The "best town on Earth" has the best government in Kentucky. At least for this year, in the eyes of one organization.

The Kentucky League of Cities presented its "City Government of the Year" award to Madisonville at a special called City Council meeting Monday afternoon. Mayor Kevin Cotton invited all 326 city employees and the general community to attend what was billed on social media as a "special surprise celebration."

"It's you. You are the reason that we've been selected," Cotton told an audience which filled a large room at Ballard Convention Center. "Every employee in every single department has stepped up their game since January."

"It's pretty neat. He's a good dude. He's a good mayor," Public Works employee John White Jr. said after chatting with Cotton at the end of the meeting. "Everybody gels."

Kentucky has 416 cities. All the ones with KLC membership could apply for the award. A four-page cover letter indicates the cities were judged based on factors such as "quality of governance" and "examples of successes or innovations."

"Hometown Heroes was a big part of the application" for Madisonville, KLC marketing director Terri Johnson said. The initiative celebrating local active-duty and military veterans began in April, then was a focus of the first Friday Night Live concert on June 14.

"For the judges, this was particularly catching," Deputy Executive Director J.D. Chaney said as he presented the award. "For the city to do something like that is unheard of in Kentucky."

Cotton said before the presentation that other Kentucky cities now are calling City Hall wanting to follow their lead.

"That concert in June was just one of the reasons why we were selected," he said.

KLC statements announcing the selection also noted Cotton's work to break down barriers, while promoting "community engagement, place building and local pride."

"Madisonville is making a concerted effort to be inclusive," Chaney said in one statement.

Cotton believes the award will be a selling point for local growth in recruiting both new families and industries.

"It gives us the opportunity for them to see what Madisonville government is doing," he said.

"This is only the second year for this particular award," Johnson said. Pikeville received the prize last year. Before that, Johnson said, the league honored several cities each year based on specific categories.

The mayor credited City Clerk Kim Blue with preparing the application. Johnson said a panel of independent judges selected Madisonville for the award.

Along with a trophy, Madisonville will receive a $1,000 donation from the KLC to be used on a city project.

More money for Madisonville is on the way today. An official from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is expected to announce the city will receive state discretionary funds for street repairs. Similar announcements have been made in towns across Hopkins County in recent weeks.

In other business Monday, the Madisonville City Council:

• approved a resolution allowing the mayor to offer 10.7 acres of land at Madisonville Industrial Park to an unnamed business. It says the business "has expressed an interest in expanding its operations in the city."

• approved the rezoning of land at the west end of Cottonwood Drive from low-density to medium-density residential. Ershig Properties plans to build duplexes there.

• approved a $65,000 donation from the Tourism Advisory Board to the Madisonville College Foundation. It makes the city the sponsor of the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts orchestra pit.

• gave first reading to a change in the ordinance for unpaid restaurant taxes. The overdue interest rate would drop from 1.5% per month to 1.0%.

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