Purdue Alumnus FA20 web - Flipbook - Page 31
Dick Sears (HHS’61) is
mayor of Holly Springs,
Washington, DC, can often feel like a carclogged city, but Emily Dalphy (CE’08), transportation engineer for the District Department of
Transportation, has dreamed for years of codifying a neighborhood ‘slow streets’ program.
She and her colleagues imagine a network of
neighborhood streets designed primarily for
bikes and pedestrians, with car access limited
to residents only.
The idea has been on the back burner for
years, but COVID-19 has upended plenty of
once-hardened opinions. “As kids go back to
school, as adults go back to work, and as people
rethink public transportation because of COVID,
there’s a lot more support for spaces to bike and
walk,” she says. “This situation is giving us the
opportunity to test out some new projects. That
Dick Sears launched his mayoral bid on a dare.
In 2000, the wife of a sitting council member
for Holly Springs, North Carolina, told Sears that
his 30 years of marketing experience for Sears
Roebuck would be a boon for the town. She dared
him to run.
He declined, but then she upped the ante. “I got
the double dare,” he recalls.
It was a challenge too good to pass up.
He paid a $50 registration fee and started
knocking on doors with an irresistible political
slogan: If it’s good for kids, it’s good for Holly
Springs. Sears was elected that fall.
In the 19 years since, Sears has helped build a
bigger, better town that epitomizes that message.
The population has skyrocketed, from just under
3,000 to more than 40,000. It’s developed top-notch
schools. It’s attracted big-name companies, including the vaccine-manufacturing facility Seqirus
(formerly Novartis), and will soon open a new seven-story hospital, both of which provide plenty of
jobs and make for a short commute for employees
who make Holly Springs home.
But the real point of pride, says Sears, is a designation his town has received nearly annually
for more than a decade: safest town to live in the
state. It’s routinely recognized for its safe roads
and low rates of crime. “That’s the crux,” he says.
“You can do everything else right, but if your town
isn’t safe, you haven’t accomplished anything.”
P HOTOS P ROVID E D
How he gets it done: “You’ve got to listen to your
citizens. I might not agree with everyone, but
I take all their ideas into consideration. If your
mind is totally made up on anything, your brain
is dead. People have a lot to offer, pro and con, on
everything. If you listen to all of them, usually
you’ll come to the right decision.”
PUR D U E A LU MN I . O RG
Laura Shurr Blaney (BS’98, MS S’01) is a
commissioner for Porter County, Indiana.
Laura Shurr Blaney had a laundry list of things
she knew could be improved when she was elected
commissioner of Porter County, Indiana, in 2012: roads
and infrastructure, a crumbling but beloved opera
house, and a small and underfunded animal shelter.
But more than any specific improvement, she wanted
to see a county government filled with people who loved
their jobs and wanted to do their best for the community. “We have a fantastic community, and I wanted to
fix the culture and make the government a place that
people really wanted to come to work,” she says.
She — along with the two commissioners that make
up the executive branch of the county — have done
exactly that. They’ve filled the roles with positive,
goal-oriented people, given them the chance to take
the reins in their areas of expertise, and helped them
grow into their positions. And along the way, they’ve
improved the roads, stormwater infrastructure, Memorial Opera House, and animal shelter.
The collaborative approach has been integral to success. “There’s no ‘one person’ who does something,” she
says. “It’s always a collaboration. We throw ideas back and
forth, and when we come out of a meeting, we’re on fire to
move forward with what we’ve come up with. That’s an
approach that makes every department better and allows
us to accomplish so much more.”
How she gets it done: “I like to learn how different people approach an issue and see it from their viewpoint.
When I understand that, I can explain my perspective
in a way that makes sense to them.”
FA L L 2020