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Childhood: I’m originally from Gainesville, Georgia. My mother, two sisters and step dad all still reside there. Growing up, I was the middle child, raised by a single mother. I remain close with my family, especially my 80 year old grandmother, Betty Lou. A few years back, she moved from Cincinnati to Indianapolis to live near me. I see her every single day. She is my heart.
College: In 1996, I moved to Indianapolis from Georgia to attend Marion University (then called Marion College). I ran track and played basketball in high school, which earned me a scholarship. Back then, Marion was looking to diversify their campus (since there were not a lot of out of state kids attending the school at that time). The school was doing targeted outreach and I was fortunate enough to be accepted.
Training: My original plan was to receive a degree in education but those plans soon changed after some internship opportunities. My first internship was in government at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, working with then-Commissioner Gary Gibson. I enjoyed the process-driven atmosphere and working on impactful projects. The next year, the state’s Democratic Party offered me an internship which focused on fundraising. So, for a time, I was their behind-the-scenes guy, dealing with event plans and logistics. It was at that point that I began paying more attention to state and community issues, sparking my interest in politics and government. Soon thereafter, I became the financial director for Mayor Bart Peterson’s re-election committee.
Working with Mayor Peterson allowed me to work with a number of elected leaders including Congresswoman, Julia Carson. One day, the Congresswoman reached out to me and said, “I’m trying to create a next generation leaders and I’d love to work with you.” So, I became her Communication Director for the next five years. It was an amazing experience. I frequently traveled back and forth from Indianapolis to Washington D.C. to support her congressional efforts. Later, I moved to Evansville, Indiana and joined former-Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel’s team to become his political director for four years.
Hopping to healthcare: After that, I took a pause. I thought, ‘What are the particular issues I’ve been paying close attention to?’ Healthcare was a topic that was being fiercely debated at that time. It was an area I had a strong interest in so I started researching health foundations. I connected with the Methodist Health Foundation and signed on to be their Development Officer for four years. It was an incredible opportunity that enabled me to better understand the culture of IU Health, see the amazing dedication of their employees and observe the unique benefits of an academic health center. While working at the foundation, I came to know Tory Castor, Vice President of Government Affairs at IU Health, who ultimately approached me about the role I’m in now.
His current role: As the Director of Government Affairs, I’m currently focused on supporting our AHC projects. I work to build and cultivate relationships within local government, in particular the City of Indianapolis which includes the mayor’s office and council. However, I also assist the IU Health Bloomington team in developing those strong relationships with the city of Bloomington local leaders.
Advice for success: Be personable, patient and work hard.
-- By Sarah Burns