GREENFIELD — Rosalie Richardson chuckles when asked why she spends hours on the daunting task of crunching numbers for county government.
Richardson is described by colleagues as one of the hardest working public servants in the county. But now, after 12 years on the Hancock County Council and a combined 12 more years in school and township government, Richardson said it’s time to take a step back from elected office.
Her many hours of dedication, many said, will be missed.
“That’s who I am – I volunteer for too much,” she said.
Richardson, 73, chose not to seek re-election to spend more time with family. Other outgoing county elected officials include one-term Hancock County Treasurer Phyllis Vest; one-term Councilman Brian Kirkwood; and Joe Skvarenina, who served less than one year on the county council.
Richardson received the Distinguished Hoosier award at her final county council meeting Dec. 12 for her years of dedication to the community.
“She just works and works and works on these issues,” said state Sen. Beverly Gard, who presented Richardson with the award. “Particularly with numbers, she just pores over budgets. When she commits to do something, she gives it her all.”
Gard, a longtime friend who is retiring from the state Senate, said Richardson is especially a good role model for women to become more involved in county government. Indeed, Debbie Bledsoe, who will be the only woman on the county council next year, said she looks up to Richardson for her dedication to the job.
Richardson is originally from West Lafayette. She moved to Greenfield in 1962 with her former husband, Ray Richardson, county attorney and former state representative.
Rosalie Richardson, who holds bachelors and masters degrees in education, taught for about five years before stepping away from work to raise a family. She is the mother of Diana and Robert, and now has three grandkids. “They’re all wonderful,” the proud grandma points out.
Richardson got involved in community activities immediately after she moved to Greenfield, from Girl Scouts to programs with Greenfield Christian Church. She decided to run for the Greenfield-Central School Board in the 1980s with the hope that she could get all students interested in learning, regardless of their ability level.
“I was hoping there might be more attention to analytical thinking, upper grades and creativity,” she said. “But the tests, tests, tests have put that on hold, I think.”
Still, Richardson made strides by assisting with programs for gifted students at G-C.
“Strangely,” Richardson added, she also became interested in building maintenance. Looking up at water spots on a ceiling one day, Richardson said she began to ask questions about the funding for school maintenance positions and how more emphasis could be put on facilities.
That knack for asking questions came in handy throughout her years in elected office. Richardson served as Center Township trustee from 1994 to 1998 after becoming curious about helping people get back on their feet financially. The office administers financial help to those who qualify, and Richardson wanted to help people become more self-sufficient. She’d help them find jobs.
“It was really an eye-opener. I enjoyed it,” she said. “One reason I didn’t run again was, I could see there needed to be better record-keeping and computerization, and I wasn’t really good at that.”
Richardson was elected to the county council in 2000, and at the time she thought the board dealt more with county lawmaking. But the county council holds the purse strings for local government, and she enjoyed learning about finances – even though it has been a challenge.
The most frustrating thing, she said, is the fact that county finances are not transparent. With a shift from county government mostly funded by property taxes to the addition of several income taxes, Richardson said it’s confusing for the public to follow along.
“The most transparent way to operate a government is to have one tax, to have that tax fairly stable,” she said. “With the changes in the economy and legislative mandates, we have a whole range of fees.”
Still, fellow councilman Jim Shelby said Richardson took the job to heart and tried to do what was best for the public.
“She takes the job very seriously and … always showed a lot of concern for her constituents,” Shelby said. “She was very reluctant to ever increase taxes. She was always wanting to know all the details and she’d dig into all of the facts and then come to a decision.”
Richardson was involved in the council’s budget committee; Shelby said she never missed a meeting. She also served on the community corrections committee, and will continue to serve there as a former council member to try to find ways to keep people out of the judicial system.
Council President Bill Bolander said Richardson also helped the council by lobbying at the Indiana Statehouse. This year, for example, she attended several sessions about funding for emergency operations.
Bolander said Richardson takes projects to completion, and also does her research on every decision she makes in county government.
The only woman on the council during her three terms, Richardson said she hopes more women become involved in the years to come.
“I think with two-income families, women still take a large amount of the household and children’s chores, so that makes it a little harder,” she said. “But there are women who are retired or (have) children out of the home, where it would be good for them.”
Having also been involved in the Hancock County Republican Party over the years, Richardson said it will be important to make sure women especially are aware when positions become available to serve locally.
While Richardson will spend more time with her family, she will continue to stay involved in the community. In addition to the community corrections committee, Richardson will also speak to local community groups or school groups whenever asked. As president of Greenfield Historic Landmarks, the history buff loves sharing her knowledge with others.
Despite the “messy task” of having to dig into the various taxes, fees and grants for county departments, Richardson said she’s glad she served on the county council. But she’s also grateful for the others who served alongside her, especially in her last term when funding became tight.
“I think we’ve taken tough times and (we have) gotten budgets passed,” she said. “We were able to take different monies, emphasis on property taxes to emphasis on (income taxes) and tried to integrate funding sources to keep the county running.”