Former governor talks about past, future
Monday, January 14, 2013 9:00 PM
Before Gov. Mitch Daniels cleaned out his office at the Statehouse, he was kind enough to spend a little time with a few newspaper types from around the state. I've never made any secret out of being a fan of our departed governor, and this conversation during his final hours did nothing to change my mind.
Daniels talked about a variety of things. From the highlights and lowlights of his eight years as Indiana governor to education reform, the challenges and opportunities awaiting him at Purdue University, his view on issues facing our country and even his future - or lack of - in politics down the road.
The following are just some of the takeaways from a conversation with Indiana's 49th governor.
On moving to Purdue and comparisons to former jobs: I hope some operating principles apply. Everywhere, I've been, including private business, success happens when you get people to move in a common direction.
I've said to folks at Purdue that every dollar we spend comes from a family or a taxpayer. We have a profound duty to spend it wisely. Times are tougher - tuition is higher - people are challenging the value of higher education and we must answer that challenge.
One of the things we have done (in the governor's office) is regularly met with the presidents of our seven state universities. Over and over we found that they had to come to the state to get permission to do the most common things. I suppose that was natural when the state was providing (the majority of their money). They are highly, highly regulated. Let's modernize and hold them accountable for the results instead of coming to Indianapolis all the time.
On new Indiana Gov. Mike Pence: We've had lots and lots of visits. We've been in regular touch. I'm really pleased with the enormous amount of continuity (with staff members staying on from the Daniels administration). That will help (the transition) and the people of the state of Indiana.
On the state of the nation and the growing national debt: Well, we've wasted more time (since he wrote about the issue in his book, Keeping the Republic in 2011). The problems of our debt have gotten worse. I'm still a believer that the majority of people can be assembled to understand the facts (and make the changes needed). I contend that Indiana is a study that says you can do that. I really do take encouragement from what Indiana has done.
On the state of education reform in Indiana: All indicators are up. Education reform is as close to a bi-partisan effort as I can name. I received a call from a representative from the Obama administration who wanted to express their disappointment over (state school superintendent) Tony Bennett (losing the election). But let's give (the opposition) credit. They ran a very good campaign.
On some of the accomplishments from his eight years as governor: We try to hunt big game every year. We have improved the business climate, we have improved our infrastructure, we have lowered our taxes and locked them down. We have improved education. We have shaped our state government and created a culture of high performance. We measure everything. We have the fewest state employees per capita in the nation and we have the fewest state employees that Indiana has had since 1976. But even with (fewer staff), service has improved.
On the future after Purdue: Well, I haven't really considered (a bucket list) very much. I suppose that a no-plans, no-deadlines western motorcycle trip was something we thought about. I do want to stay in shape, eat right, and be around for the grandchildren, long enough to see them graduate.
On any future political career: I swore off politics the day I accepted (the Purdue) job and we have kept to that and will. Assuming (Purdue) works out, I believe by the time we're done there we'll be pretty well spent and will be ready to step aside.
For whatever it's worth from this little corner of the state, thanks Gov. Daniels for a great eight years and here's hoping Purdue won't be your last stop in public service.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears most Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.