Painting the town blue
Robert Pope takes seat as the first elected Democrat on the Avon Town Council
By Stephanie Dolan
Politically Indiana largely identifies a red state. Marion County may often go blue during the election process (evidenced with Indianapolis’ current democratic mayor). The rest of the state, except a handful of counties, usually votes as a mass of Republican red.
Hendricks County is no exception, typically trending toward Republican Party elected officials.
Democrat Robert Pope made history this election, breaking that trend.
Robert Pope is the first Democrat in history to win an elected seat on the Avon Town Council. (Photo by Rick Myers)
Imagine the surprise of conservative Republican voters when Pope was elected as the first Democrat to sit on the Avon Town Council. He took his seat earlier this month after a friend encouraged him to run for a local office.
“In the beginning, I thought I wasn’t skilled enough, but I learned under fire,” Pope said. “The reason I decided to run was kind of the same thing that got me to join the Army, serving my community and my country. My body could not handle military service anymore, so I felt like my next best thing to do was try to lead and help make the best decisions that I can for my community. The first time I ran I lost, but I decided to try again, and now I’m sitting on the council.”
The party is excited Pope won a seat on the Avon Town Council, said Charlotte Martin, Hendricks County Democrat Party chair.
“He is a hard working Democrat, and he ran in 2018 for the open position and only lost by 59 votes,” Martin said. “So he decided to run again for 2019, and we are delighted that he won that position.”
Martin believes Pope’s work during his first campaign carried over to his win in 2019 and she sees the democratic demographic potentially increasing in Hendricks County.
“We had been sitting at about one-third of the voters in Hendricks County,” she said. “Based on our candidates that ran in 2016, 2018 and 2019, we’re inching up into the 40 percent category. I hope that means more Democrats will come out to vote that do live in Hendricks County.”
An Iraq Army veteran Pope, 38, was born and raised on the west side of Indianapolis, and he’s spent all but the four years of his active duty in and around Central Indiana. In 2002 he spent six months in Kuwait before a six-month deployment in Iraq.
Today the Avon resident and his wife Josie have four children between them.
“We are a bit of a blended family,” Pope said. “She brought two children to the relationship. I brought one. We have one together. I ended up adopting her youngest from her prior marriage.”
Still serving without being enlisted, Pope works as a senior software engineer subcontractor for the Veterans Affairs where he supports development teams to make sure their software is built properly.
“Not everyone has a natural ability for leadership and Robert does,” said Theresa Brandon, campaign manager for Democrat Joe Mackey who is running for Indiana’s fourth congressional district. “He walks the talk. He has integrity. He looks at issues from others perspectives. Not everyone can do that. He has an uncanny ability of looking at it from a family perspective, a father’s perspective and a veteran’s perspective. That sets him apart and will bring tremendous value to this position he’s serving.”
Pope doesn’t make politics or running for the council about him, Brandon said.
“He is quite humble,” she said. “He tries to live up to the expectations that others have of him. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to have as your neighbor. When the chips are down, he’s the one who will be there.”
Pope plans to get right to work as a leader on the council.
“There’s some low hanging fruit as well as some long-term goals that I have,” Pope said. “First and foremost is economic development and balancing our tax base, attracting more commercial business here and working with our economic development planner to find those right parcels of land and right commercial investments to bring higher paying jobs.”
Pope also wants to bring the community closer together.
“There are roughly 20,000 people who live in the Town of Avon, and there are an additional 30,000 who live in Washington Township. Those people will say they live in Avon, but they don’t have a voice to represent them, and I think it’s time those two groups come together. I’m trying to lay the groundwork to get that done as soon as possible.”
Pope also wants to begin live streaming council meetings in the next six months for everyone to watch even if they don’t attend the meetings in person.
“Video streaming makes meetings more transparent to residents,” he said. “We have a lot of separation in our community, and I want to help improve that. I think you do that by increasing transparency and communication with residents. I tried to do that during my campaign with the goal of communicating more with residents.”
Pope also wants to bring more unity to the council as a body.
“It’s no secret our council has been two coalitions,” he said. “There seems to be two teams within the council, and I hope to bring a unifying mindset to that. This job is not something I take lightly. I hope to do good things for the town.”
Getting to know Robert Pope
Do you have any pets? We have five dogs. Four of them are rescues. I’m one of those who I don’t know who rescued whom.
What’s your favorite TV show/movie? “Band of Brothers”
What do you do to relax? Spend time with family and with the dogs. I also enjoy tinkering with newer geeky technologies: 3D printers, drones and virtual reality systems.
What have you most recently read? I try to read as much as possible. One of the most recent books was “48 Laws of Power.”
Who or what inspires you? My family and my children. I’m just the face and the name of my candidacy, my service. None of it would be possible without the behind the scenes sacrifices that my wife and children have made. Just seeing them being so trusting and supportive of me fills me with that inspiration to make sure I do the right thing and do the best that I can. My children are growing up in this town, and they inspire me to make sure I leave it better than I found it.