HOBART │ Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann hopes the Lake County stop on her 92-county “Listen and Learn” tour will help temper the uneasy relationship the region has with downstate.
Ellspermann met Friday with local business and agriculture leaders at Albanese Confectionery and said the relationship with downstate was a concern she heard “thoroughly.”
“I tell them going in, I grew up in southwest Indiana, so I kind of know that stepchild feeling,” Ellspermann said. “There’s a very deep sense of being treated differently or maybe not being understood as well downstate. I take that very seriously and it is something that we as an administration and our agencies need to work on.
"This is not about the doughnut counties; it’s about the entire state. We won’t fix everything overnight, but I am confident that we will do our best to be partners with Northwest Indiana to figure out solutions that work," she said. "We see Northwest Indiana as an incredibly important part of our state and we want equal prosperity if not more prosperity up here.”
Ellspermann said her last question to local leaders at the private county roundtable sessions is: "How can the state be a partner?"
“How can we help and how can we get out of your way,” she said. “Sometimes we may think we’re helping and we’re not.”
Ellspermann said the roundtable sessions are closed to media in order for elected officials and local leaders to be more candid in their conversations.
“I tell them starting out, don’t worry about what he administration wants, I want to hear from you,” she said. “It really is about educating the governor and me and how we can best serve this area.”
Along with the downstate relationship, Ellspermann said concerns among those in Lake County are unfunded mandates and having a skilled workforce – and how the state can help the county accomplish that.
She said it’s in alignment with Gov. Mike Pence’s interest and support of career and technical education.
Ellspermann said a public report on the statewide tour will be available when it wraps up in November.