Kernan does it again
Gov. Joe Kernan has a history of making good, bold, surprising decisions. Thursday he did it again when he named Katherine Davis as his choice to succeed him as Indiana’s lieutenant governor. She’s considered a lock to be approved by both houses of the Indiana General Assembly at a special session on Oct. 20, and if that does happen, she will be Indiana’s first female lieutenant governor.
Few if any people expected Kernan to select Kathy Davis, 47. Certainly she was not well-known around here, but now that we know more about her, she seems to be a scintillating selection. In making his choice known last Thursday ‘ it had been a big question mark since Kernan succeeded Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon of Corydon, who died Sept. 13 following a stroke ‘ Kernan said, ‘She’s as good as they come,’ and ‘she’s a perfect fit.’
She has a record that bears out that description. Most recently, she was city controller for Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. Before that, O’Bannon and Kernan had brought her in to manage the start-up of the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, the O’Bannon-Kernan initiative to develop and commercialize advanced technologies in Indiana.
Before that, she was secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and director of the Indiana State Budget Agency under then-Gov., now U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh.
Before one makes the wrong assumption by thinking that Davis may have just been a success-oriented bureaucrat on a fast track in state government, consider her academic credentials. She graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Then the Boston native earned a master’s degree in business administration at Harvard University in 1982.
She runs marathons, she’s a wife and mother, and she’s a consensus builder who asks people to make decisions based on facts. She gets along well with leaders of both parties. In other words, Kernan has selected a remarkable woman to be the No. 2 person in his administration. She will, in effect, be his political partner and advisor, who, by law, will preside over the Senate and direct the Commerce and Agriculture departments. She will also oversee the Indiana Counter-terrorism and Security Council.
Perhaps most important, Kernan has selected a proven commodity with vast learning plus people, budget and administrative skills who could step into the office of governor should something happen to him. And she will no doubt be a huge asset in helping the Kernan administration work its way out of the economic doldrums.
Women will be encouraged to know that Davis is the fourth woman Kernan has asked to assist him in the top level of state government. Mary Downs is his chief of staff, Judy Fleetwood is deputy chief of staff, and Tina Noel is his press secretary. The fifth female in Kernan’s inner circle is his wife, Maggie, who, as most people know by now, has wisely urged her husband to keep his options open when it comes to deciding whether or not he wants to run for governor.
Maybe we’re in for even more surprises.