LaPORTE – Governor Eric Holcomb’s recent appointment of LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo to a highly lucrative ($172,000 a year) prestigious cabinet appointment in his Administration could teach a thing or two to our president regarding the twin goals of quality political hiring – rewarding loyalty, yet insisting on absolute competence.
     
First off, this president has shown that the loyalty he demands of subordinates is one-way and unrequited.  Trump’s failure to reward two of his most loyal surrogates, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is testament to how transitory and transactional he really is. Couple that with his inexplicable attacks this past week on the one Cabinet member, Attorney General Jeff Sessions,  most intent on carrying out the so-called Trump agenda – weakening voting rights, reduced civil rights enforcement – and you see a pattern developing that loyal service in support of The Donald’s agenda doesn’t carry with it any real rewards.
    
Contrast that with the loyalty shown by LaPorte’s energetic mayor who committed early and fervently to Eric Holcomb’s U.S. Senate campaign and agreed to serve as the co-chair of his campaign committee, when the outcome of that GOP Senate primary to fill Dan Coats’ impending open seat was very much in doubt. Holcomb never forgot that loyalty and commitment that Blair Milo had demonstrated to him.
     
Many of us who have watched this young mayor’s impressive rise on the state political scene fully expected Gov. Holcomb to reward her with one of his premiere cabinet positions in January and were surprised to see a cabinet rolled out with her name missing. Yet Gov. Holcomb was clearly biding his time to come up with just the right appointment for Milo. Speaking of loyalty, don’t think that Mayor Milo’s status as a Navy veteran hurt one bit in solidifying that alliance with Holcomb. He’s justifiably proud of his Navy service in his own right and clearly very loyal to that branch of the service.
 
Then we come to the competence quotient – i.e. trying to fit the right “loyalist” into a position that they are qualified for – again, an area that the president has abjectly failed in.
    
Whether it was appointing the eminently unqualified Betsy DeVos to head the Department Education or the uniquely unsuitable former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, to head Energy, this president has had a knack for putting the wrong people in the wrong positions. The piece de resistance has to be Trump’s appointment of his woefully under-qualified son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose life experience seems to have been renovating three story walkups in Manhattan for sale as good re-sale properties.  Now he’s charged with a portfolio that runs the gamut from reforming the VA to bringing peace to the Mideast!
     
Compare that appointment to Blair Milo whose experiences as mayor have included stints working closely with Workforce Development and Ivy Tech on job training issues and skills development and developing competencies for the jobs of the future.  Her work ethic and communication skills make her well suited to serve in a role that will have her actively interfacing with employers, attracting new developers to our state and dealing with various educational and job training facilities throughout the state.
     
How intellectually curious and exacting is Blair Milo? This is a woman who wrote detailed procurement manuals for the Pentagon. She’s got the smarts and savvy to do a solid job for the state in a position that is critical for the state’s future economic development prospects and job creation. 
     
I’ve long joked with my friends on the other side of the aisle that we Democrats would trade for both Blair Milo and our highly popular Republican sheriff John Boyd and give the Republicans in return two future first-round draft picks and an undisclosed amount of cash! Unfortunately, I’ve had no takers.
     
With Blair Milo’s voice now in Indianapolis, I think it does bode well for Northwest Indiana which as a region has often suffered from being “out of sight, out of mind” under both former Govs. Pence and Daniels.  On the political front, Democrats in LaPorte can now be pleased that we’ve at least now got  a shot at regaining the mayor’s office in 2019, as Blair Milo would’ve been tough to beat, just as she was unopposed for reelection in 2015.
     
Bottom line: The governor’s pick of Mayor Blair Milo represents not only smart politics in rewarding a longtime friend and loyalist, but addresses that second key prong in any good political hire – unquestioned competence.
     
It’s a shame that our president can’t take a lesson or two from this governor on placing the right political appointees in the positions they’re really qualified for.
 
Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party who has a law practice in LaPorte and is a longtime HPI columnist.  He can be reached at friedman@netnitco.net