GREENFIELD — Friday was a night of celebrations for local Republicans.
As the party gathered for its annual Lincoln Day Dinner, members celebrated a successful local election cycle and a productive legislative session — a night capped by a visit from a special guest.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb served as keynote speaker for the event in his first official visit to Hancock County since taking office.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican who represents a portion of Hancock County, took the microphone first to rev Republicans up to hear from their governor.
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Bosma told a story about early encounters with his now longtime friend.
At a campaign party in the early 2000s — a time when Republicans were gunning to win a majority in state government — a group of Republicans, including Holcomb and Bosma, loaded up a presentation showing how Indiana stacked up to other states.
No. 1 in the nation for personal bankruptcies, it read. One of the only states to lose technology jobs. The 46th state in the country for best economic outlook.
Now, more than a decade later, the pair of friends sat in a room full of local supporters, proud of how far Indiana has come.
No. 1 state government in the nation, No. 1 state in the Midwest for area economic development and No. 1 state for best economic outlook, 45 states higher than before, Bosma said.
Holcomb has played a large role in that success, first serving as an adviser to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and later as the leader of the state’s Republican party, Bosma said.
It’s been four months since Holcomb transitioned from lieutenant governor to the state’s top leader.
Those 100-plus days have been a whirlwind, he told a room full of local elected officials and friends.
“I’ve been holding on with both hands,” he said.
Rep. Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield, served as moderator for the evening, asking Holcomb questions covering policy, Holcomb’s personal life and his vision for the next 3.5 years and beyond.
Holcomb talked about legislative successes his party ushered through this year’s General Assembly — a balanced budget and a road funding package that funnels $1.2 billion more into highways and streets across the state, among his proudest accomplishments.
The road funding bill the governor has signed into law is transformational, he said.
Indiana’s roads and bridges are crumbling; the funding reserved for repairs is enough to serve Indiana for the next two decades.
The bill approved under Holcomb’s leadership is going to make Hoosier drivers safer and have a positive impact on Indiana’s business climate by providing better roads for commerce, he said.
“If we’re going to remain the crossroads of America — the crossroads of the world — we have to have the infrastructure to back it up,” Holcomb said.
But he’s more proud of the way state leaders have conducted themselves. Legislators crossed aisles, working alongside members of the opposite party to pass meaningful bills; they’re transparent, and they’re doing what they promised they would, he said. And Hoosiers are noticing.
“It is not lost on anyone around the state of Indiana, from border to border,” he said.
But the night didn’t just focus on business. There were light moments, too — Cherry asking questions that allowed the governor to loosen up.
Are you more like Mitch (Daniels) or Mike (Pence)?” Cherry asked. “Are you the tallest governor the state’s ever had?”
He’s taller than both men, Holcomb said — and younger too, he was quick to add, a joke that got applause from everyone in the room.
And while he’s learned a lot from both men, he plans to be his own governor.
“I am 100 percent Eric,” he told Cherry. “I realize I have big shoes to fill. … I’m going to fill them with my own two feet.”