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New administrator takes reins, has big plans for Hope

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Melina Ann Fox has been appointed the Town Manager of Hope.
Melina Ann Fox has been appointed the Town Manager of Hope.

Melina Ann Fox has been appointed the Town Manager of Hope.
Melina Ann Fox has been appointed the Town Manager of Hope.

A managerial consultant, family farmer and two-time congressional candidate is Hope’s first-ever town administrator.

Greensburg’s Melina Ann Fox, 62, supervises the town’s day-to-day operations.

Fox said she sought the newly-created position because she has long admired Hope’s unique rural character and history.

However, it was the comprehensive plan adopted by the Hope Town Council that made Fox realize the northeast Bartholomew County community has a bright future, she said.

“I just think this town is on the verge of making a leap forward,” Fox said. “Hope has so many assets. Now, we have to put together a strategy for implementing it.”

Fox said she’s anxious to assist the move forward with existing plans that have been spelled out in the town’s comprehensive plan.

They include aesthetic improvements to the town square, and infrastructure upgrades to generate interest in Hope’s unique events and attractions.

Hope Town Council hired Fox July 7, at a $45,000 salary, Clerk-Treasurer Diane Burton said.

The town’s five council members will have the final say on all town issues, Fox said.

“I’m not here to change anything,” she said. “I’m here to enhance the town of Hope because it has so much to offer.”

Fifteen applicants from four different states had applied for the position, Hope Town Council President Paula Pollitt said.

Fox is likely best remembered as this region’s first female congressional candidate nominated by a major political party.

The Decatur County resident was a one-time vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party’s 6th Congressional District Committee who opposed former congressman and now-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the 2002 and 2004 general elections.

Fox was a presidential appointee from 1992 to 2000 on the Farm Service Agency State Committee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On the state level, she served as chairman of the legislative session for the Indiana Seed Trade Association.

Since 2004, the former director of public relations for Stewart Seeds Inc. has worked as an independent manager and strategy adviser for various nonprofits, associations, and governmental and public entities.

Pollitt, who noted that Fox has several ancestors buried in the Hope Moravian Cemetery, believes the town selected the right person for the job.

“(Fox) not only knows our history, but what our challenges are,” Pollitt said. “I think we’re going to see some good things coming around the bend for our surprising little town.”

Fox, who grew up north of Hope as a fifth-generation member of a Shelby County farm-owning family, said those assets can be found in the community’s rural and agricultural roots.

She’d like to help develop a strategy that would make “grown in Hope” a well-known brand synonymous with high-quality food products.

With the assistance of her husband, who served eight years as the Indiana State Director of Rural Development for the USDA, Fox believes she can provide a unique insight into how to create that type of branding.

“While (Fox) does have connections, that’s not why we hired her,” Pollitt said. “We wanted Mel for her experience and enthusiasm. She’s already been a go-getter her first week. She’s an amazing person.”

Town council members believe having a full-time administrator is essential to bring growth and improvements to Hope.

“I have only worked with Melina for a couple of days, but I think the council has made a good choice,” Burton said. “I think she has lots of great ideas and I am looking forward to seeing what she can do for our town.”

Fox’s new position will require her to follow directives set forth by each of the five town council members. However, she points out her work with the USDA required her to work with up to 40 individuals as they oversaw $900 million in annual federal farm programs.

“When you are part of a group that works on policy, everybody will always have different ideas,” Fox said. “I have no qualms about working for a legislative body because I’ve already done that.”

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