Words of Wisdom From the Latest Sachem Honoree

The fact that Ian Rolland received the Sachem Award from Gov. Mitch Daniels at a Wednesday ceremony at the Statehouse was no surprise. You can read, listen and see more about the honor and the recipient courtsey of the governor’s office.

When such events take place, it reminds me how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to meet and speak with so many of these distinguished Hoosiers. Rolland was the 1998 winner of the Indiana Chamber’s Business Leader of the Year award.

On the unfortunate side, I had only been with the Chamber a few months at the time and, quite honestly, had not figured out these annual awards and exactly how we should communicate about them. My time with Rolland for an interview at the Fort Wayne offices of Lincoln National, where he had just retired as CEO, was limited. I’ve learned since to invest more time to do a better job of telling such interesting award winner stories.

But in looking back, there are a couple of nuggets that Rolland shared that day that do epitomize his role as not only a business but community leader who is still making a difference in Fort Wayne and beyond. From the November/December 1998 BizVoice magazine (the third issue of the publication; our 84th issue will debut at next week’s Best Places to Work in Indiana awards event):

Rolland: "I’ve come to believe very strongly in community involvement. It’s a responsibility of citizenship — whether individual or corporate. I think it’s really in the best interest of the organization, too. If we can help make those communities better, it’s a better place for our employees and a better place to market our products."

Rolland had a 42-year association with Lincoln National, becoming president in 1975 and CEO two years later. Assets grew from $6 billion to $88 billion under his leadership.

In his understated way that day 14 years ago, he said, "The business has to be successful, growing and profitable before you can do anything else. Once that was accomplished, I think I was able to help make this community a better place."

Indeed. Congratulations, Ian Rolland.

Township Reform: Let’s Hear It For Policy Over Politics

A 90-minute Wednesday session titled Policy Over Politics: A Forum on Township Reform contained a seemingly never-ending supply of valuable information. Enough so that more than a few of the several hundred attendees could be heard at the end muttering something along the lines of (I paraphrase), "Why is this even an issue? Just do away with the townships and let’s move on."

Gov. Mitch Daniels opened the educational program, saying that it most definitely is time to reverse the "politics over policy" reality that has dominated the past few years. Below is a highlight or two from each of the presenters:

  • IUPUI political scientist Bill Blomquist noted there have only been about a dozen studies on local government reform over the past century and describes the historical aspect as a tension between 200-year-old Jacksonian democracy (elect everyone to short terms and make them accountable) and the later Progressive Era reform and its concept of government not being too complicated for the voters
  • The Indianapolis Star opinion editor Tim Swarens says he served on a panel on this topic eight or nine years ago, but that sometimes you just have to teach over and over. He quickly dispatched the various counter arguments township officials try to use to justify their existence
  • Louis Mahern, former state senator and member of the 2007 Kernan-Shepard Commission on Local Government Reform, also spoke. We could — and have in the past — done entire stories on his knowledge and passion in this area. For today, he points out that it comes down to the "money going for inefficient township government or libraries, or parks, or public safety, or pools …"
  • Martha Lamkin, longtime education and philanthropy leader: "It’s well past the time for elevating our poor relief to 21st century standards of accountability and transparency." She emphasizes the ridiculous nature of whether someone qualifies for poor relief being determined 1,000 different ways — township by township
  • Steve Campbell, former Indianapolis deputy mayor, advises to avoid the rhetoric. Efforts to modernize Marion County government while Bart Peterson was mayor were not a power grab, didn’t result in people dying (after fire department mergers began) and didn’t cost any state legislators their jobs
  • Mark Miles, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership president, closed with "every layer of government is being forced to do more with less, yet townships manage to do less with more" and this classic that he said he was told earlier in the day: Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time the quo has lost its status

Bottom line: get involved; contact your legislators; learn more at www.mysmartgov.org.

Keep it Free; Create the Jobs

Economic growth and job creation are the focus of a national discussion taking place in Indianapolis this morning — and the Indiana Chamber will be there.

The U.S. Chamber’s National Chamber Foundation (with assistance from the Indiana Chamber and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation) is hosting the 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. event. Several members of the national chamber team, including former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, will offer comments along with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

A roundtable discussion will take place, with Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and several Chamber board members among the participants. Daniels will focus his remarks on Creating Jobs Through Free Enterprise and an Indiana-specific study will also be unveiled.

We’ll provide some Twitter updates during the discussion and come back with another blog later in the day.

A Big Day on the Education Front

Ask Indiana business men and women what the state needs to do better and sooner (often first on the list) rather than later the topic will be: improve the education of our young people. Two developments Friday were good news:

  • Current State Sen. Teresa Lubbers was unanimously chosen this morning as the next Commissioner of Higher Education. She will assume that role once the legislative special session ends. Lubbers was one of the first members of the General Assembly I had a chance to interview as she was awarded the Chamber’s Government Leader of the Year award in 1998. In working on that story, and in dealing with her on subsequent legislative topics and education initiatives, Lubbers has always been straightforward and simply dedicated to getting the job done. She has endured staunch opposition at times in the K-12 arena, but I’m confident she will partner with other innovative thinkers at the higher ed level to move Indiana forward.
  • Later in the morning, the first class of Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows was introduced in the governor’s office. The Fellows (59 of them will be attending Purdue, IUPUI and UIndy; Ball State will also be part of the program in future years) receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s program. In exchange, they commit to three years of teaching in high-need schools in both urban and rural communities. This first class focuses on the hard-to-find math and science teachers with nearly all holding a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) degree.

In addition to putting highly qualified and talented professionals (both recent grads and those with years of workplace experience) in the classroom, one of the best things about this effort is that Indiana is first in the country for this Wilson fellowship program. Both Gov. Mitch Daniels and Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine used the words "Rhodes Scholars of teaching" in their remarks.

In Indianapolis, public television station WFYI will be producing a documentary, following the Fellows through the learning process and into the classroom. We look forward to the story as it unfolds — and the benefits for Indiana students for years to come.

The Wilson Foundation has the details.