By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, of Evansville, isn’t running for office, but she could certainly use a good pair of running shoes.
Previously, in her role as Indiana State Auditor, Crouch visited all 92 counties as she worked to connect with every county auditor in the state.
Now, in her second term as Indiana’s No. 2 leader, her willingness to get out and go led to a whirlwind tour of Warsaw Friday. July 2, when she visited with people in at least seven settings before heading to First Friday where she served food alongside high schoolers and lent her support in honoring local photographer Al Disbro.
Crouch, 69, became lieutenant governor in 2016 after then-Gov. Mike Pence was chosen by Donald Trump as his vice president, which opened the door for Gov. Eric Holcomb to become governor and Crouch to become lieutenant governor.
She got her start in elected politics by serving as a county auditor and a county commissioner in Vanderburgh County. She then went on to be elected as a state representative and state auditor.
When the legislature is not in session (she serves as President of the Senate) she said she likes to be on the road two to three days a week.
“I like to get out and travel and really connect with communities and celebrate their successes and hear what their challenges are and see how the state can be a resource to them,” she said Friday during an interview.
“The state’s only as good as our individual cities, towns and counties,” she said.
She started her day with a group at the American Table restaurant, and then made stops at Cardinal Center, Baker Youth Club, the American Legion, Head Start, the County Convention and Visitors Bureau and even a fireworks outlet.
She then ventured to First Friday in downtown Warsaw where she served food alongside high school students and then presented a state award to photographer Al Disbro.
Her message as she visited with people was a bit celebratory in light of improving conditions from the pandemic.
“We’ve been through a lot, as a state, in the past year, but because of our ability to collaborate and work together, we’ve come out of COVID in a very strong fiscal position … and we continue to thrive as a state,” she said.
She gives the state strong marks on its handling of the pandemic and its reliance on data.
“It’s hard to determine what to do when you have a once-in-a-lifetime crisis and you’re getting mixed messages and you don’t know what steps should be taken,” she said.
In addition to the traditional roles of lieutenant governor, (ag, tourism, community development), she said she told Holcomb she’d like to work more on mental health and addiction issues.
“We want to ensure that all Hoosiers have an opportunity to be successful in life and that includes Hoosiers with intellectual disabilities,” she said.
She expressed concern about young people’s mental health coming out of the pandemic.
“The human cost of this pandemic is huge, and it’s going to grow exponentially for years to come,” she said.
Before the pandemic, one out of five Hoosiers was struggling with mental illness or addiction. Her own mother struggled with depression. Her sister committed suicide and her brother is an alcoholic.
She said $100 million directed by the state for mental health is “a step in the right direction.”
Crouch’s name is one of several that keeps surfacing in stories looking at who might run for governor in 2024
On Friday, she brushed aside talk of running for governor but added that she’s not ruling out a future run.
“It’s a little early, don’t you think?” she asked. “Right now, I’m focused on being the best lieutenant governor I can be and being a partner to Gov. Holcomb.”
The one thing she said she’s learned about politics is the importance of preparation and timing.
“The preparation will be there,” she said. “We’ll see about the timing.”