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Governor's award goes to Conover at County Council

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By LILY REX

Outgoing County Council member Karen Conover, R-3rd, said she was “going out with a bang and a whimper” last night when State Representative Ed Soliday surprised her by announcing that Governor Eric Holcomb has honored her with the Distinguished Hoosier Award.

A long-time friend of Conover’s, Soliday presented the award, bestowed upon outstanding Hoosiers at the discretion of the sitting Governor, at last night’s County Council meeting.

“When taking office, I had a huge learning curve, and my best advice I received and put into practice I wish to share was from my late father-in-law Bill Conover: ‘put your politics in your back pocket while serving in your elected position’, and from my late father Paul Wallace: ‘seek first to understand and then be understood.’ I tried my best to make these my golden rules during my 18 years of service to this board.”

Conover said she was proud of the collaboration she was part of on the Council and poked fun at Councilmember Dan Whitten, D-At-Large. “Often the votes have been unanimous and on occasion the votes have been contentious,” Conover said. “We manage to stay cohesive after the fact. Maybe one person does have a voice louder than the others, Dan, but we’re all equal.”

Conover said Porter County has faced many difficult decisions in her 21 years in County government, including two mill bankruptcies, the decision to move the jail building, instituting an income tax, and the sale of the hospital.

Conover praised the Commissioners for their capital improvements plan and said, “A lot of good can and will happen if the Board can work with the Commissioners and not let politics and personalities get in the way of good governance.”

Conover also had high praise for Soliday, whose special legislation enabled the sale of the hospital and the formation of the Porter County Non-Profit Charitable Foundation, a move Conover says has put Porter County on the path to be “the most fiscally solvent County in the state for generations to come.”

“Ed Soliday has been exemplary in his representations of Porter County government,” Conover said. “You’ve always been a phone call away and you’ve always come through.”

The other members of the Council had extensive praise for Conover and presented her with a plaque commemorating her service.

Whitten said Conover was a mentor to him since he began serving on the Council 14 years ago. “I came into County government and it was all new to me. I didn’t know how County government was supposed to work I didn’t know how it had been working, but I had a pretty good idea how it shouldn’t work. Everybody who I asked told me to talk to you. Everyone saw you as a very good sounding board and somebody who would tell me how it was and how it wasn’t.”

“We’ve seen this County through some dark times and through some good times. When I heard you weren’t running again, I took it hard because I knew I would miss you,” Whitten continued. “I’m so grateful that we have formed a friendship that I hope will last forever.”

Council member Sylvia Graham, D-At-Large, said Conover was also her mentor. “You’ve done so much for Porter County, and you’ve done it from your heart. You’ve been a great leader and you’re going to be missed.”

Council Vice-president Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said in his eight years of serving the Council, Conover has been a standout. “You’ve been the steady one here, the one who stayed in the middle and tried to keep us in the middle and going forward on the right path. You’ve been the steady hand.”

Council member Mike Jessen, R-4th, said, “To me you are a breath of fresh air in this game of public life. I think you epitomize what a public servant should be about. The struggle I’ve had with this political arena is there’s oftentimes to much partisanship. There’s politics of personalities and there’s personal agendas, and all those things that drag down the good that can come from government. You’ve never embraced those things.”

Jessen continued, “You’ve taught me you don’t have to play those games to be successful. In fact, you can be much more successful if you try to bridge that gap.”

Council members Jeff Larson, R-At-large, and outgoing Council President Andy Bozak, R-1st, also said Conover has been a moderator for the Council and someone they have learned from.

Rivas also presented Bozak with a plaque recognizing his service to the Council. Bozak said, “I’ve learned a lot in the last two years and hope to be back one day.” Whitten said, “It’s been a pleasure to have you on the council. Though election day didn’t go exactly as you thought, I hope it’s just a bump in the road for you and we see you again.”

 

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