Leading the Way
New City Council President Laura Campbell Talks Family, Women In Office & Goals For 2020
When Laura Campbell first moved to Carmel in 1977, she wasn’t a fan. After living in New Jersey and having easy access to the shore and the Big Apple, she found Carmel to be rather dull. She graduated from Carmel High School, and went on to study public relations and journalism at Ball State University, but she always had her sights set on moving back east.
“I told my parents that once I graduated from Ball State, I was never again going to live in Indiana,” says Campbell, who now serves as Carmel’s city council president. “My dad loves to remind me of that story now.”
Campbell, an 18-year resident of Carmel, now has a love affair with the city. She thoroughly enjoys the parks, the safe roundabouts, the library, and all the other amenities the area offers.
Campbell landed a college internship at a public relations firm in New York City. Following graduation, however, she found it was much more economical to live in the midwest. She then accepted a position in Indianapolis, working with Mayor William Hudnut.
“It was an exciting time,” Campbell says. “He was open to ideas.”
Later in her career, Campbell got into marketing for a commercial real estate firm, then became the executive director for the Hamilton County Republican party where she worked with elected officials at multiple levels.
“Municipal government was what most interested me, and in 2015 the time was right to run for city council,” says Campbell, who took office in 2016.
Campbell served on the planning commission and became council vice president. When she became the new city council president in January of this year, she joined forces with a new female vice president, Sue Finkam, marking the first time Carmel has had all-women council leadership.
“I hope that it encourages more women to run for office, or to serve within their church or whatever volunteer organization they may be involved in,” says Campbell, who is excited to hit the ground running with her new position, and is especially passionate about organizing the Carmel advisory committee on disability.
Campbell’s focus will be on three areas – accessibility, employment and social connections. In terms of accessibility, many people with disabilities, along with their caregivers, have come forward to share which areas of the city are difficult for them to move around in.
“We get input from the committee on areas where we can make improvements, or where sidewalks need to be added or fixed,” Campbell says.
Regarding employment, Campbell would like to work with employers to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to be employed locally.
“I’m passionate about disability rights and inclusion, as my daughter has epilepsy,” says Campbell, who has personally felt the sting of fading social connections.
Campbell says her daughter was fortunate to be enrolled in the Carmel school system, but once she graduated her family felt somewhat lost, as many families do.
“We felt like we were dropped off the edge of a cliff when all of my daughter’s social connections went on to college,” Campbell says.
People with disabilities and their caregivers tend to feel isolated. Therefore, Campbell wants to do all she can to make them feel included in the community.
Last year the Carmel Fire Department worked on an initiative called the Specific Response Registry, a voluntary registry that provides advanced notice to emergency response personnel for those with a physical or mental health issue that may make it difficult to leave home during an emergency. Campbell and her team are working with John Moriarty of the Carmel Fire Department and Steven Orusa, chief of the Fishers Fire Department.
“It’s great to work with other cities on initiatives like this,” Campbell says. “We also talk with other councils for their input.”
For instance, Campbell regularly talks to Cecelia Coble, city council president in Fishers.
“Cecilia also has a daughter with disabilities,” Campbell says. “She and her employees have been great about giving advice on the disability committee.”
Campbell’s other goals for 2020 include making sure that new council members are integrated into the council, developing good working relationships among the council, and improving communication between the mayor and the council.
Campbell is pleased by the community support she has received thus far. Last fall when she went door to door while campaigning, she enjoyed seeing the city through the eyes of her constituents. Many told her they appreciate the low taxes, the town’s safety, and the schools. They expressed concerns, however, about Carmel becoming overdeveloped.
“We must have conscientious growth in our city and make sure the infrastructure can keep up with that growth,” says Campbell, who is now officially one of Carmel’s biggest fans.