By Todd Travis
Margaret McGovern came to Greenwood when there were only around 30,000 to 40,000 people. “It was still just known as a small town and things weren’t moving very quickly at that time,” she mentioned. She had always had an interest in politics and her husband, Phil, was captain in the JAG (Judge Advocate General) core before moving to Indiana. “When we got to Indiana, I started becoming interested in small-town government. I attended some council meetings and met Jeanette Surina, who had decided it was time for Greenwood to start moving forward,” McGovern remembered. Surina became the mayor and McGovern was elected for city council. “I remember her theme while running for mayor was to put Greenwood on the map. She was a great cheerleader for the town,” said McGovern.
One of the ways Surina helped Greenwood grow was by bringing industries to the town. Alpine Industries was one of the first major ones to come to the town and many others began to follow. Many jobs were supplied in Greenwood as a result of this. Unfortunately, Surina developed cancer during her term as mayor and she passed away. “The democratic precinct voted for me as her replacement, so I finished that term and was also elected for mayor the following term,” McGovern explained. Picking up from where Surina left off, McGovern had many projects that were going on which she began to oversee. One significant project was an $8 million sewer project that was designed to accommodate the growth that was expected to begin in Greenwood. Unfortunately, this project became somewhat of a nightmare for McGovern.
The plans made for the sewer system ended up failing and a large insurance claim was made to repair the damage. “The project was stopped, and the insurance company took over. We had to rebid the project for it to get underway, but my time during office turned into meeting after meeting with the insurance company. I had to learn more about sanitary sewers than I could ever remember,” McGovern said. Eventually the project was completed, but it wasn’t until after McGovern’s term that she was informed the insurance company did pay the project off fully. “Right after I left office, the city attorney emailed me and said, ‘I thought you’d like to know the insurance company paid off the project,’ and that saved the city millions of dollars,” McGovern recounted.
While this project took a lot of time and energy, it was a necessary development for the town to grow. McGovern remembers seeing the positive outcome from this monumental job. “Thanks to Surina’s initiative, Greenwood was really able to get going and see population increase and all the other things that come with it – housing industry was booming and even though traffic became a problem, that was a part of growing,” McGovern described. “As the growth continued, the taxpayer money increased and that allowed for the roads to be improved and so it worked correctly,” she continued.
McGovern is particularly proud of being a female mayor in a time where there weren’t many female mayors. She remembers how she would stick together with the other women that held office. “There were just a handful of us, but we would communicate with each other about what was going on. We had to fight to get to that position and it helped for us to stick together,” she said. “Being a mayor was like being part of a really big family. Especially at that time because if people wanted to talk to me, they could come right into my office. Some people were really upset with the sewer project, and I didn’t blame them! But it was tough. Still, the goal is to try and help people solve their problems,” she continued.
Looking at Greenwood today, McGovern is so proud to see where the city is and how beautiful it has become. “The way Greenwood is functioning today really stems from what Jeanette started during her time in office. She just forged ahead and it’s really paying off now,” McGovern mentioned. “It’s also wonderful to see how the city has become so much more accepting of people from different backgrounds and different color – a lot of that came from Alpine Electronics who hired people from all different backgrounds. I’m so proud of Greenwood for that!”