One man can make a difference. One woman can make a difference.
The death of the person who hired me in late 1992 to serve as his legislative assistant at Hoosier State Press Association – Richard Cardwell – reminded me of that fact. His passing brought back a story he told me. I apologize in advance for the lack of detail in a memory from more than 25 years ago.
During Dick’s tenure as general counsel and executive director of HSPA, meetings of legislative committees of the Indiana General Assembly were held behind closed doors. Lobbyists, reporters and anyone else who had an interest in what was being decided by a particular committee would congregate outside the meeting room – waiting for its end to find out what bills had been passed out. No one was able to hear the committee debate and there was no public testimony.
Dick told me that during one of those closed committee hearings, an older woman walked up with the intent to enter the room. The lobbyists explained that the meetings were closed to the public. According to Dick, her reply given with a German accent was “In America?”
I didn’t get her name from Dick and don’t know if Dick even knew her name as he recounted the story, but she made a difference. That’s because she got Dick thinking about the situation. He concluded that the House and Senate committee meetings shouldn’t be held in secret.
Dick made a difference then and was a difference maker throughout the 30-plus years that he represented Indiana’s newspaper industry before the General Assembly.
He took it upon himself to change the situation and with the help of key legislators he was successful in getting the process changed. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what decade this occurred, let alone the year. I can tell you though that those committee hearings are now public meetings.
Anyone can attend and sign up to speak on a bill, in fact, I can say legislators will be more deferential to the citizen who takes the time to drive down to the Statehouse then the paid-lobbyists like myself. And the efforts of then Speaker of the House Brian Bosma have now added live-streaming of committee hearings and floor debates to make the process more transparent to Hoosiers.
Dick made a difference then and was a difference maker throughout the 30-plus years that he represented Indiana’s newspaper industry before the General Assembly. His efforts in concert with key legislators, such as then Sen. Bob Garton from Columbus and Rep. Steve Moberly, made state and local government more transparent with the passage of the Open Door Law in 1977 and the Access to Public Records Act in 1983.
He also fought numerous battles over public notices law – the third pillar holding up the principle of government transparency in Indiana.
He successfully operated in a time before text messages, emails, or Zoom calls. A call to action to publishers required a phone tree, but most times it was the credibility of the man, the clarity of his arguments, and the force of his personality that made Dick Cardwell successful.
While I only got to work with him for a few years, Dick taught me so much about the law, government and how to conduct myself as a voice for Indiana newspapers.
He definitely made a difference in my life and I thank him for seeing something in me that convinced him to keep me at the Hoosier State Press Association after that first legislative session in 1993.
Read Jack Ronald’s tribute to Richard Cardwell here.
Read Richard Cardwell’s obituary here.