"You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," the saying goes.

We should also remember not to judge people on first impressions.

There was a Montgomery County politician I first met many years ago. After watching him in action at a meeting I thought he was a snake oil salesman. Turns out he is one of the best people I have ever met.

I made the same mistake when Mitch Daniels was running for governor. He made a campaign visit to a truck stop near the town where I was the newspaper editor. I sent one of my reporters to cover his visit.

The picture of Mitch and the impression he made on our reporter was not positive. A former Washington insider? A man who occupied a top office at one of Indiana's largest corporations? Going to put the needs of the residents of the state ahead of government and business? Really?

My attitude toward My Man Mitch mellowed over the years.

I first saw him on the campus of Indiana State University. We had not received a press release. Mitch and one or two staff members were just hanging out, talking with the students. I just happened to walk into the building while trying to find the people I was scheduled to interview.

I intentionally walked in back of Mitch, just to see what his bodyguards would do, if they were bodyguards.

I was close enough to see Mitch's bald spot on the back of his head.

All right! He was working on a bald spot just like mine!

Then, I heard him speak. He came to our office not once but twice while in office as governor. I found him to have a good sense of humor as well as a great deal of intelligence.

I became a fan of My Man Mitch.

The last time I interviewed him, he was in Crawfordsville to visit.

I saw Dave Peach, the radio station manager, at the Strawberry Festival. He gave me a heads up that Mitch was coming to the radio station. Why? He didn't know.

So, I went to the station with my video camera.

Mitch was interviewed on the air, live, by a young man who was obviously nervous about interviewing the governor.

After the interview was over and the music was playing, Mitch took time to ask the young man about his background and his future plans. Now we know Mitch was not "politicking." He was genuinely interested in the young person.

I received the opportunity to interview Mitch immediately after he walked out of the radio studio.

One of my questions was, what do you plan to do after you leave office.

Mitch gave me some answer indicating his plans were up in the air. A few days later, the announcement was made Mitch would become the next president of Purdue University.

Mitch, could you not have let that slip when I asked you the question?

Oh, well, Mitch has proven he is a great guy despite my initial reservations.



Frank Phillips has been watching and reporting Central Indiana news and politics since 1994. He is currently a retail advertising account representative of The Paper. His email address is fphillips@thepaper24-7.com.