The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 26, 2021 1:00 am

Political Notebook

Class training civic leaders across region

Journal Gazette

Ambassador Enterprises, a local private equity firm, has established a new program for emerging northeast Indiana leaders.

The Ambassador Institute for Civic Engagement convened the first of its four sessions on Sept. 10 with 10 participants representing seven counties, officials said Thursday. The second session is scheduled Oct. 8.

The program is designed to “identify, train and equip emerging civic leaders in northeast Indiana with a heart for public service and a philosophy of responsible, responsive government,” a news release said.

Session topics include an introduction to municipal and county government topics and state and school board governance.

David Long, a former Indiana state senator, said first-time candidates for state or local office often “have no idea how government is funded or where the money goes.”

One of the civic engagement program's primary goals is to address that knowledge gap.

Ron Turpin, Ambassador Enterprises' chief financial officer and vice president of civic engagement, co-created the program with Long, who was hired as a consultant.

Participants in the first class were recommended by the region's state legislative delegation, mayors and commissioners with an eye on assembling a diverse group, Turpin said. The ideal class size is 10 to 15, he said, adding that he hopes to offer the program twice each year.

“Every thriving community has a 'triangle' working together to accomplish big goals: the philanthropic and religious community, the business community, and government,” Turpin said in a statement. “To help build this triangle for northeast Indiana, we want to emphasize the important role of servant leaders in civic life and the need to increase citizen participation and engagement.”

Circle of friends

Speaking of Ron Turpin, before he could call the Northeast Indiana Strategic Development Commission's meeting to order Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Dave Heine, R-Fort Wayne, interrupted the proceedings.

Heine then presented Turpin with the Circle of Corydon Award on behalf of Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The award is one of the highest honors in the state and reserved for people who have “demonstrated, in life and in service to the people of the State of Indiana, the qualities exemplified by our state's greatest citizens.”

Turpin is a certified public accountant and graduate of the Indiana University School of Law. He has served on the boards of about two dozen local, regional and statewide philanthropic organizations.

He has been on the East Allen County Schools board since November and is a previous head of Fort Wayne's Legacy Joint Funding Committee, which evaluates requests and distributes funds from Fort Wayne's multimillion-dollar sale of its electrical utility to Indiana Michigan Power.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn nominated Turpin for the award. Kruse couldn't attend the meeting, so Heine presented it on his behalf.

Turpin, Heine and Kruse have another connection.

Kruse, whose term ends in 2022, announced in August that he will not seek reelection. Three days later, Turpin announced his candidacy for Kruse's seat, representing District 14.

And Heine? He's one of three honorary co-chairs of Turpin's campaign along with John Kruse, Dennis Kruse's son, and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.

Ideological talk

A Fort Wayne City Council discussion about a $2 million grant for Do it Best's relocation led to a broader topic Tuesday – what is government for?

As Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, shared his opposition, he said the decision comes down to each member's personal philosophy.

“Is it for providing the blueprint for commercial transactions or is it to pay for police, fire, infrastructure and those types of things?” he asked. “That's what this gets down to ... nuts and bolts.”

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he understood where Arp was coming from “in many ways,” including how the city needs new sidewalks.

“I know exactly what he's talking about, but there's also 400 jobs that we are discussing here,” he said. “I keep telling constituents that there's only so many dollars that we have without doing something nobody would want to do, which is raise taxes.”

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, said the discussion shouldn't be about doing this or that.

“I would say we can't necessarily frame this as an either/or – either we can do sidewalks or we can do economic development,” he said. The grant was approved with a 6-3 vote.

Tapped to serve

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday announced several appointments to various state boards and commissions.

Appointments from the Fort Wayne area include 13 people to the Indiana Wetlands Task Force, whose members will serve until Dec. 31, 2022. Jeff Thomas, Fort Wayne, co-owner and vice president of Oakmont Development LLC, and Richard Strick, the mayor of Huntington, will join this group.

Five reappointments were made to the Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission. James Murua, assistant chief and fire marshal with the Fort Wayne Fire Department, was one of the appointees.

Sherry Slater, Devan Filchak and Lisa Green of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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