April 29, 2016
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Basketball Crazy

Mike Blake accepts Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame award
In March, the Indiana Basketball Association honored Mike Blake with the Pacers Silver Medal award.

Basketball was a game changer in Mike Blake’s life. In high school, the Munster, Indiana, native played the sport, though he admits he saw more time on the bench than on the floor. When his career in news broadcasting began, it would be in the Evansville high school sports scene, including basketball, where he would make his name. Now his work covering local athletics has earned him a spot in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with the Indiana Pacers Silver Medal award.

Each year, the Hall of Fame committee selects an individual who has contributed significantly to Indiana basketball in some way other than being a player or a coach. The honor was established in 1962 and past winners include former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight, University of Evansville Hall of Famer Arad McCutchan, and former Evansville Courier and Press writer Dan Scism.

“I think for anyone who grows up in Indiana … basketball is, I don’t know if you’d call it a religion, but it’s more than just another game,” says Blake, who is a graduate of Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, and the University of Iowa, Iowa City

Blake made his start at 14 WFIE-TV in 1970 as a nightly weatherman and in 1971 began his duties as sports director at the station. Over the 41 years he had covered sports — Blake’s 46-year-plus career still continues at WFIE — he has covered numerous sporting events in the Tri-State, including the tragedy of the UE men’s basketball team plane crash in December 1977. It has been a career that surprises even Blake.

“Ironically, shortly after my wife Jenny and I got married, I said, ‘Honey, we’re probably going to have to leave Evansville.’ Career-wise I wanted to get to Chicago or New York,” he says. “Fortunately that never happened because if it had, I would have never had the opportunity and privilege to cover so many wonderful athletes, coaches, school officials, athletic directors, referees, fans, and parents. All the people that make up this basketball-crazy state.”

Blake and his wife traveled to Indianapolis March 23 to accept his award in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,150. It was a truly wonderful, overwhelming, and humbling day, says Blake, but one he was honored to be a part of. In his three-minute acceptance speech — keeping to three minutes was the challenge Blake says with a laugh — he thanked his family and his co-workers at WFIE through the years.

“I had said, ‘They never made a movie about high school basketball in North Carolina or Kentucky. But they did about Indiana, because Indiana basketball is special.’ Hoosiers are special,” says Blake. “This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime honor and I’m so grateful to have been recognized for it.”

For more information about the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, call 765-529-1891 or visit hoopshall.com.

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Natalie Hedde

Hometown: Campbelltown, Indiana

Job: Director of Corporate Communications, Vectren

Resume: Senior Biological Products Specialist,Sanofi Pasteur, 2004-2010

Family: Husband Chuck, son Clark, 3, and daughter Haven, 2

Working in the field of communications wasn’t something Natalie Hedde had planned while attending the University of Evansville. Her original idea had been to pursue education, but a talk with her academic advisor changed that.

“During a conversation with her, I shared my plans and she sort of laughed and said, ‘How about communications?’” says Hedde. “It’s as if she knew something I didn’t. I look back now and realize how influential that conversation was.”

For the last six years, Hedde has found a home at Vectren, and most recently as the director of corporate communications. It’s a company and job she truly finds rewarding.

“When you work for Vectren, you work on a team. You work for an organization that will work as hard for you as you choose to work for the company,” she says.

What do you enjoy the most about working in the energy industry?
What I enjoy most, including that of the areas we serve, is that energy is evolving. We challenge ourselves with anticipating what our customers are going to demand of us in an evolving energy market. As we learn from our customers, we too will continue to evolve and do our best to communicate to our customers the value and quality of the service they receive for the price they pay.

What is the most challenging aspect about your job?
The unforeseen. I think that pretty much sums it up.

What other organizations are you involved with in the Tri-State?
I recently finished serving six years on the board of Gilda’s Club Evansville. It is a tremendous organization doing a multitude of good things for our community. I also have given time to March of Dimes the past several years and am excited to see their Signature Chefs Auction event become even better. I remain active within the UE Schroeder School of Business. I really enjoy collaborating with my old professors to bring work to the classroom in a way that hopefully better prepares current students for the challenges of a career.

What is something you enjoy doing off the clock?
My husband and I, having both played athletics at UE (Natalie played softball and Chuck played basketball), really enjoy Aces games of just about any sport. We have a lot of fun being able to take the kids, who currently think any team dressed in purple is the Evansville Aces. We’re working on that. They love to be ‘announced’ out of the locker room and come running down the hallway at home like it’s the tunnel leading to the game floor. They each are co-captains on Team Hedde.

