FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – As a pastor, lawyer and retired deputy director of the Legislative Research Commission, Tom Troth is perfectly suited for his role as lobbyist for Kentucky Baptists in the state Capitol, speaking on behalf of his faith community on the major moral, ethical and political issues of the day.
It has been on Troth’s watch that the Legislature passed laws banning late-term abortions, requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds, and mandating that women considering abortions receive face-to-face consultations with medical professionals about the ramifications of their decisions.
“I can’t say categorically that those laws passed because of Tom Troth, but what I can say is that Tom was lobbying on behalf of Kentucky Baptists when they did pass, and that no pro-life laws had gotten through the General Assembly in the 12 years before Tom began lobbying for Kentucky Baptists,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I can say categorically that Tom is doing great work on behalf of Kentucky Baptists, who, for far too long, had no lobbyist while secular organizations with polar opposite views did.”
With lawmakers back in Frankfort for the 2018 General Assembly, Troth, 62, is making his rounds through the Capitol, making sure they know where Kentucky Baptists stand on the issues, in particular they want to see a revamping of the state’s broken adoption and foster care system and that they continue to oppose casino gambling.
“My mission is to be the collective voice of Kentucky Baptists,” Troth said.
The sheer size of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, with 2,400 churches, amplifies Troth’s voice among lawmakers. The Glenmary survey, a religious census done every 10 years, shows that in 2010 more than 1 million Kentuckians identified themselves as Southern Baptists – that’s nearly a fourth of the state’s population.
Throughout his career in law and government, Troth also was involved in ministry. Initially, he served as a deacon at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington and led the college choir program there for several years.
“That led to me being called as a minister of music at Trinity Baptist Church in Lexington,” Troth said.
Not long after he joined the staff of the Legislative Research Commission, Troth was called as pastor at Frankfort’s Hillcrest Baptist Church, a role in which he has served for the past 25 years.
“I always felt the call to the pastorate,” Troth said. “After high school I wanted to go to Bible school, but my parents encouraged me to pursue a liberal arts degree.” He studied opera, voice and acted in campus productions at Eastern Kentucky University. While in college, Troth spent a summer working in his uncle’s law office, which ultimately led him to law school. Prior to law school Troth graduated with two music degrees – voice and music business – and spent his first year after college working for an Illinois music publisher.
After graduating from law school at the University of Kentucky in 1983, Troth worked a year for the Kentucky Bar Association, four years as general counsel for Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and four years in private practice before taking a position with the Legislative Research Commission where he initially advised the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee.
“It was kind of tedious stuff, but it was a good learning experience for me because that's actually where the nuts and bolts come together,” he said.
Troth describes himself as “kind of a nerd about the political process” and has always been enamored with how legislation evolves, especially in the fast-paced final days of a legislative session. Watching everything come together in the final hours of his first legislative session sold him on devoting the remainder of his government career to work with the Legislative Research Commission.
“It really was just chaos, but it was fascinating chaos,” Troth said. “I realized just how much I love this process.”
With the growing demands of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Troth decided to retire from his government job and devote his full attention to ministry. Then, Chitwood reached out to him about becoming the first-ever lobbyist for Kentucky Baptists.
For Chitwood, it was a no-brainer that Troth’s years in state government, his legal training, and his ministry experience combined to make him the right person to speak on behalf of Kentucky Baptists.
“He’s a good man,” Chitwood said of Troth. “And he’s the right man for such a time as this.”