Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 14, 2013

Letter to the editor - Monday, Jan. 14, 2013

‘I leave your ranks with heartfelt thanks’

Editor’s note: The following is a letter Mitch Daniels sent state employees Friday.

Dear Co-worker:

Today is the last day I can address you that way, and I will miss that. For eight years it has been my privilege to be, as you are, an employee of the 6.5 million good people we call Hoosiers, and to call you my colleague.

On Jan. 10, 2005, the first day of our mutual service, I wrote you for the first time. Since I had long since forgotten exactly what I said, I’m quite sure you have, too (if you were even here to receive it; one in 2.25 state employees has joined us since that time). So I dug that letter up for rereading, and am attaching it for your reference.

I think it is fair to say that, working together, we have lived up to the aspirations of that first day long ago. Indiana state government is dramatically different, from the way it used to be and from any other state government I know of.

We set out to achieve real results, and you did so. That’s not an opinion, it’s a provable fact. We say it with certainty because we have measured our performance in every way we could think of. In department after department, service levels, turnaround times, customer satisfaction, error rates, whatever result a given mission aims at achieving, have improved, often by huge degrees. Department after department has won national awards and recognition.

We now have a system, and I hope it’s true to say a culture, of performance and accountability in Indiana state government. Working harder or smarter now earns the recognition it deserves. Every worker is entitled to regular, candid feedback about the job he or she is doing, and when that work quality is exceptional, to enhanced pay raises, and perhaps bonuses or other rewards for a job well done. No other state we know of operates this way.

Best of all, our fellow citizens recognize the great work you are doing. In a national study last year, 77 percent of Hoosiers said their state government was doing an effective job. It was the best rating in any state in the nation.

To me, what you have accomplished goes beyond tax dollars saved or far better service provided. That 77 percent  number tells us that, at least in this state, most citizens believe that government is on their side. That it is made up of people who are not just collecting a public paycheck but are trying hard every day to deliver highly ethical, conscientious, service in return for each tax dollar it collects.

Our free society requires that sort of basic public confidence. We will always debate how much government to have, how much it should spend, and what its priorities should be. But it is critical that those arguments take place in an atmosphere not of cynicism and division, but of some common trust that, whatever decisions our democratic process makes, those decisions will be carried out faithfully and well, and in the interest of all.

This is your accomplishment. Supervisors and agency heads didn’t do it, and it’s for certain that no mere governor could do it.

For eight years, we have asked state government to operate on the basis of continuous improvement, on the principle that “good enough never is.” I leave your ranks with heartfelt thanks for what you have done to prove that government can shoot straight, and can treat taxpayer dollars with the care and respect they deserve. And I go in the hope that you will never rest but will keep on delivering results that are better every single year.

Thank you for everything.

Mitch Daniels, Indiana governor