When I take the time, I also enjoy cooking. I’m not certain that it’s the food that I enjoy as much as what sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people you care about means to me. I grew up in a home where we ate dinner together; my husband did as well. We still get together with our parents very regularly and dine together. The sound of laughter that erupts during these times is a sound I will cherish and remember the rest of my life.

How do you balance your home-life with your career?
For all women, moms who pursue a career and to those who work full time for their families at home, cheers to all in their effort to strike a balance. It isn’t easy but there is a great deal to learn from one another and for that, I’m grateful.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to jump into communications?
Be nimble and practice patience. There are so many facets to communications, a person can work broadly or find a niche within this area of practice. It is a great platform from which to grow.

For more information about Vectren, call 812-491-4000 or visit vectren.com.

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Walk This Way

North senior unexpectedly takes title as Miss Indiana State Fair
Tate Fritchley, an 18-year-old senior at North High School, says she never considered herself the queen type.

Tate Fritchley never considered herself a pageant girl.

She could speak in front of a group, sure. Carrying on a conversation, the bubbly 18-year-old says, had never been
a problem.

But the walking — it was always the walking that tripped her up.

“Growing up in 4-H, I always looked at the older girls and thought, ‘Man, I want to be like them!’” Fritchley says excitedly. “But I just never thought I could do it. I mean, being on stage, giving a 3-minute speech, the interview, the walking. I always thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t do all that!’

“And then during my first pageant, I messed up. I messed up so much,” she said offering an infectious giggle. “But I still got fourth-runner up. I was so excited I figured I’d give it another try.”

The next year, in the summer of 2015, Fritchley, a senior and three-sport athlete at North High School, once again traded in her cowboy boots for a pair of strappy sandals and shocked herself by being crowned Miss Vanderburgh County.

In January, she represented Vanderburgh County in the Miss Indiana State Fair pageant in Indianapolis, and the girl who couldn’t walk — the girl who never thought of herself as the queen type at all — walked away with the coveted crown once again.

“I mean, there were 87 other queens,” says Fritchley. “I didn’t think I had a chance, not at all. I thought, ‘What’s the point? These girls are so much older.’ But I knew I needed to be positive. I went into it thinking, ‘Whatever happens, God has a plan for me.’

“And when they called my name, that moment was crazy. Oh my goodness, was it crazy! I could hear my little sister screaming from the audience.”

Fritchley, the daughter of Paul and Jane Fritchley, joined 4-H 10 years ago, an active member in the Horse and Pony Club. She and her horse, Champ, have competed in a variety of events, including barrel and pole racing as well as western pleasure and trail class competitions.

She also is a member of the 4-H Color Guard and Drill Team, one of 12 horse-backed girls who post the American flag each night of the county fair before grandstand events.

She is the captain of North’s cheerleading squad, plays soccer and tennis, is a member of the National Honor Society, a senior member of an organization aimed solely at making freshmen students feel welcome, and also has a part-time job at Graceful Lady Glam, a formal dress store in Fort Branch, Indiana.

But this summer, she will embark on possibly her most thrilling adventure yet. She will begin her responsibilities as Miss Indiana State Fair in June, visiting as many as 50 county fairs before spending 17 days at the state fair in Indianapolis Aug. 5-21.

“I’ll be the face of the state fair,” she says, her voice filled with child-like excitement. “I’ll get to promote Indiana’s bicentennial year, meet cool people, talk to little kids, eat fair food, and just have a good time.”

After graduation, Fritchley says she wants to attend the University of Evansville to study physical therapy. Her dream is to work with athletes like herself, being a “positive influence” in their lives.

For more information about the Indiana State Fair Pageant, visit indianastatefair.com.

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Where the Wild Things Are

Mesker zookeeper’s love of animals shows in work
Shannon Irmscher, a native of Bedford, Indiana, came to Mesker Park Zoo seven years ago.

On a chilly February morning, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden Zookeeper Shannon Irmscher stands in the outdoor exhibit of the zoo’s red panda Celeste. As the animal sleeps curled up at the top of a tree, Irmscher stands with her hand outstretched, offering a grape to Celeste, attempting to lure her awake and down the branches.

