Gov. Mike Pence has appointed the top executive at The Community Hospital in Munster to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
Donald Fesko, CEO at the hospital, will succeed RDA Chairman Leigh Morris, who announced last year he would be stepping down. Morris was appointed to the post of chairman by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Gov. Pence on Monday expressed faith in Fesko's ability to help move economic development forward in Northwest Indiana.
"Dr. Donald Fesko demonstrates true leadership and the ability to make sound decisions," Pence said. "He exemplifies good character and integrity that make him a good fit on the board."
Unlike Morris, Fesko does not automatically become RDA chairman with his appointment to the board. The provision of the RDA's founding legislation that gave the governor the right to appoint the RDA chairman has expired.
The RDA board now gets to pick its own chairman. However, the governor's appointment still must vote in favor of any significant RDA action, giving Fesko effective veto power on the board.
RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna on Monday expressed enthusiasm for Fesko coming on board, saying he is a proven business and community leader.
"He has a wonderful reputation in our community for working with all groups in a bipartisan manner, so I think he'll be a great fit for the RDA," Hanna said.
Under legislation now moving through the Indiana General Assembly, the RDA would be responsible for commissioning a study of the need for an emergency medical trauma center in the region.
Hanna said Fesko obviously has expertise in that area as well as a "passion for transportation for our region."
Morris served as RDA chairman for five years. He was a retired hospital executive living in LaPorte when he was appointed. Morris had just finished a four-year term as LaPorte mayor.
With Fesko's appointment, all seven RDA members will be from within the RDA's two-county region of Porter and Lake counties.
The appointment comes as the RDA board is undergoing the largest change in board membership in its history.
Earlier this month, the Lake County Board of Commissioners appointed union official Randy Palmateer, of Crown Point, to the RDA board of directors. He replaces Lou Martinez, of Griffith, who is stepping down after serving on the RDA for the county since its inception in 2005.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. also recently appointed his chief of staff, Tom Dabertin, to be the city's representative on the RDA. He replaces Peter Novak, who who will resign as Hammond's RDA appointment at the end of this month after serving in the role since 2009.
Dabertin is stepping down as McDermott's chief of staff.