Main speaker for the evening’s banquet was Dr. Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction.
The Kosciusko County Republican Hall of Fame induction is a way of saying thanks to those individuals who have worked within the county party in various ways. Each year the county Republican Party honors a man and a woman of the year.
Dan Richard and Lil Christner, according to past party county chairwoman Jean Northenor, are “… not people you see out in front; or (they) may be people you see, but not know their names. These are the people who show up when Randy (Girod, party chairman) calls. They do the job effectively, go home and you don’t hear from them until they’re asked the next time. They are the backbone of this county, keeping the whole thing going so elected officials can do their jobs.”
Richard was speechless upon the announcement simply saying, “Wow. I’m totally shocked. I thought I was going along for the ride with my wife.”
RIchard added, “I’m glad to be affiliated with a group of people who think the same way as I do.” He jokingly added he will be out front more often in the future.
Christner fit the same mold as Richard, doing whatever needs to be done when asked to help. Said Northerner, “She responds, ‘What time?’ ‘Where?’ ‘What am I doing?’” Northenor stated Christner’s commitment may even be baking cookies for a bake sale.
“I don’t know what to say,” Christner responded, adding simply that she was honored. “I love to help people. I just jump in and help.”
Northenor, who along with Pauline Jordan, started the awards around 1976, noted that the inductees are chosen by a committee whose identities are unknown. A large number of those in attendance Friday evening were past honorees.
The awards were preceded by keynote speaker Dr. Tony Bennett, state superintendant of public instruction. Bennett credited the legislators present for helping transform education in Indiana. “They are the real heroes,” he stated, noting he attended town hall meetings they hosted and watched the heat they took, but courageously stood up to the opposition to improve education.
He pointed out education keeps him up at night and gets him up in the morning as that is his passion.
He said Indiana today is the role model for the United States when it comes to education as other states are measuring themselves against the Hoosier state. “Indiana is a state where parents have more choices … input.”
Bennett said this year 9,300 low to moderate income parents had choices they never had before and it was all done with the understanding that children come first.
He noted every child deserves an effective teacher in the classroom, and spoke of the teacher evaluation given annually based on student performance.
“It’s not just about education reform,” he said, “Indiana is where reform is meeting results. He noted a rise of 8 percent over the last three years in competition in private, charter and public schools and the state is the second highest in the nation for improvement in advanced placement courses. The graduation rate has also increased to 85.7 percent.
Comments were also heard from Secretary of State Connie Lawson who spoke of her office’s efforts to get people out to vote and of the voter outreach advertising campaign from her office.
Jackie Walorski, candidate for U.S. Representative, was also present and spoke a few words, noting her goal when elected is to follow what has been done in Indiana and leave the nation in better shape than it was.
Locally Sue Ann Mitchell was the only county candidate who was present and spoke. She also updated efforts of the Kosciusko County Republican Women.
The party will host a fish fry Oct. 3 at the county fairgrounds. Mike Pence, candidate for governor, will be present.