“She’s got one of the cutest faces you’ll ever see,” says Irmscher fondly. Eventually, Celeste unwinds herself, stretches along the tree limb, and crawls down to investigate Irmscher’s offering.

For the past seven years, Irmscher’s days have been filled with similar encounters at the Evansville zoo. But the Bedford, Indiana, native is quick to point out being a keeper is about more than feeding the animals. As an Indiana University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in animal behavior and psychology, her work includes keeping the animals healthy, enriching their lives in the zoo, and teaching visitors about the importance of the species that call Mesker home.

“If a member of the public sees me in an exhibit, of course I’m going to do everything I can to educate them on that species and create a more powerful interaction of them with the animal,” she says. “And I look at all of our animals as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.”

Irmscher — who has worked at the Indianapolis, Louisville, Kentucky, and Jacksonville, Florida, zoos — begins her day at Mesker with checks of all of her animals before serving breakfast of some kind to most. Once she’s made her rounds — Irmscher works in the Discovery Center and the nocturnal exhibits in the Kley Building with birds, primates, and the smaller cats — she works to clean their holding spaces and on enrichment activities for the animals.

“Basically we try to encourage behaviors they would exhibit in the wild,” she says. “Monkeys spend a lot of their time foraging, so I might hide their food in a pile of hay or put it in a container where they have to work to get it.”

Irmscher also spends time as the species population manager for the Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec and the Keel Billed Toucan. As one of the species population managers at Mesker, she monitors the genetics of the population for these two species in a software program. Her data then is used every three years in developing breeding and transfer plans for zoos across the nation.

“It’s fun,” says Irmscher. “Zoos can refer to (the data) and then follow the recommendations and make sure we have healthy populations genetically.”

For more information about Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, call 812-435-6143 or visit meskerparkzoo.com.

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New Chapter

Amy Canterbury continues the United Way’s story as new CEO
The United Way of Southwestern Indiana named Amy Canterbury as its new president and CEO in December.

Amy Canterbury’s journey from a small town in Kentucky to a corner office of the nonprofit that tops Forbes’ list of 50 largest U.S. charities isn’t so much a Cinderella story as it is a hardworking tale of success.

In December, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, a division of United Way serving Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties, named Canterbury as its new president and CEO. It’s not the first time she’s had the title of CEO, and it’s her past that has prepared her for this new venture.

Whether she was attending church or helping out around the family’s farm, Canterbury grew up surrounded by the idea of taking care of one’s neighbors. After graduating from Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, she spent 25 years in the banking industry – most of which were at Old National, which introduced her to United Way – learning business collaboration and networking before enduring what she calls a “mid-life crisis” and decided to go save the world.

“The things I learned in banking are the principles of what I needed to transition into nonprofit,” says Canterbury. “And then my heart, really the part of who I am, is what allowed me to transition to saving the world.”

Before joining the United Way, she was regional CEO of the American Red Cross, a partner agency. The transition between nonprofits was a smooth one thanks to the staff, which has helped her learn more of the details about the nonprofit and the services they offer the community.

In addition to funding 62 programs and 31 partner agencies, the United Way provides its own programs and services such as helping with FAFSA applications and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). The VITA Program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income residents who need assistance preparing their tax returns.

“We’re going to file electronically and we’re not going to charge them for it,” says Canterbury. “That keeps families and individuals from maybe going to get a payday loan advance while they’re waiting on a tax return.”

The organization also offers a 211 service, a statewide collaboration helmed through the Downtown office. The program is a resource for those looking for help with basic needs and social services, such as food, housing, and education. When someone presses 211 on a phone, the call is sent to the United Way office where an operator asks questions to make sure the best resources are being made available to them.

Going forward, Canterbury wants to see the nonprofit become the first place thought of if there needs to be an issue resolved, with the United Way sitting at the table collaborating with those who need to be.

“The community has always really supported the United Way in a huge way,” says Canterbury.

For more information about the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, call 812-422-4100 or visit unitedwayswi.org.

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Road to Recognition

Traylor brother shares award with those who helped pave the way
Chris Traylor

The road to a lifetime achievement award doesn’t always come easy, and Chris Traylor says he didn’t walk it alone.

The co-president of Traylor Bros., Inc. — a heavy civil contracting business that specializes in building landmark bridges, tunnels, and marine infrastructures — attributes the recognition that comes with his 2016 Outstanding Projects and Leaders Lifetime Achievement Award for Construction to his family and his team at the company.

