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September 10, 2013

'Listening Tour' getting rave reviews

Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann plans to hit all 92 counties by year's end.

INDIANAPOLIS – This summer, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann has spent as much time away from her desk as behind it, embarked on “Listen and Learn” tour of the state, with the goal of visiting each of Indiana’s 92 counties by year’s end.

In her travels, she’s toured a pickle factory in northern Indiana and the world’s largest hard-boiled egg distributorship in southern Indiana, and covered a lot of territory in between.

But much of her time on the tour has been spent in closed-door meetings with local elected officials, community leaders, business owners and farmers, getting them to tell her how state government can do a better job serving local communities.

“I want them to speak to me as if the governor was there, in the most candid words,” Ellspermann said. “And I state that at the beginning of every session: ‘I’m not here to just get the good news. I want to know what’s really happening. Tell us what we what we need to hear and tell us as honestly as you can.’”

The responses to that request have been wide-ranging. She’s heard about crumbling infrastructure, shrinking school budgets, and the shortage of skilled workers, to name a few. She’s also heard complaints about the slow response of state agencies to local concerns, and worries about the unforeseen impact of government mandates.

What she may be hearing most: Gratitude from the locals, who feel like their voices often aren’t heard by powerbrokers in the Statehouse.

“How many politicians do you know who really listen to what you have to say?” said Hartford City Mayor Ben Hodgin, a Democrat who met with the Republican Ellspermann when she came to his town this summer. “With her, you really do feel like she’s interested in what you have to say.”

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