KOKOMO – I’ve never had a job where my decision has meant the difference between life and death. Shucks, during my 38-year career as a financial consultant, the two biggest challenges that I’ve had are recommending an investment before some world event made the markets drop, or not recommending the next greatest technological thingamabob before it became larger than the GDP of France.  

Those sins of commission or omission may get you chewed out or cost you a client, but they don’t cause me to lose sleep or develop ulcers, let alone suffering from immeasurable guilt. I get up, go to work, make decisions, but no one dies as a result of my efforts. I like it that way.

I admire those who have those necessary jobs that require them to make life and death decisions on a daily basis. Our service men and women, law enforcement officers, first responders and medical personnel all deserve our gratitude. Most of us understand and accept the pressure-packed nature of these jobs and know that these folks are doing their best to serve the American people. We generally laud these vital workers and honor the work that they do.

However, there are a few jobs where no matter what decision you make, someone is going to criticize, vilify and condemn your efforts and decisions.  Governor of Indiana happens to be just one of those jobs. The worst part is that many of those leading the chorus of criticism claim to be from the same political party.

I’ve always thought that it would be pretty neat to be governor of Indiana.  You get to live in a great house on Meridian Street. You get a massive office in the State Capitol with lots of historical memorabilia surrounding you. You always have a coterie of staff hanging on your every word and waiting to serve your every need. You have a car and driver to whisk you away to every event. You get invited to sit in the boxes at all the big sporting events. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Of course, you do have to go to those Lincoln Day dinners scattered in the far reaches of the state and listen to county chairmen, like me, drone on about the wonderful work being done by the Salt Liver Township trustee.  You’re fed dry chicken, mystery meat loaf and Aunt Ida’s ptomaine potato salad. No matter what decision you make, whether it is being opposed to arming kindergarten pupils with AK 47s, to insisting on fiscal responsibility, or advocating for all Hoosiers to be treated equally, there is always someone loudly calling for your head on a platter. That is the downside of the job.

But then, once in a lifetime, a pandemic comes along and the job of governor of Indiana takes on life or death importance. Decisions must be made in an environment where no one knows the right answer. It’s unplowed ground and there is no textbook or expert to turn to for perfect guidance. There is only an unknown pathogen spreading sickness and death and you must make the critical decisions that affect the lives of nearly 7 million Hoosiers. How you react and the decisions you make were not in your campaign literature, not in your party’s platform and not the topic of all of those Lincoln Day dinners.

It is my opinion that Gov. Eric Holcomb has done a masterful job in dealing with the pandemic of 2020. He has demonstrated true leadership and has kept the best interests of all Hoosiers at heart in every decision that he has made. He has been prudent in administering safety guidelines and has consulted local governments throughout the past year for developing a plan that works for each Indiana county. Instead of dictating in intricate detail how each community must approach every pandemic issue, Gov. Holcomb has issued guidelines but allowed cities and counties to diverge from the guidelines if local leaders believe it is in the best interest of their constituents. The color-coded threat status for each county enabled risk to be addressed regionally and not be dictated from the Governor’s Office.  

Early decisions during the pandemic were made with an abundance of caution for the health and safety of all Hoosiers and who, except for the most dimwitted, can blame the governor for erring on the side of caution. I have no doubt that decisions made by Gov. Holcomb and his staff saved the lives of many Hoosiers back in the early dark days of the pandemic. I guess that I’m one of those who believe that if you have never had to look someone in the eyes and accept responsibility for the death of their loved one, you probably should keep your mouth shut.  

This applies to ordinary Hoosiers and those state representatives and senators who breathe the rarified air of omnipotence in the hallowed halls of the State Legislature. Trust me on this one; the legislators criticizing Gov. Holcomb for his pandemic decisions are absolutely ignorant of public health concerns and are nothing more than petty demagogues pandering to a small but vocal crowd of rebel rousers.  

I personally don’t like wearing a mask. I have trouble breathing in them and communicating with my clients is terribly difficult while wearing one. That being said, I wear a mask at my office and when out in public because if my reckless behavior caused even one person to get COVID-19, I would feel terrible.  

Don’t get me wrong. I love street festivals, rock concerts, sporting events, weddings, church, big crowds, big parties and hugging and kissing friends and family. I know that one day everything will be back to normal. I understand the frustrations of those whose everyday lives and occupations have been completely disrupted. I wish that instead of wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars on non-pandemic related projects that we would truly make every person financially touched by the pandemic whole. Perhaps public anger should be directed at those seeking to politically exploit the pandemic instead of attacking the true heroes of the fight to control the disease.

We are lucky to live in Indiana. My two Chicago daughters call Indiana the land of the free. My sister-in-law, in Detroit, works as a respiratory therapist at a hospital. Bad government decisions in Michigan have led to overflowing hospitals, refrigerator trucks backed up to hospitals as makeshift morgues, and medical staff who are completely exhausted. She wishes that she was here in Indiana instead of in the clutches of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

In December, my wife received the call that her mother had died of COVID-19. She was a nursing home patient in a Michigan facility. A staff member had brought the disease into the facility, probably catching it from someone just out exercising their constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The disease ran rampant through the facility and took my mother-in-law as a casualty. One weekend we were standing outside the nursing home in freezing weather, talking to her through the window on cellphones and the very next weekend we were traveling to a very lonely burial service.  

It is a cruel disease, made even more cruel by the thoughtless actions and words of some of our citizens.

One day, when the history of this pandemic is written, I believe that the actions and leadership of Gov. Eric Holcomb will stand out as a major reason why more Hoosier families did not have to grieve over the loss of their loved ones. As the great Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley once wrote, “Ain’t God good to Indiana…” 

Dunn is a former chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.