“Great things can’t be accomplished by individuals,” says Traylor. “It usually takes a lot of collaboration and teamwork to do really positive things.”

The third generation of Traylors to run the company, Chris says those positive things are the result of his predecessors’ hard work.

When his grandfather started the company 70 years ago, he looked at projects through a regional lens, taking on ventures like Ohio River bridge foundations and soft ground tunnels in Louisville, Kentucky.

His father had a broader vision for the company, shifting the business’ focus from regional to national with divisional offices around the country.

Since taking the reins as co-presidents, Chris and his brother Michael have focused on taking what the previous generations have done and doing it better in order to maximize profitability and increase the quality and safety of work — a feat they’ve achieved by institutionalizing strategic planning as a regular part of the company’s business and creating a roadmap for team members to follow.

The award, presented on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers in March 2016, isn’t a capstone on his career. It reaffirms the work his company has done and acts as motivation to keep doing what he’s doing, he says.

“We have a very collaborative culture here,” says Chris, who was pictured on the cover of the June/July 2009 issue of Evansville Business with his family. “In our organization, all the doors are open and we hope people work together to make the company the best it can be.”

For more information about Traylor Bros., Inc., call 812-477-1542 or visit traylor.com.

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Dr. Steve Becker

Hometown: Hazel Park, Michigan

Job: Associate Dean and Director, and Professor of Clinical Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville (IUSM-E)

Resume: Bachelor’s degree in biology with a focus on bio-chemistry, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; medical doctorate, Washington University, St. Louis; and residency in radiology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Becker has worked in radiology at Welborn Hospital, Welborn Clinic, founded a new radiology group with St. Mary’s Hospital, worked part-time at St. Mary’s Warrick County Hospital, taught on a volunteer basis at IUSM-E, and worked at Methodist Hospital, Henderson, Kentucky. He became director of IUSM-E in 2011.

Family: Wife Carol, four children, and six grandchildren

In 2011, Dr. Steven Becker was very involved in the regional medical community. While working part-time at St. Mary’s Warrick County Hospital and Methodist Hospital, Henderson, Kentucky, and volunteering at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville campus, he was approached by the dean of the school at the time, Craig Brater, to take over leadership of the medical school.

“I agreed to do it at a two-year interim period, until they could find a permanent replacement. Now I’m in the middle of this transformative project here at the med school,” says Becker. “I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I believe I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

When Becker took on the leadership role at IUSM-E in 2011, he announced plans to pursue construction of a health science education and research center. Progress on funding and breaking ground on the Evansville Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Campus moved forward in 2015.

As work on the new facility at Walnut and S.E. Sixth streets in Downtown is underway, Becker strives to continue his work furthering medical education in the Tri-State and suspects he will be doing so for quite some time.

What drew you to the medical field?
I think the reason I was drawn was that my mom had multiple sclerosis from the time I was a young child. Really, she raised us by herself. So as a young child, I saw all her healthcare issues and needs, was with her all the time when she was being seen by doctors. I think that exposed me to it.

And I always wanted to do something special with my life. To me this was possibly the most special thing you could do, to help take care of people. I feel the same way right now, in that I get to help young professionals become physicians and mentor them and encourage them.

What do you enjoy most about radiology?
I think the challenge to have to know a lot about almost all areas of medicine, because you basically have to deal with all specialists and general physicians. So you have to know some baseline knowledge about all the different areas of medicine. I like the diagnostic challenge. You are like a detective. And really you help other physicians help take care of their patients.

What do you hope the future will bring with the new medical campus?
I’m hopeful over the next year or two we’ll see additional new programs and organizations brought on to the medical campus. In communities that have done projects like this, usually within seven to 10 years, whatever you invested initially should be doubled. We would expect within the next five to 10 years for there to be additional growth in medically related fields in the region because of what we’re doing.

And of course, the bottom line is we develop a world-class group of professionals who can take care of our population. The two most important factors businesses look at to come to a community are what are your healthcare resources and cost of healthcare, and what are your educational resources. I think what we are doing addresses both of those issues. It’s not just a health-related issue for our region, it’s an economic development/jobs type of issue, which also feeds into the health of our community.

For more information on the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville, visit evansville.medicine.iu.edu.

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Nature Man

Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve director works to share love of forests
John Scott Foster is overseeing the improvements to the nature center, which will open in March 2016.

When in need of a break, John Scott Foster, executive director of the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, has the unique opportunity to get up from his desk and take a walk in the woods.

