Reaching Monroe County, Indiana on Tuesday was a tiny ripple from the political splash that was made when congressional Republicans took 15 rounds of voting to finally settle last Saturday on Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House.
The little wavelet came in the form of county councilor Marty Hawk’s participation in Tuesday’s unanimous votes to reelect Kate Wiltz as council president and Trent Deckard as president pro tem.
Hawk is the sole Republican representative on the seven-member county council. The other six are Democrats.
It was the fact that Hawk participated in the votes at all that made it a little remarkable. Last year’s officer elections were typical for her historical approach: “As I have done in the past, I will pass on this, because I believe it is up to the majority caucus to decide what’s going to happen here, and I wish you well.”
Last year she had prefaced her remarks by saying, “If you succeed, that means the entire council will succeed and so I’m happy to work well with whoever the majority puts forward.”
This year, after the nominations were made, Hawk made an allusion to last week’s fight over the selection for speaker of the House: “I will say that in times past, I’ve just said ‘present’ or passed. But after what’s happened in Washington DC, I guess I won’t do that.”
Hawk continued, “However, I will say that there are many times we will disagree on many things, but somebody has to be president.” Directing her final comment at Wiltz, Hawk quipped, “And I’m sorry for you that you are picked to be the loser!” The line got big laughs.
Wiltz responded by saying, “That’s awesome. I appreciate the nomination and would be happy to continue serving as president.”
Officer elections came towards the beginning of the county council’s meeting.
At the end of the meeting, during time reserved for comments from councilors, Jennifer Crossley turned serious when she thanked her colleagues for reappointing her to the criminal justice reform committee (CJRC), which had met the previous day.
The CJRC is a 14-member group that is working to make recommendations on addressing problems at the jail. The facility has been described in a consultant’s report as “failing.”
The 14-member CJRC includes county commissioners, county councilors, judges, the sheriff, representatives from the prosecutor’s office, public defenders office, and the county health administrator, among others.
A theme that emerged during the CJRC meeting was the idea that different public officials should stay in their “lane” until the time was right, an idea that several CJRC members rejected.
At Tuesday’s county council meeting Crossley said, “There are many different avenues and many different lanes that we have… but we were all on the same road, and we’re all on the same path.”
She continued, “Can we just imagine if in moments in history, where we all just stayed in our lane…and not paid attention, would some of us even be in the spots that we are in?” Crossley wondered: “Would I be sitting right here in my seat, if I just stayed in my lane?”
About the CJRC meetings, Crossley observed that the audience for those meetings has increased bit by bit over the last several months. It’s exciting that people are starting to focus on county government, she said, but that means it’s also very hard at times.
Crossley looked down the dais to Hawk, when she said, “I’m going to continue to use what you said a while back, because it resonated with me…: ‘We can do hard things, and we have to have broad shoulders.’” About Hawk’s words, Crossley said, “That has really stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me in my efforts as I move forward on this county council.”
One thought on “Monroe County council leadership choice starts 2023 lighthearted but serious: “I’m sorry for you that you are picked to be the loser!””
If people reading this coverage get the impression that the Monroe County council is the healthiest and most functional of “the big three” elected bodies (commissioners, county council, city council) in our corner of the universe, then they’d be correct. Please keep up the good work and good approach in the face of all the disappointingly cantankerous executives!
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