INDIANAPOLIS | When Gov. Mitch Daniels sat with reporters in his Statehouse office for his traditional end-of-the-year interview on a recent December weekday, the sounds of children caroling in the nearby atrium carried so clearly through the closed doors it seemed like the carolers were in the room.
A radio reporter surprised by the unexpected audio interruption, and perhaps recalling far angrier chanting months earlier by right-to-work protesters, told Daniels he couldn't believe the governor's office isn't soundproofed.
The two-term Republican, who leaves office next month, said that's on purpose.
"Whether folks are here in agreement or disagreement, they've got every right to be here if they behave themselves reasonably, and I like that very much," Daniels said. "A governor, if not careful, can soundproof himself."
Daniels said he's avoided being soundproofed during his eight years in office by traveling the state as much as possible, talking and listening to Hoosiers everywhere he went.
To that end, he even spent 125 nights on the road sleeping in the homes of Hoosiers instead of hotels.
"I really wanted people of all walks of life, of all backgrounds, to feel like they had a chance to get at their government — through me, if possible," Daniels said.
Northwest Indiana saw Daniels more than any other region of the state outside Indianapolis. He visited Lake and Porter counties at least 80 times as governor, or roughly once a month between 2005 and 2012.
Daniels said speaking with ordinary people on their turf, in the region and elsewhere in the state, often led to him finding out about problems Hoosiers were having that state government could help with but didn't know was an issue.
"I only knew how lousy we used to be in child support (collections) because two ladies on barstools in a saloon in Clay City, I still remember this, started telling me their stories," Daniels said. "And I could give you many other examples where I just wouldn't have known, so we wouldn't have worked on something, if I had been soundproofed."
In contrast to the outgoing governor, public appearances and interviews featuring Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence are much more staged and tightly scripted.
While Daniels hasn't directly criticized his successor for that, he has spent his final weeks in office hitting the road, naturally, and speaking about the need for elected officials to seek out and consider new ideas whenever and wherever they can.
Last week, as Daniels left the Statehouse for a final drive in the recreational vehicle that carried him through two statewide campaigns, he said he was surprised other candidates haven't reached out to Hoosier voters in the same way.
"I hope, honestly, that there will be a little pressure on future candidates in this state to get out and see their employers and make the effort to put in the miles, put in the time and let people have a look at the people who are temporarily in charge of government," Daniels said.
Addressing Indiana University graduates on Dec. 15, Daniels urged them to abandon their comfort zones as often as possible — even if it means trying something that doesn't work out.
"I have never found 'oops' a hard word to say," Daniels said. "Someone who never finds an occasion to use it either never tried anything bold or risky, and therefore never made a big mistake, or never considered that someone else might have a better argument."
Daniels will become president of Purdue University after Pence is sworn in as governor on Jan. 14.