“This is just such a fabulous place,” he says of the old growth forest located at 551 N. Boeke Road. “It’s so incredibly beautiful, and it’s so incredibly beautiful all the time.”

Foster grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and completed his undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech. He also holds a master’s degree in zoology and a Ph.D. in museum studies from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. After graduation, he said he followed a friend’s advice “that you should never be in one job more than a single driver’s license time period.” He first worked at a nature center outside of Atlanta before moving on to zoos, working with the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York, the Indianapolis Zoo, and New York State Zoo in Watertown, New York, before he realized he wished to return to a nature center.

“I love zoos, but the longer I was in the zoo world, the more I thought about my first job at a nature center,” says Foster. “I realized then that was really where my heart was.”

Five years ago, he interviewed for the position of executive director at Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve and it’s been a job he’s enjoyed ever since.

City View: What have been your main objectives here at Wesselman since you’ve started?

John Scott Foster: When I got here, the society had just taken over management of the preserve, the nature center, and Howell Wetlands from the city. What was pressing was that we needed to figure out what we needed to be and what we needed to do for the community. The long and short of it is that the 1,000-square-foot exhibit hall has been empty for four years. We needed to move a renovation forward. The work is underway on the new exhibits and nature center renovations, and we’ll have a grand opening in March.

Also we really wanted to elevate our presence within the community and have people aware of who we are, and to create experiences and opportunities that were meaningful and relevant.

CV: What do you feel is your biggest achievement in the last five years?

JSF: I would say one of the biggest things we have done is raised $1.5 million to make these improvements; the new exhibits, the new entrance, and the trail system.
The other thing I find exhilarating is between the board and staff, we have such an incredible team of people. They’re creative, they collaborate well, and they’re excited about what we’re doing.

CV: What do you hope is in the future for Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve?

JSF: We want to reach a level of financial sustainability where we can take on programs that are very mission driven, that may not generate income. And, we’re always looking for opportunities to collaborate with different organizations in the community — just good partnerships — and to be able to maximize the reach that we have within the community.

Our mission applies to everybody — we want to create experiences that connect people with nature. There is not a soul alive who doesn’t benefit from that.

CV: What is the best thing about Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve?

JSF: One of the coolest things about this place is that it’s easy. Because of society today, we have so little free time. So one of the beautiful things about this is it’s in the middle of Evansville. It’s just an easy way to be able to take a break.

If you have a connection to nature … it adds to the quality of your life because it provides you opportunity to think or to be introspective or to consider who you are and what you are in the world. Or just not to think, just to enjoy.

For more information about Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, call 812-479-0771 or visit wesselmannaturesociety.org.

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On the Move

A lifelong athlete finds fulfillment helping others reach their wellness goals at the YMCA
Barb DykstraBarb Dykstra
Barb Dykstra has been a part of the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana for three decades. Photo by Zach Straw.

When Barb Dykstra was about to graduate from the University of Evansville in 1986, the sports management major and star basketball player realized she couldn’t bear to say goodbye to the athletics world. (Dykstra is now a member of UE’s Athletics Hall of Fame and remains the Lady Aces’ fourth leading scorer of all time.) After graduation, she took a job with the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana working the front desk, helping with youth programs, and officiating basketball games at the Downtown YMCA.

"I kept my foot in the door as opportunities arose,” says the Evansville native and Reitz High School graduate, and the strategy has worked out well. Over the last three decades, Dykstra has held various leadership positions with the Y, and in 2013 she became branch executive director of the Dunigan Family YMCA on Evansville’s East Side.

The YMCA served more than 45,000 people in 2014, and it offers a mind-boggling array of programs and events: fitness classes, after-school activities, childcare, an overnight summer camp (Camp Carson in Princeton, Indiana), a boxing program for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, a diabetes prevention program, triathlons and road races, and more. In 2016, the Y will further expand its offerings by adding Sh’Bam, a dance-based fitness trend with classes set to hip-hop and pop hits, and LiveStrong, a physical activity program for cancer survivors.

City View: What drew you to the YMCA?
Barb Dykstra: I had been around athletics almost my whole life, and one career was ending, so something else was looming. I met with the folks at the Y about opportunities to stay active in sports and athletics. I graduated in 1986, so there wasn’t much for women above and beyond the collegiate level. Not that I could have gone any further (with my basketball career), but I still was very active-minded and liked basketball and youth sports, so it was a natural fit.

