NEW PALESTINE — Touting the state’s fiscal responsibility, economic growth along with promoting career vocational education and paying tribute to area farmers, Gov. Mike Pence spent a large portion of Wednesday in Hancock County.
The governor made three stops in the area including Brookville Road Community Church and Mt. Comfort Elementary before closing his trip with a visit to a local farm.
In New Palestine at BRCC where Pence began his afternoon, he praised county business and educational leaders along with residents for being part of a state he said is on the move.
“The more I get around the country I know there are 49 other governors who wish they could be me,” Pence said.
Pence spent about an hour at the church where New Palestine Chamber of Commerce officials invited him for a “Snacks with the Governor” session.
“It took about a year and a half of us asking before his busy schedule would allow him to make it here, so we’re really glad to have him,” NP Chamber Rep. Caralee Griffith said.
Former State Sen. Beverly Gard attended the session and said Pence is the type of state leader who has a genuine interest in small town Indiana.
“His congressional district had lots of smaller communities and he visited them and I think he is trying to do the same thing on a statewide basis,” Gard said.
Calling Indiana the fiscal envy of the country, Pence thanked county officials for the work they have done to help Indiana prosper.
“Since 2005 alone the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has secured 17 different projects in Hancock County which involves 1,800 new jobs, investing $396 million in operations in this county alone,” Pence said. “Last month in Indiana we added 9,900 private sector jobs in Indiana and we ranked 8th in the country in private sector jobs added last year.”
In addition to sharing his views on local and state economic information, Pence took the opportunity to promote his views on secondary education and the importance of career vocational education.
“Our schools need to work just as well for our kids whether they are heading off to college or to the work place,” Pence said. “Indiana is going to be the first state in America to make career and vocational education a priority.”
After his speech Pence was asked if that statement meant there would be more funding for schools in the near future earmarked for that type of training and he seemed optimistic.
“We put tens of millions of dollars into technical education and we are evaluating that as we write the budget right now,” Pence said. “We’re looking for ways to repurpose some of those dollars…. One of the advantages of having a strong balance sheet is we can invest in our priorities.”
From New Palestine Pence was off to Mt. Comfort where the fourth-grade students at Mt. Comfort Elementary waited patiently and remarkably quietly for him to arrive before they tried to stump him with Indiana history questions.
The quick history lesson from Pence went hand in hand with what the fourth grade students have been learning this year.
“Over the year, we’re talking mostly about Indiana history in social studies,” said Mt. Comfort Elementary fourth grade teacher Mark Copeland. “We’ve jumped ahead in our textbooks and talked about government pretty early on.”
The lessons will continue. In November, the fourth graders will be taking a field trip to the Indiana Statehouse.
“We spent some time coming up with reasonable questions (for the governor),” Copeland said.
Pence spoke of his favorite American president, Abraham Lincoln, and was impressed with the knowledge displayed by the students. Fourth-grader Jack Salmon stunned Pence with his in-depth knowledge of Lincoln and his family, including the death of Lincoln’s mother Nancy Lincoln. Shea knew that one of the theories of her death was “milk sickness.”
Fellow fourth-grader Shea Welch told Pence that he would like to be Indiana’s governor one day.
Pence shared a similar dream of going into public service at a young age. Pence had wanted to be a U.S. Congressman in D.C. years before his aspirations were realized, he said. His path was paved with jobs as a dishwasher, corn detassler, gas station attendant, attorney, radio host and congressman.
For Jack, he said leadership and putting others before one’s own needs was paramount in public service.
“To serve in public life is to serve people,” Pence said. “Become the kind of people others know as a helpful person. That’s a leadership quality. Lastly, don’t let anybody tell you can’t be it. If you work hard, study hard, listen to people that care about you, stay away from things that can derail you, the sky’s the limit.”
Pence ended his county visit on the Jim Cherry Family Farm, where he offered remarks as the honorary host of Indiana Farm Bureau’s Before the Harvest event.