Chamber Staff Comings and Goings

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is just a few years away from celebrating 100 years (the organization was founded in 1922). Over nearly a century, there have been countless staff changes and evolutions to help move the organization forward.

Janet Boston

Today, we say “thank you and farewell” to Janet Boston, who is retiring as executive director of the Indiana INTERNnet program, which is managed by the Indiana Chamber. Boston has been in the role for seven years and caps off an outstanding career in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. Read more about Boston’s impact with the organization here. The Indiana Chamber and Indiana INTERNnet Board sent Boston out in style – with a luncheon and office celebration, and presented her with a custom necklace in appreciation of her taking the program to new heights.

Mark Lawrance, who has most recently been advocating in the economic development and technology areas, will replace Boston as interim executive director of Indiana INTERNnet, starting June 1. Lawrance will be retiring later this year and is expected to stay in the interim role until the fall.

Additionally, as previously announced, the Indiana Chamber has partnered with the Wellness Council of Indiana and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration to help combat the state’s opioid epidemic. The new Indiana Workforce Recovery initiative is a joint effort among the groups and is led by Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Wellness Council. The initiative provides employers with resources and guidance on how to help their employees who are impacted by the opioid epidemic. Allyson Blandford has come on board at the Wellness Council to support the initiative as project manager.

Also at the Wellness Council, Madie Newman has joined as program coordinator for the Indiana Healthy Communities initiative. The role has been created to support the organization in helping communities coordinate wellness efforts, ensuring healthier citizens and acting as a draw for economic development opportunities.

Abbi Espe rounds out our membership team. She was hired this spring as the manager of member services for northeastern Indiana and will focus on bringing new companies into the fold.

On the education front, the grant-funded college and career readiness position, held by Shelley Huffman, ends today. Lobbyist Caryl Auslander, who handled education and workforce matters, has left for new endeavors.

Greg Ellis, vice president of energy and environmental policy, is now responsible for federal lobbying. Members of the Indiana Chamber’s advocacy team are assuming Auslander and Lawrance’s other policy committee duties on a temporary basis until new staff is hired later this summer.

We wish everyone well and good luck in their future activities and look forward to the contributions of our new team members to continue the important work and mission of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity for the people of Indiana and their enterprises.”

For our complete staff listing, visit the web site at:

Throwback Thursday: What Decides a Legislator’s Vote?

In the today’s look back, we feature an Indiana Chamber-produced cartoon from 1954 titled, “What Factors Decide a Legislator’s Vote?”

It’s a good question, even today. Here are the influencing factors it lists as possibilities:

  • Conscience: What are the facts? What’s right? What’s wrong?
  • Affected by : (A) Personal background and experiences; (B) Knowledge (or lack of knowledge) of the facts
  • The Party “Line”: Party caucus decisions and party discipline
  • “Lobbies”
  • Opinions of the folks “back home”: (A) Whose judgment the legislator respects and/or (B) Who he believes can help him be re-elected

While these are all pretty much the same conditions as today, we’d likely change the reference to legislators from “he” to “he/she” considering state government is no longer just a “boys club.” In fact, you can see that topic addressed in this old Throwback Thursday post.

So It’s Not a New Problem We’re Talking About

The Kiplinger Letter has been offering business and political information and analysis for what seems like forever. I couldn’t help but notice that it delivered this familiar blast from the past, which originally appeared in 1957.

"People ask why government won’t cut taxes and spending. OK, here’s why: The whole system is geared to spending more … on practically every front. Every government administrator, big or little, wants more for his functions … and is backed by like-minded lobbies in Washington, lobbying for more. Every member of Congress tries to get more for his district, his voters. Even the average citizen, perhaps even you, has some special interest, and wants government to spend more for that, and economize on other things. Almost no one dares stick his neck out for cuts … on any specified front.

"The total forces for spending exceed the total of forces for cutting. And, mind you, this applies to the general public as well as to government."

And that was from 54 years ago!

Did Idaho Rep. Cross Line with Teacher Email?

Politics and policy came together inappropriately when an Idaho legislator tried to recruit teachers and students to fight proposed education reforms. The line appears to be clear between encouraging government class discussions and actively seeking referendum opponents. The Idaho Statesman reports:

House Minority Leader John Rusche told Rep. Sue Chew on Monday that an email sent from her legislative account to nearly 800 addressees was inappropriate.

The May 12 email suggested high school government classes focus on referendums seeking to overturn three education reform laws authored by GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.

“Allowing students to register to vote and keeping them informed of upcoming events, such as the referendum, is a way for the teachers to instill the rhetoric from class within their students’ lives,” said the email.

Under the subject line, “Next steps?” the email went to many teachers, mostly to private email accounts, but about 30 went to school accounts.

“It’s inappropriate to talk about encouraging activity in the classroom around a specific position on the referendum,” said Rusche, of Lewiston. “I thought this was over the line and deserved to be corrected. She acknowledged that and said it wouldn’t happen again.”

The day after Chew’s email — but before he knew of it — Luna emailed a warning to school trustees and administrators that educators who engaged in political activity at school were subject to firing for violating their ethics code.

Luna received a copy of Chew’s email four days after his warning memo from Star City Councilman Gary Smith, a recipient. Wrote Smith: “I don’t want my taxes being used for political campaigns, especially when they are using their office and their position to influence our kids.”

Chew said she erred. “We’ll do things better next time,” she said, adding that her aim was to keep young people politically active after a heated debate.