CV: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen at the YMCA since you started working there 30 years ago?
BD: Our outreach department has just exploded with programs and activities for kids in low-income families. That’s one of the things that keeps the Y vibrant and alive, and continuing to move forward. Our youth outreach program is involved in summer learning loss programs, for example, which are designed to help kids during the summer to make sure they have maintained or exceeded their reading level. There’s a true focus on education.

CV: What’s one YMCA event or program for the community that stands out to you?
BD: Team 13 is a training program that helps people reach the goal of running or walking the Evansville Half Marathon. A few things make it special to me: that the volunteers are passionate about helping others, the stories and the reasons why people are involved, and the relationships that are built. To be there at the end (of the race) and watch someone who thought they’d never do this walk in and have runners and walkers meet them for the last tenth of a mile is pretty awesome.

CV: What is a hidden gem of the YMCA?
BD: The people and the relationships we build. Those same stories that happen in Team 13 happen in our aquatics department, in our wellness center, in our lobby. Whether people have lost weight, met a health or well-being goal, or have met somebody they can talk to and have a cup of coffee with in the lobby, those stories are there every day. We touch people in so many ways.

For more information on the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, visit ymcaswin.org.

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Community Advocate

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke shares his thoughts on Evansville
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke

In 2015, Evansville residents took to the polls in November to decide on who would be mayor of the city for the next four years. Up against competition from Democrat Gail Riecken and Independent Steve Wozniak, incumbent mayor Lloyd Winnecke would win his re-election bid with more than 60 percent of the vote, landing his second term in the top city seat. Evansville City View sat down with the mayor and asked him about plans for his second term, what he loves most about the city, and more.

City View: What are you most excited about in your second term?

Lloyd Winnecke:
Looking out into our second term, I look forward to the big, well-publicized projects being completed. Weather permitting, construction on our convention hotel will be done late this year. Across Sixth Street from the hotel will be the new Indiana University Medical School, arguably the most transformative project in our community since the formation of the University of Southern Indiana 50 years ago. It’s slated to open for classes in January of 2018. 

Also this year, we anticipate work beginning on a new land-based casino at Tropicana Evansville. This project is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that Tropicana will be the first Indiana casino to take advantage of the new state law allowing land-based casino activity. This will provide Tropicana with an important competitive advantage.

We’ll also see the makeover of North Main Street in our second term. This exciting project represents not only an important investment in the Jacobsville neighborhood, but is a great example of how the City of Evansville partners with its neighborhood associations. When complete, each of these projects will contribute to the vitality of our city.

Our second term also will see great work being done on our Regional Cities Initiative. Greg Wathen, Sabrina Newton, Audrie Burkett, and others with the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana have done a masterful job of overseeing this effort. The $42 million in state money that is associated with our Regional City recognition will leverage other public and private investment for projects in the City of Evansville as well as in Posey, Gibson, and Warrick counties. The idea is that the dynamic projects in each community will help to transform our region into an even more attractive destination for young people, thus dramatically improving the quality of our workforce.

Equally important in our second term, will be our work to eliminate blight. We have identified 1,800 blighted residential properties in the city. Kelley Coures and Carolyn Rusk in the Department of Metropolitan Development have crafted a bold plan to help our community turn the tide against blight. By partnering with the City Council, we hope to expand the role of the Brownfield Board to make it a larger, more efficient land bank operation. This will be a multi-year effort that will, over time, drastically improve the quality of housing in the city, while at the same time making our neighborhoods safer.

CV: What have you enjoyed most about being mayor?

LW: The thing I enjoy most about being mayor is knowing I have a role in solving problems. Some are large, community-wide issues while others are more neighborhood focused. Sitting down with fellow residents to figure how best to proceed on a given task or issue is immensely rewarding. I also take great pleasure in visiting our schools. Students offer great perspective and ask questions that make me, in one minute, laugh out loud and in the next, force me to search deep for an acceptable answer.

CV: What is the best thing about Evansville?

LW: I believe the best thing about Evansville is its citizens. People have offered to help since before I took office and they haven’t stopped. Residents have a deep love and affection for Evansville, and they want to see it grow. I love it when people offer us new ideas, and it seems as though everyone will serve on a board or committee if asked. It’s reassuring to know that so many people care so deeply about our city.

For more information about the City of Evansville, visit evansvillegov.org.