Love for home leads to photos that preserve history and promote community

A Hidden Gem of Pendleton County

    When Pendleton County residents think of Lisa Arnold, they likely think of Billy, hummingbirds, dogs, chickens, and pictures. Those pictures especially bring people joy—and often they are pictures of Billy and her hummingbirds, dogs, and chickens. More often, though, they are of events and places in the county.
    Arnold makes it clear from the beginning that she isn’t a photographer. “I don’t like the pressure that word brings,” she says. “Photographers have to analyze and do all the science. I don’t do that. I just take pictures. I don’t want to stop and think. I just want to have fun.”
    That “fun” has brought her into the limelight of Pendleton County, and quite by accident. As happens so often these days, her pictures took off on Facebook a few years back. “I take pictures of things that make me happy, that make me smile,” she shares. “At first, I took pictures to share with our family who lives in Florida. I just took pictures that encourage people—to brighten their day. I’ve always taken pictures, but when social media took off, I found a new format to use to share. I got encouragement from other people, and I found out I could make other people happy, as well.”
    Hummingbirds and everyday Pendleton County life soon turned into sharing pictures of other things—events such as the Ewenique Art Walk and the fair. Armed with her camera, Arnold caught shots of people and happenings at the county’s social events, and she shared them with the invitation for people to tag themselves.
Sharing those events on social media went in a direction that Arnold never thought of, but she is happy it did because it allows her a means of bringing the county that she loves and has called home all her life into the spotlight. Now, individuals and organizers count on her to catch the candid moments of the memorable yearly social events as well as the beautiful scenery of the area.
    In other words, her “just taking pictures” has become an asset to Pendleton County in recent years.
    Michael Mann, president of the Pendleton County Youth Fair, gushes over the pictures Arnold takes of the summer celebration of our county. “She spends countless hours capturing moments and creating memories for the community to cherish forever. Her service to the fair is amazing. It not only helps us advertise our events, but it also helps our participants and spectators relive part of the experience.”
    Michele Hamilton, the IT/Digital Communications Coordinator of Kentucky Emergency Management and the Fiscal Court, agrees that Arnold’s love for “just taking pictures” has promoted the county in ways few others could. “Having Lisa take photos at events allows us to showcase Pendleton County on numerous websites, Facebook posts, cover photos, and printed material.”
    A 1979 graduate of Pendleton High School, Arnold worked for the Kentucky Department of Transportation in construction inspection until her retirement in 2008. About three years later, she went to work at Randy’s Clothing and Footwear in Falmouth. That is where she decided that she needed to get involved in the community.
    “I watched Kim (Bastin Myers) take part in things in the community, and I decided I needed to get involved, as well.”
    Her mother, Carol Jean Ockerman, was also a factor. “Mom loved the community. She was a charter member of the country club here, and she was civic minded. She helped out any way she could.” Ockerman also served as the county clerk for many years.
    Arnold makes it clear that she has no desire for political office, but she enjoys working with organizations such as Sophomore Leadership, the PC Tourism Council, and in the Pendleton County Education Foundation.
    Why does she see a need to be involved in the county that she has called home all her life? That answer is in the question; her roots here are strong.  “I don’t want to be anywhere but here,” she explains. “We always hear the negative about the county, but we have a lot of good things—two golf courses, canoeing and kayaking, walking trails, KRT, Farmer’s Market, wedding venues, the youth fair, Wool Fest, the art walk… We have a foundation, and we have to build on it. The flood can’t be our excuse. That was almost 22 years ago.  We need to move forward to make the county the best place it can be.”
    Her vision for the county is simple, but it is reminiscent of what all long-term residents of Pendleton County desire. “I want to get back to a sense of community,” she states. “I want us to know our neighbors and talk to them, not just throw a hand up in the air as we pass by.
    “We are good about being there for people in their bad times. That is good, but we need to get back to the days where we sit in the yard sipping tea with the neighbors. I don’t do that anymore, and most of us don’t, so we don’t know each other as we should.”
    She sees the unprecedented cooperation among the organizations such as the Rotary and the Lions Club as a sign that community is working its way back. She also sees the art walk and other activities as a positive to that end. She believes the businesses in downtown are promoting community, too, with the stores, the quilt shop, and the Smoking Pig Tavern.
    While her contributions to organizations are more than valuable (“…she gives 110% in all she does,” says Amy Hurst), her pictures are likely Arnold’s biggest contribution to our community today and, according to Rep. Mark Hart, its future. “Lisa has created a picture history of Pendleton County that will be a wealth of information for future generations, all by doing what she loves and capturing people as they live. She and her pictures are surely a gem for Pendleton County.”
    The Hidden Gem monthly series will be delving into those people, businesses and/or events that are behind-the-scenes or not widely known but are part of what makes Pendleton County a special place to live, raise a family and/or retire. A light of appreciation and recognition will be shone on those that, like a precious diamond or ruby, are “Hidden Gems” of Pendleton County.