Former Harlan County Judge-Executive Delzinna Belcher passed away Thursday at her residence in Rio Vista. A preliminary report from Deputy Coroner Jim Rich indicates her death was due to natural causes.
Belcher, 61, served as judge-executive for three terms and one unexpired term for a total of 14 years. She also recently served as magistrate for District 5 for a period of approximately 10 months. Belcher was also a former Harlan County Probation and Parole Officer for the Kentucky Department of Corrections and worked tirelessly as an Assistant Director for the Appalachian Commission.
A Harlan County Democrat, Belcher loved politics and served as Master of Ceremonies at the county’s last Democratic Rally held in 2012. She was selected as one of 18 First Ladies of Harlan County in 2005 by the Zeta Beta Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi for her dedication to community service, and served on many boards throughout her life as a Harlan County advocate.
Saying Belcher was the first woman in Kentucky to be elected to the office of county judge-executive, Ewell Balltrip, President and CEO of the National Institute for Hometown Security, remembered her as being one of the first generation of new leaders in Harlan County.
“Her election to county judge-executive was a validation that the guard had changed from the older generation of politicians to the newer generation of politicians and public servants,” said Balltrip. “She was certainly a public servant. She understood the way government worked, the way to get things accomplished, and more than that I recall, during her first term she really had a vision for where she wanted the county to go and what she wanted to see accomplished along with how she wanted the county to progress.”
Balltrip said he had the opportunity to know Belcher on more than one level. He said through his employment as executive editor and publisher of the Harlan Daily Enterprise many years ago he covered county government during her terms of office as county judge-executive.
“I also had the opportunity to work with her through the Appalachian Commission when I was executive director and she was assistant director there,” said Balltrip. “She always had a positive outlook and was energetic. Delzinna had a tremendous way of relating to people — just a very good people person. She could talk to anyone, anywhere on any level.”
“I served about eight years with Delzinna when she was county judge-executive,” said former Magistrate Paul Caldwell. “It didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican she was always fair and honest with you. I couldn’t have asked for a better judge than Delzinna. She was very easy to work with and I thought the world of her. We did a lot of projects helping Harlan County together.”
“Delzinna was a really good judge-executive during her terms in office,” said Magistrate David Kennedy. “She started a lot of good programs that we still have in existence today. She always put Harlan County and its citizens first. She was a good person and she will be sadly missed by each and everyone of us. I think just about everybody in Harlan County knew Delzinna Belcher. She was a good public servant. Her passing is a shock to all of us.”
Belcher had been attending the Pansy Baptist Church and her Pastor Rev. Bobby Joe Rouse said something about Delzinna “a lot of people probably didn’t know,” was that she was an accomplished pianist and played the piano at the Pansy Baptist Church for many years as a young lady where she attended faithfully with her parents, Ralph and Lucille Souleyret, and her brother, Ralph Jr.
“Delzinna was always nice to me as a pastor, and I conducted the services for her husband, Dale, when he passed away several years ago from cancer,” said Rouse. “There was another side to Delzinna, aside from politics, she was respectful and always good to my family. She will be sadly missed.”
Delzinna was the proud mother of Scarlett Belcher, of Williamsburg, and her son, Jeff Belcher, of Frankfort. She is survived by six grandchildren and was excited about the arrival of her first great-granddaughter in May.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Mount Pleasant.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext.115, firstname.lastname@example.org