The county commissioners are the executive body of the county. The commissioners are elected county-wide, in staggered terms, and each serves a four-year term. The commissioners are charged with executing the acts legislated by the council, collecting revenue, and managing the day-to-day functions of the county government. Do you know who your commissioners are? In an effort to help you get to know those individuals who run our county or make a difference in our day to day lives, this is the third part of the Journal's "Getting to Know" series. This time you will get to know Martin County Commissioner Dan Gregory.
Aside from being a commissioner, Dan also serves on the Martin County Redevelopment Commission, the Martin County Solid Waste Board, the Southern Indiana Development Commission, the Martin County Alliance for Economic Growth, and the Martin County Plan Commission.
Dan was born in Dubois County and moved to Martin County when he was one-year-old. He said he considers himself a life-long Martin County resident. In 1953, his parents Joe and Hazel Gregory bought the farm he still lives on. He graduated from Loogootee High School in 1970 and married his high-school sweetheart Barbara (Walker) in 1971. "We have made our home on Lumpkin Road for the past 39 years," said Dan.
The Gregory's have three children, David, who now manages Gregory Farms; their son Mark is a loan officer with Fifth Third Bank in Lafayette and is married to Carina (Johannson). Mark and Carina have one daughter. Dan and Barb's daughter Kristi is married to Josh Ausbrooks, and they have three children.
Dan said he has always been involved with Gregory Farms, where the family raises turkeys, hogs, cattle and hay. He served in the Indiana National Guard from 1971-1977 as a communications specialist. He also served as the first executive director of the Martin County Community Foundation from 2001-2007 and resigned that position to join Farbest Farms, Inc. At Farbest, he manages a new Martin County turkey farm where they produce 600,000 turkeys per year.
Dan has continued his education at Vincennes University and the Martin County Community Learning Center over the years. "I love life in Martin County and enjoy my family and friends!" he said.
As far as public service, Dan says he feels like he has always been involved in it in one way or another. "I suppose it is my own sense of duty and desire to give back to my community," he said.
Several of the boards he serves on as a county commissioner are new to him, he says, but most of his life he served on boards involved with agriculture, youth, and other civic or private organizations.
Dan thinks Martin County is one of the best places to live and raise a family that one could hope to find. "Certainly we need to work on areas of weakness, but that is true of any community," he went on to say. "Our strengths are our people and their skills."
Looking towards the future, Dan said he can envision Martin County remaining a thriving rural community with economic diversity. He said that the county's unemployment rate is consistently among the lowest in Indiana, and Martin County has the highest wage per job in the state. He went on to say that the Westgate @ Crane project continues to deliver job growth opportunities that never existed before. "I would like to see more of those high-wage jobs held by our local citizens. We need to properly prepare our Martin County residents to compete for the jobs available. I think Martin County has a tremendously bright future if we seize the opportunities as they present themselves and help make them happen. I think elected officials should speak of the positive aspects of Martin County at every opportunity," he said.
Dan said that the best thing about serving as a county commissioner is working with the people. "I really don't mind talking with people about issues or problems that affect their life. The flip side is that many times it is outside the capacity of the county to fix all the issues people have. Resources are limited and we are being asked to do more with less," he said.
He said that being a county commissioner could be considered an intense part-time job. The hours it requires vary widely from week-to-week as does the skill requirement. "I average 10-15 hours a week on county business. It is a rare day that I don't do some business or have a conversation about the county," he said. Dan has attended seminars for county commissioners but says most of the "training" he has had come through life experiences. He said he thinks a person should have good math abilities and a healthy dose of humility. "In Indiana there are three commissioners in each county and between us there is a wide variety of skill sets to accomplish our goals," he said.
Dan also noted that his calendar is fairly full of meetings associated with the county. He is a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and serves as their treasurer. "Between Gregory Farms, Saint Vincent de Paul responsibilities, serving as a county commissioner, and being an involved grandpa, this is about all I can handle," he noted.
Dan said he has had several mentors in his life and continues to seek advice and information wherever he can. "I have a short list of people I can call and know they will hold a confidence, as well as give me honest advice. My wife continues to give me the best advice; Barb is very wise. We talk quite a bit and she certainly influences some of my actions," he said.
Something many may not know about Dan is that he has been hearing-impaired all his life. "I think a lot of people with this condition are afraid to get involved in various aspects of life due to embarrassment. I decided not to let it become a stumbling block for me, but to fix it as best I could and not use it as an excuse not to get involved," he said. He said he learned how to cope, but occasionally it makes communication more difficult. "There are a lot worse things to contend with," he added.
"Being a county commissioner is an honor for me. I never had a burning desire to be in the political arena, but now that I am it feels right and natural."
He said he wishes that more people would run for public office. He noted that it has moments when you wish you had stayed away from it, but those are few. "The main requirements are a willingness to listen and learn, along with problem-solving skills. My work with Farbest Farms involves managing human resources, bio-security, mechanical and computerized systems, and animal husbandry. Every day is different and it is an exciting and challenging career," he said.
When asked about a possible run at a second term as commissioner, Dan said that he is mid-way through his first four-year term and at this point is undecided as to seeking a second term. "I would be 64 when a second term would end. If my health is good and I still believe I have something to offer the community, I would likely seek re-election," he said.
On a final note Dan said, "Those of us in the political arena can't possibly know all the answers to the questions that come up. Getting elected does not change us as a person or make us any smarter; governing is sometimes messy work and you do the best you can. But, public officials cannot be afraid to make decisions. Government, even at the local level, was meant to be performed by ordinary people, elected by the majority. I think that fits me pretty well."
Getting to Know Series, Story #3 Dan Gregory, Commissioner