By now you’ve probably heard the news.
District 74 state Rep. Sue Ellspermann, a product of the rolling rural hills of far southern Indiana, is Rep. Mike Pence’s hands-on choice for lieutenant governor as he makes his bid for the top spot.
Who the heck is Ellspermann?
I feel somewhat qualified to fill you in, having known Sue for more than 30 years and counting myself among her many friends.
But first, a little history on the town of Ferdinand, which both of us call home. While Ferdinand lies just one mile from the Spencer County border (Spencer County was the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln), only one vote was cast for Lincoln in Ferdinand back in 1860. That’s because Ferdinand was founded by the Rev. Joseph Kundek and filled with German Catholic immigrants who were told by priests at nearby St. Meinrad Archabbey that being good citizens meant voting Democratic.
That political leaning continued for generations, and Ferdinand is still pretty much a Democratic stronghold. So how did Ellspermann ever get elected to the legislature in the first place – especially since she had to beat Russ Stillwell, a former House majority leader and popular legislator, to do it?
Here I’ll have to show my bias.
Sue is quite brilliant, having earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Purdue, than a master’s and doctorate in industrial engineering from the University of Louisville. She has published research in Omega: The International Journal of Management Science and Engineering Management Journal. Her dissertation research received the citation of excellence from Emerald Management Reviews as one of the top 50 international management research articles published in 2007.
For 20 years, she operated her own consulting firm. Her specialty is team problem-solving. She has previous engineering and management experience with General Motors, Michelin and Frito-Lay.
Not content to rest on these very substantial laurels, Sue became the founding director of the Center for Applied Research at the University of Southern Indiana.
In 2006 she was tapped to work with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (also known as OCRA and, by the way, under the direction of the lieutenant governor) to facilitate rural strategic planning sessions at 12 sites throughout the state. She was then chosen for the Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series and her strengths were recognized.
Not long after, Sue was asked to run for public office. Much soul-searching went into her decision to run in 2010.
Hers was quite possibly the cleanest, most sincere campaign in the entire state. She refused to allow any negativity against her opponent. In fact, the two of them signed a pact not to go to the dark side. They also held a couple of debates at which her intellect and innovative ideas changed many a Stilwell supporter into an Ellspermann backer.
Her parents, Tom and Betty Boeglin, were beaming on Monday morning when a group of more than 200 supporters hurriedly gathered for the announcement in Ferdinand.
Sue claims she learned almost everything she knows about business from working evenings and weekends in her father’s jewelry store.
Betty and Tom will tell you that if anyone can guide Indiana to its rightful place as the leading economic state in the Midwest and possibly in the nation, it is their daughter.
Sue’s emotions were showing when she climbed out of a red Chevy Silverado with her husband, Jim Mehling; two daughters (theirs is a blended family including four adult daughters, one son-in-law, one grandson and one fiancé); plus Mike Pence, his wife Karen and their son, Michael, in front of the Tri-County YMCA in the heart of Ferdinand, where the announcement was to be made.
Mike warned me this might be a little emotional, and I didn’t know what he meant until we drove up and I saw face after face, she explained, saying to Pence supporters who had never visited before, Welcome to my hometown. You can see why we love it so much.
After touting some of Ferdinand’s highlights, Ellspermann added, At our core, it’s really about our people – hard-working, faith-based, proud and community-centered.
That described her to a T and may explain to you, just a little, why we who know her so well also love her so much. She works harder than any other three people put together, gets things done and never worries who gets the credit.