At the Tippecanoe County Board of Commissioners meeting yesterday, West Lafayette Mayor, John Dennis, said his farewells to the Commissioners and other County officials present. It ended with hugs, and there were a lot of eyes that were no longer dry. John has been mayor for four terms, since 2007. Last year, he announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers and would not seek another term. Kind of underscoring the lack of partisanship in municipal government around here, John — a Republican — tapped his economic development director — Erin Easter, a Democrat — as his successor. She is unopposed in today’s election and will take office in January.
I have been in a number of meetings with Mayor Dennis over the past year and have not noticed his faculties slipping. I’m sure it is causing him problems, otherwise he would not have made the decision he did; but I’m very happy he was able to successfully serve the remainder of his term. And I hope he has good years ahead of him. But, there was an air of finality in his comments to the Commissioners. I believe he made similar comments to at a Lafayette City Council meeting last night.
To the Commissioners, he remarked on their long and productive work together. At times, I’ve had something of a front row to the collaboration between the mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette and the Board of Commissioners. John and Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski, go way back. They were both in the Lafayette Police Department together and, for a time shared a squad car. At times, they might as well be brothers. (The kind that like each other.) Their interaction with the Commissioners reflects genuine friendship and mutual respect. They don’t always have exactly the same vision, but usually it’s close enough and, regardless, there is a level of trust that each is pursuing what they see as the best interest of Tippecanoe County. None of them is prone to grandstanding. And each is willing to help the other where possible.
Mayor Dennis said:
“We have kicked some serious ass as elected officials over the past 16 years… And really a lot of people don’t understand how unusual it is for political bodies to have this type of relationship and respect for each other. Getting things done in an elected process is often the hardest thing to do… For us to get together and do things like change the entire dynamic of the county is pretty unique. And the way we did it was working together.
[Referring to himself and Mayor Roswarski]: We never planned to be the leaders of our hometowns. It just fortunately and thank God worked out that way. And more importantly, as leaders we were able to bring these communities together in a way unlike ever in its history. To make these two cities something that is not just been a gold mine and a diamond in the state of Indiana, but also in the country. If you look at any list that tells you where’s a hot place to live, where a hot place to get a job, where a hot place to make money, where a hot place to get an education. It’s Greater Lafayette and that’s both cities.
Particularly when compared to other parts of Indiana, our community has prospered. A lot goes into that other than the work of elected officials. But we have been awfully fortunate with the local officials we have in the County. Look around and there are no shortage of places where the best interest of the community gets derailed by petty personality conflicts. We have not had that among City and County officials. John Dennis is one reason for that good fortune, and I’ll miss having him as my mayor.