced 16 of his office’s political appointees. That included Craft, the state apiarist. At the time, Craft’s firing raised eyebrows in the state’s beekeeping community. This wasn’t only because Craft was knowledgeable and respected in the field—which he was—but because many weren’t aware the state’s top beekeeper was a political appointee.
Now, four months later, Comer has announced his pick to lead Kentucky’s program. Sean Burgess of Grayson County was the director of the Walter T. Kelley Company in Clarkson, which sells beekeeping supplies.
Tom Webster is an apiculture researcher at Kentucky State University. He says Burgess is a good choice for the position.
“He certainly is a good guy, he’s bright and he’s hardworking and he loves the bees,” Webster said. “And that’s a good combination. He seems to get along well with everybody and that’s important too because this is kind of an outreach sort of job, it’s somebody who connects with beekeepers around the state.”
Webster says the timing of Burgess’ hire is good too, because this spring will likely be when Kentucky beekeepers begin to keep an eye out for strange bee behavior that was linked to parasitic flies and colony collapse disorder in California.
“So, now that we have some warm weather it will be something for us to pay attention to here,” Webster said.
Burgess’ new role will include educating the public about bees, inspecting hives and fostering new beekeepers.