Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

September 12, 2013

Lt. Governor taking tour to listen, learn

INDIANAPOLIS — This summer, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann has spent as much time away from her desk as behind it, embarked on “Listen and Learn” tour of the state, with the goal of visiting each of Indiana’s 92 counties by year’s end.

In her travels, she’s toured a pickle factory in northern Indiana and the world’s largest hard-boiled egg distributorship in southern Indiana, and covered a lot of territory in between.

But much of her time on the tour has been spent in closed-door meetings with local elected officials, community leaders, business owners and farmers, getting them to tell her how state government can do a better job serving local communities.

“I want them to speak to me as if the governor was there, in the most candid words,” Ellspermann said. “And I state that at the beginning of every session: ‘I’m not here to just get the good news. I want to know what’s really happening. Tell us what we what we need to hear and tell us as honestly as you can.’ ”

The responses to that request have been wide-ranging. She’s heard about crumbling infrastructure, shrinking school budgets, and the shortage of skilled workers, to name a few. She’s also heard complaints about the slow response of state agencies to local concerns, and worries about the unforeseen impact of government mandates.

What she may be hearing most: Gratitude from the locals, who feel like their voices often aren’t heard by powerbrokers in the Statehouse.

“How many politicians do you know who really listen to what you have to say?” said Hartford City Mayor Ben Hodgin, a Democrat who met with the Republican Ellspermann when she came to his town this summer. “With her, you really do feel like she’s interested in what you have to say.”

For Ellspermann, 53, the Listen and Learn tour is about getting to know Indiana better – and Indiana getting to know her.

Last summer, she was a relatively unknown freshman lawmaker from a small town in southern Indiana when she was picked to be then-candidate Mike Pence’s running mate. But Ellspermann had proved her political moxie two years earlier when she won her first-ever election by taking down then-Democratic House Majority Leader Russ Stilwell.  

In waging that campaign, Ellspermann emphasized her accomplishments as an industrial engineer who’d built a successful management-consulting business doing problem-solving for public and private clients.

She’s bringing those skills to the Listen and Learn tour, she said: “Good solutions bubble up when you’re hearing good information from those people who are closest the problems.”

Ellspermann’s willingness to spend a recent morning meeting with local leaders in the small town of Spiceland impressed Nate LaMar, president of the Henry County Council and international regional manager for the county’s biggest employer, Draper Industries.

“We often feel like we’ve been left behind,” said LaMar of the small counties in Indiana. “I was really glad to see someone from the executive branch reach out beyond the doughnut counties (around Indianapolis) and into rural Indiana.”

In a recent column for Howey Politics Indiana, LaPorte County Democrat Shaw Friedman described Ellspermann’s listening tour as “a tremendous gesture and a reach-out to previously forgotten and neglected parts of Indiana.”

That’s how GOP state Sen. Jean Leising of Oldenburg sees it too. “I’m from a rural district and even as a Republican legislator, I’m always wondering: ‘Does someone at the top care about what we think?’ ”

Leising sat in on the Henry County meeting with Ellspermann and left feeling impressed. “She’s a strong woman,” Leising said. “She’ll go back and bend the governor’s ear and not just taking marching orders from him.”

Veteran reporter Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, said Ellspermann is engaging in smart politics. “In this era of gridlock, taking the listening concept into communities across the state will serve the Pence administration well. People want to feel they are being heard. They want to know that their leaders in Indianapolis know their concerns, fears and aspirations,” Howey said.

The tour may also serve Ellspermann well in the future, Howey said. He pointed to two former lieutenant governors, Republican Robert Orr and Democrat Frank O’Bannon, who crisscrossed the state during their tenures, developing contacts, making jobs announcements, and building strong networks of support. Both successfully capitalized on those experiences when they later decided to run for governor.

“These types of tours will help Lt. Gov. Ellspermann if she is ambitious and wants to break Indiana’s ultimate political glass ceiling and become Indiana’s first female governor,” Howey said.

Ellspermann downplays that possibility, saying the purpose of the tour is to help her and the governor shape policy in a way that will counter the feeling among local communities that the state is “doing something to them, not with them.”

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 120928 GHS-NR FB 05 H.S. FOOTBALL: Week 1 looks to be a scorcher GOSHEN — During the Elkhart County 4-H Fair I had a chance encounter with Bob Miller, coach of the Fairfield Falcons.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140821 Pike Street Project 2 INDOT meeting held to discuss Pike Street project GOSHEN — Major changes may be on the way for a small section of Pike Street in downtown Goshen.

    August 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0821 goshen college challenge Locals embrace ice bucket challenge It’s a challenge that has united participants with the shared sensation of an icy burst of water, sopping wet clothing and video evidence — all in the name of philanthropy.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140821 nisly complaint Complaint filed against state rep candidate Accusations of wrongdoing, in the form of a complaint to the Indiana Election Commission, have been levied against District 22 representative Republican nominee Curt Nisly.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140820 dometic groundbreaking Dometic breaks ground on significant expansion in Goshen GOSHEN — As Dometic officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $7 million expansion of their Goshen distribution center Wednesday, the work was already underway in the background. “It’s happening right now,” said Dave Schutz, vice presi

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140821 Ignition art Plenty of good music on horizon at Ignition Several upcoming shows at Ignition Garage in Goshen were announced this week.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • City plan nearing a final draft GOSHEN — The city’s new comprehensive plan is nearing completion, and a near-final draft has now been released for public review. Goshen Plan Commission members released the draft of the city’s newly penned comprehensive plan, titled “Uncommonly Grea

    August 19, 2014

  • GN140820 Hakws building Hotel, brew pub plans progressing GOSHEN — Plans for a new boutique hotel and brew pub at the historic Hawks building in downtown Goshen continue to move ahead steadily.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140820 nappanee awards 031.jpg Nappanee mayor honors 'Spirited' youth NAPPANEE — Two Elkhart County 4-H’ers were honored by their hometown mayor during Monday’s city council meeting. Receiving the Community Spirit Award and a key to the city were Lane Flowers and Sarah Stump. Mayor Larry Thompson recognized Flowers, a

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • arlo.jpg SLIDESHOW: Pets of the Week Cats and dogs are looking for loving permanent homes at the Humane Society of Elkhart County.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

I think it’s a good idea to feed all the students free of charge
I think those who can afford it should pay for their school meals
I think all students should be required to pay for their school meals
     View Results
AP Video
Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream Raw: Woman Escorted From Ferguson Protests California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Holder Hopes to Bring Calm to Ferguson Today in History August 21 Holder Pledges Top Investigators for Ferguson US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List