And she spoke up.
In a community where it's often the same, familiar faces who speak up when a call for feedback is made, local officials were energized on July 27 when they saw a new face in the crowd.
And she spoke up.
GREENSBURG — A month after it was reported that Decatur County was among the 15 lowest when it comes to unemployment rates across all 92 counties in the Hoosier State, June numbers provided by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) now show that just nine counties are besting the southeastern Indiana community.
With an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent, the only counties ranked above Decatur County are Hamilton, Wells, Bartholomew, Daviess, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Adams, Dubois, and Elkhart. However, a mere 0.2 percent separates Decatur County from the lowest (Elkhart).
Only a month into her job, the new executive director of Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs—which oversees nearly $30 million in annual federal and state grants—is eager to “see all the potential and assets that rural Indiana has to offer.”
The agency she’s leading remains largely under the public’s radar, but its mission involves big lifts: supervising efforts across the state to improve small downtowns, clearing housing blight, preserving historic properties, helping coordinate community development efforts, and assisting communities with storm water, wastewater and drinking water issues.
“We’re here to help rural Indiana succeed,” Golden told IBJ.
But Golden’s sunny outlook doesn’t blind her to the challenges residents in rural Indiana face. Per-capital income in rural Indiana was $37,566 in 2015, compared to $43,187 in urban areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And average education attainment levels for rural residents are also lower.
IBJ spoke to Golden—who recently left her job in Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration to return to Indiana, where she once oversaw the state’s 529 college savings plan program—about opportunities in rural Indiana. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.