Governor-elect listens to advice


In a Facebook post thanking voters for his election victory, Governor-elect Eric Holcomb told Hoosiers, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

But exactly what will Hoosiers see from the new governor?

A look back at Holcomb’s campaign and his background can provide some clues.

News stories noted that Holcomb has worked with both of Indiana’s past two governors, Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence. Commentators wondered which of those two he will use as a role model.

It seems clear that Holcomb’s ties to Daniels are stronger by far.

In a campaign interview, Electric Consumer magazine asked Holcomb which leader in the past 100 years has had the greatest influence on Indiana. Holcomb gave Daniels as his answer.

“I spent 10 years working for our former governor, in one capacity or another,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb said he learned many valuable lessons from Daniels. Significant among them, he mentioned, “reaching out to folks of all different stripes and saying, ‘If we can agree on this, we don’t have to agree on 10 things, but if we can agree on this project, can we work together? Because we’re willing to.’”

As the Indianapolis Star described the past two governors: “Daniels was hard-charging and focused heavily on fiscal and economic issues. Pence often let lawmakers take the lead on policy issues and was more willing to tackle controversial social issues, such as abortion restrictions and a religious objections law.”

News reports say Holcomb has picked a 16-member transition team that is heavily populated by former aides to Daniels.

It seems likely that Holcomb will follow the style of Daniels, who refused to let divisive social controversies distract from his more practical goals.

Daniels wrote an open letter to both candidates for governor, offering his advice. Holcomb seems likely to listen.

Daniels advised the next governor to “assign top priority to the usually neglected task of making day-to-day government operate effectively in everything it does.” He encouraged the election winner to “work hard at good everyday service,” such as making sure the license branch has short waiting times and applications to state agencies are handled quickly.

Making government run smoothly is easy to say, harder to accomplish. Daniels said the key is attracting talented people.

“These people will almost never be found in your campaign office or leading a local party committee. There are places for these loyalists, but not in executive line positions,” Daniels wrote.

Insisting on excellence can rub some people the wrong way, and Daniels made some enemies on his march toward efficiency. Holcomb tends to be more diplomatic than Daniels, Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told The Indianapolis Star.

Holcomb does not sound ready to start spending Indiana’s prized $2 billion budget surplus, built largely during Daniels’ term. Holcomb told Electric Consumer, “we need to absolutely maintain that savings account for those truly tough days.” He added, “I absolutely guard and protect that savings account, because it directly affects our credit ratings and saves us money in the long run and attracts more.”

A new motto for Indiana, “The State That Works,” can be viewed more than one way. In one meaning, it points to the state’s leadership in manufacturing and Hoosiers’ strong work ethic.

From Daniels’ viewpoint, it also means Indiana’s state government works the way it should. An effective state government does not have to create jobs and prosperity by itself. It has to provide the fertile atmosphere for those who do.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].

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