JOB: Lieutenant Governor of Indiana
HOMETOWN: Ferdinand, Ind.
HER RESUME: A Purdue-trained industrial engineer, Sue Ellspermann spent her early career working for AC Spark Plug, Michelin, and Frito-Lay, before returning to Evansville to start a consulting business, specializing in creative problem-solving. In 2006, after earning her Ph.D, she launched the University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Applied Research.
HER STORY: The Republican Ellspermann won her first-ever election in 2010 by taking down then-Democratic House Majority Leader Russ Stilwell. She did so after both candidates signed — and kept — a no-negative-campaigning pledge. Last summer, the freshman legislator was tapped by now-Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate. Ellspermann and her husband, Jim Mehling, have four daughters.
HER PERSPECTIVE: Optimistic. “I believe virtually every problem can be solved. Mountains can be moved. It’s just a matter of finding the right angle.”
On the call from Pence’s campaign, asking if she wanted to join the ticket:
The first thing I did was to Google the Pence staffer’s name. You just think: “This could be an interesting joke.”
On being the fourth consecutive female lieutenant governor of Indiana:
I think it’s a great opportunity to continue to raise the bar for women in politics and open the doors for women leaders at every level, from a corporate CEO’s office to the Governor’s office. We have that opportunity to prove that women are effective leaders and great problem solvers.
On getting things done in politics:
What’s often missing is bringing the different points of view around the same table to discuss what are the best solutions to problems. I think that’s one of those built-in challenges in our current political process. I think we can overcome it. In the executive branch, I think we have every opportunity to bring all stakeholders around the table, with a de-emphasis on “Democrat” or “Republican” and a complete focus on the problem at hand.
On what she brings to the job:
My commitment to good problem-solving. Problems are solved better when you take into account all points of view, when you have all facts on the table, and when you deal with problems based on what they are, not what you want them to be, or how you want to spin them. Having good solutions that people from many walks of life can buy into is important. That should be our goal. We may not always achieve that, but that should always be the goal.
On creative problem-solving in politics:
Public life doesn’t create a very safe environment for legislators or public servants of any kind to think outside of the box or at least think out loud about solutions that are outside the norm. I think that’s unfortunate.
On working with the legislature to promote Gov. Pence’s priorities:
I think in all cases, it’s about building trust and relationships with legislators to understand where our agendas line up and how we can work together. That’s on both sides of the aisle.
On balancing work and family:
You give your complete self to this job for the full term, and that’s an adjustment for any family. I have a wonderful, supportive husband who is willing to share me with the State of Indiana. But it’s wise to think about how to protect a bit of time for yourself and family.
On support from family and friends:
Anyone who runs for political office knows, you don’t do it alone. It can only be done with the support of family, many friends, hundreds of volunteers, and great supporters who are really willing to back you.