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The Journal Gazette

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Sunday, January 14, 2018 1:00 am

A whole year to say 'thank you'

As Linda Bloom's decades of service wind down, stop to appreciate all she's accomplished

Steven R. Shine

The time has come for candidates seeking public office to file for the 2018 election cycle. Names, both well known and brand new, have begun to fill the positions on this May's primary ballot.

But one of the most notable names will be the one that is missing from the ballot for the first time in a generation, that of Allen County Commissioner Linda Bloom. After nearly four decades serving you and me in an unprecedented range of capacities, Linda is retiring. For the first time since 1994, Allen County's 3rd District Commissioner seat will stand empty.

You have undoubtedly heard of Linda Bloom and maybe even met her at a parade, a community picnic or a neighborhood association meeting. Your friends and neighbors probably know her, too. She is the very definition of an “old school” political leader; that is, she got her flair for knowing our community and understanding its needs by getting to know us, often one person at a time.

She has been to our community what a true servant leader always is: accessible, relatable and accountable. Linda knows what we want and need because she is one of us. Some leaders ascend to office then work to understand the lives of single moms who work day and night to support their kids and pay their mortgages. Linda Bloom came to us via the opposite backstory.

We want elected officials who are real, who have lived among us and experienced the same worries we experience. The citizens of Allen County will have one fewer of those when Linda Bloom leaves office at the end of this year. Our community might not really understand it now, but we will miss her.

The end of 2018 will mark the end of an era.

The Linda Bloom way is different than the political style that is all the rage today in the age of instant reaction and hyper-partisanship. Reaction and emotion can change a conversation, but deliberation and consideration change history. Linda changed history.

Her biography says a lot, but it doesn't say it all. Linda was elected county treasurer in 1980, county auditor in 1986 and then chosen by voters to be the county's first female commissioner in 1994. Every day, Linda brings to elected office an unprecedented understanding of how the mechanisms of government interact, an understanding that we might never see again. She understands how those mechanisms – and the people behind them – can work together to pull our community into the future.

It is the work behind that biography that rewrote history. Linda was a driving force behind the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust. The trust raised millions of dollars in private funds to save the Courthouse, a local, state and national historic treasure, from the ravages of time, and possibly even from the wrecking ball. Linda's adoration for the beauty at the heart of our community would tolerate no less.

Her long view of history held the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in the same regard. When many thought its day had passed, Linda helped lead the charge for a renewal of the Coliseum that expanded and modernized it, resulting in a facility that leads its industry in tourism, sports and entertainment. Deliberation and consideration changed history again.

If you have driven north from New Haven to Fort Wayne or vice versa in recent years, you likely did it across what might be Linda's most lasting legacy: the Maplecrest Road extension. Linda focused much of her attention on infrastructure. While mundane in the world of politics, infrastructure is essential to real people and to a community's economic fortunes. After decades on the community's to-do list, Linda led the collaborative charge among Allen County communities and the federal government that finally got the project done.

Over and over again for nearly 40 years, the Linda Bloom story has been the same. She helped mold the Allen County we love so much today, quietly and without fanfare from within. As her final year in leadership begins, we should all remember what she did for us, that she treated us as friends and partners, and how our community has been sculpted by her steady, thoughtful hand.

Steven R. Shine is a Fort Wayne attorney and chairman of the Allen County Republican Party.