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.

Government Efficiency Still Top Priority for Commission Members

Members of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform didn’t abandon the cause after coming up with their far-reaching and meaningful recommendations in late 2007. The six months of work in compiling the report obviously became personal for the commission members – co-chairs Joe Kernan and Randall Shephard along with Ian Rolland and John Stafford of Fort Wayne, Sue Ann Gilroy and Louie Mahern of Indianapolis, and Adam Herbert of Bloomington.

Kernan, at the Indiana Chamber’s request, jumped in early this year with a series of video messages and BizVoice magazine article emphasizing the need for reform and discussing the findings/recommendations in specific issue areas. The former governor – along with Shepard, Stafford and Mahern, in particular – has been out on the speaking circuit ever since the report was released. They, along with others, recognize the challenge. It’s fair to say they (again, along with proponents who understand the importance of modernizing a system that has been in place for more than 150 years) wished more progress had taken place during the General Assembly session, but as political veterans they also realize little could be done with the runaway train that became homeowner property tax relief.

It’s no secret that Gov. Daniels will be focusing on this topic in his re-election bid and, if successful, in the 2009 legislative agenda. The status quo must change – at all levels. The numbers are in the report; the message is the same as those four words from Kernan upon its release – “If not now, when?”