News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 16, 2014

Editorial: Focusing on health

Mayor exerts leadership on an important local problem

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett was on his game Monday when he addressed the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce in what has become an annual ritual. While his more formal State of the City speech won’t occur until next month, the Chamber event serves as a trial run. He uses it to present a broad overview of the past year and the year ahead.

The speech came as he begins the seventh year of his mayoral tenure. At the mid-point of his second term, he is clearly hitting his stride. He has always been a capable operator, good with details and knowledgeable of intricate machinations of government functions.

Bennett was all of that on Monday. And more. He has developed not only into a savvy operator, but a good leader. He has become more comfortable with recognizing broader issues and bringing them forward for public discussion.

The big-picture issue he raised with the Chamber on Monday was one Terre Haute has heard about before — community health. More precisely, its poor health.

The mayor announced he would be conducting weekly presentations in 2014 devoted to raising awareness throughout the community about health.

Afterwards, he explained his motivation:

“I’m in meetings throughout the year where people share this data about how unhealthy we are,” Bennett said. “I’ve been listening to that for a while. It’s like, we’ve got to do something.”

He acknowledged that the United Way has taken action, as has Union Hospital. Both have produced survey data that show we have an unhealthy community, that we’re overweight, get inadequate exercise and smoke too much.

“So I thought, why not, as mayor, I take some leadership here,” he continued. “I want to do pretty much a weekly event of some kind, with kids, adults, in a variety of settings, free to them, so they can come and just have some presentations. It will be short, try to do something to get them to think about better health.”

The mayor promised complete information soon. While community health is not a primary responsibility of a mayor, a true leader recognizes that there comes a time when he or she can help make life better in a whole range of areas. This is one of those times.

We applaud Mayor Bennett’s effort and are anxious to hear more.