Kentucky ... or Bust!

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By Calen McKinney


They wanted to downsize their lives and get away from the hustle and bustle and outrageously high tax bills.

Tim and Sue Stang moved to Kentucky last month from Winthrop Harbor, Ill.

"We thought we were gonna live our American dream up there," Mr. Stang said.

But one too many winters, a sluggish economy and growing tax bills convinced them that wasn't their American dream after all.

When calculating their taxes, Mr. Stang, 46, said, it was costing his family about $42 a day in taxes just to live.

"[I thought], 'Wait a minute, I'm not getting my money's worth today,'" Mr. Stang said. "I'm a little tired of two feet, three feet of snow. It was a welcome change."

They had never been to Kentucky before, they said, and have no family in the area.

"We knew we wanted to make a big move," Mr. Stang said.

The Stangs didn't want to live in the mountains, but wanted to live close enough that their children, two of whom stayed in Illinois, could visit without too long a drive.

They began looking for homes in March and, after much research, planned a trip to Kentucky in April. They hadn't planned on staying, but soon found where they say they plan to live the rest of their days.

"We came down with the intentions of seeing the area," Mr. Stang said.

The Stangs spent just 30 hours in Kentucky before buying a home just over the Adair County line, about equal distance between Campbellsville and Columbia.

And now, Mr. Stang works at Cox Interior in Campbellsville, Mrs. Stang works at a country store in Adair County and their son, Tim Jr., begins work at Amazon in Campbellsville today.

The Stangs' home in Illinois was on the market for nine days before it sold. To put the difference in costs in Kentucky and Illinois in perspective, Mrs. Stang said, their home here cost less than half than what they sold their home for in Illinois.

"Everything happened without a hitch," Mrs. Stang said.

Mr. Stang said he and his wife came to Campbellsville on a Friday morning and began to look at homes. When they saw one just over the county line into Adair County, they stopped looking.

"As we got out of the car, I knew this was it," Mr. Stang said. "This was our house."

By that afternoon, the Stangs had signed a contract to buy the home. They went back to Illinois the next day to pack.

At that point, they had only met three people in Kentucky, their realtor and the couple they were buying their home from.

Mrs. Stang, 54, said her family had been paying more than $10,000 a year in property taxes in Illinois. When divided, she said, the cost they paid there per month is more than what they will pay in Kentucky for an entire year.

The Stangs' two other children, Rachel and Tom, still live in Illinois. They say the children, at first, didn't understand why their parents wanted to move away.

"We took a huge gamble," Mrs. Stang said.

"We dropped everything and just left," her husband said.

And a large part of that gamble was whether the Stangs would find work. Mr. Stang said some people told him they would never find work. But now just a month after moving, all three of the Stangs have jobs.

Mrs. Stang said she read a story in the News-Journal about skilled workers being needed in Campbellsville. She contacted the Campbellsville/Taylor County Economic Development office and her husband began sending out letters. He has worked for many years in business maintenance.

Soon after sending out letters, Mr. Stang said, he got a call from Cox Interior.

"It's a nice place to work," he said.

Though the Stangs say they never imagined themselves living in Kentucky, they are happy to call the state home.

"We've met nothing but nice, great folks," Mr. Stang said. "It's been unbelievable the people we've met."

He said the welcoming he and his family received has been wonderful.

"We've been very fortunate to be welcomed here like that," he said. "It's hard when you're coming from the outside."

The Stangs say they have pretty much adjusted to life in Kentucky, but there is one aspect that has given them some trouble.

While Mr. Stang and his son work in Campbellsville and his wife works in Adair County, the three have to negotiate on what time zone they will live.

He said the concepts of "fast time" and "slow time" have provided some mystery to them. He said he was told his family should just pick one time zone and stick with it.

"It's just so weird," Mrs. Stang said. "It's a small price to pay. It will amuse us for a while."

Mrs. Stang said she enjoys the freedom she and her family has living in Kentucky. She said her family can make improvements to their home and target shoot without facing permits and fees.

"And it's common sense," she said. "They regulate everything in Illinois."

The Stangs say they enjoy seeing those who pass by their home say hello by waving.

"Up north, you get waved at but it's not the way you want," Mr. Stang said.

And Mrs. Stang said she loves the slower pace of life in Taylor and Adair counties.

"[In Illinois it's] fast, fast. Do it fast," she said. "And I can't keep up with that."

In addition to a slower-paced life, the Stangs said, they believe the quality of life is better in Kentucky.

"Down here, people take the time to talk to you," Mrs. Stang said. "People want to get to know you."

"You don't have time up north," Mr. Stang said.

"You're just trying to survive," his wife said.

Contrary to what some might believe, the Stangs said, they didn't come to Kentucky to retire. They plan to work for 12 to 15 more years. They just wanted to slow down, they said.

"And we were speeding up," Mr. Stang said. "We were going the wrong direction up there."

Though they say they love living in Kentucky, the Stangs said their children still living in Illinois won't be moving here any time soon.

"Because they're city kids," Mrs. Stang said.

But they recently visited, the Stangs said, and said they see what their parents see about the area.

"Being able to see it helped them understand we're not living on Mars," Mrs. Stang said. "They have their life. It was time for us to have our life."

"We didn't move to the other side of the planet," Mr. Stang said.

And now that the Stangs are in Kentucky and working in Taylor and Adair counties, they say they have no intention of leaving.

"Everything worked out the way it was supposed to," Mrs. Stang said. "The air is fresher. The trees are taller."

"This is hands down, by far, more peaceful," Mr. Stang said.

Mr. Stang said he is just happy, to be living in rural Kentucky and working.

"It feels like home," Mrs. Stang said.

"It does," her husband said.