State Representative and Beech Grove resident Cindy Kirchhofer prepares for the 2015 legislative session

IMG_4245 Holding a political office takes a lot of balancing, from work, service and a family life to how to make decisions that impact everyone around you. State Representative and Beech Grove resident Cindy Kirchhofer said she’s spent many a sleepless night weighing on how to vote on legislative issues. It always comes down to one thing: does she feel it’s the best decision for everyone?

“It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of heart-to-hearts with yourself, making sure you’re doing the right thing and that you’re not biased by your own wants and needs,” Kirchhofer said. “It’s got to be more than you. It has to be what you feel is in the best interest for your district.”

Kirchhofer is a Perry Meridian graduate who has worked most of her life as a paralegal. This led her to her current position in risk management for Franciscan Alliance. She spent most of her life as a single working mom, having married her husband, Rob Delaplane, less than two years ago. A Beech Grove resident, Kirchhofer said she’s always been a community activist. She has served on the Beech Grove Redevelopment Commission and served on the Perry Township Advisory Board from 2004 to 2010.

“I read recently that most women do not run (for a political position) or are not interested unless they’re asked,” Kirchhofer said. “That’s exactly what happened to me.”

In 2009, Kirchhofer received a call from the Republican Party saying they needed someone to run for the House of Representatives. With the support of then Governor Mitch Daniels and his Political Action Campaign, she said she decided to run and won.

“I was naïve, and I think everyone is when they first run for office,” Kirchhofer said. “You think, it’s a great honor and it’s a huge responsibility no matter what position you’re in. You’re only naïve that one time. You get there, in my case it was the House of Representatives, and the first thing that goes through your mind is ‘what did I sign up for?’ ‘Did I bite off more than I can chew?’”

Her first year in office, she said their main focus was education and what’s best for parents and students; they passed a voucher program to fund education opportunities for those who might otherwise not have any. Jobs were another focal point, which Kirchhofer said is still important, but it’s improving. She said through the last four years, she’s learned a lot, and things aren’t always as easy as they seem.

“The whole legislation process on any level, it’s meant to be slow, so that it’s fair and everybody gets a say and that there’s transparency in what you’re doing,” Kirchhofer said. “I thought things would move faster and now I know why they don’t.”

This year, Kirchhofer said as it is in all odd numbered years, the biggest challenge will be passing the budget. She said she’d like to see more funds dedicated to mental health matters and education.

“It’s my understanding that people who are recommended mental health treatment doesn’t get it because of funding or transportation,” Kirchhofer said. “I see it in the hospital a lot. It’s just a struggle. My generation and my parents’ generation, it was something to be ashamed about. I think the younger generation understands more about mental health impairments and diseases. I think it’s time to focus the light on mental health awareness.”

Another challenge is covering all of the topics that need to be discussed this year.

“When I came in, we were not the majority in the house, but we were very cohesive,” Kirchhofer said. “We had the same agenda. In 2012, we got in very independent thinkers. We again have a supermajority in the house. We have several new people. I’m guessing this new group will continue on that path. My fear is with 71 republicans and 29 democrats, we will not be able to bed every issue that needs to be bedded.”

Kircchhofer said balancing her service as a state representative, the only risk resource for the Franciscan Alliance, her family and new marriage, she said it’s not always easy or possible to balance it all. But, the rewards are worth the sacrifice.

“You put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in a bill,” Kirchhofer said. “The most rewarding part of the general assembly for me is the committee work. Every bill has to start on a committee before it even gets on the house floor. My three committees are public health, local government and criminal code. It’s very rewarding to listen to the needs of our constituents both for and against and knowing at the end of the day that you have given ample time and due process in considering whether or not a bill is a good bill or not.”

 

Getting to know Cindy Kirchhofer

-I love spending time outdoors. I’d rather be outdoors than indoors any day. My husband is an avid golfer so we spend a lot of time on the golf course. We go hiking and like to travel to Tennessee. When we get away and relax, we usually go to the Smokey Mountains.

-We had our first garden this year, a raised garden. It wasn’t warm enough, and enjoyed that.

-I love doing mission work. One day my boss organized all of us. We did 200 meals for the downtown homeless. That was fun. On Christmas day, my husband and I helped served dinner at Wheeler Mission.

– We cherish time with our family and friends. We love our pets; we have a yellow Labrador and two cats.

 

Indiana’s legislative session began Jan. 6. What does Kirchhofer anticipate for this year?

Pre K Education: “I believe Marion County is one of the pilot counties and I’m glad but I wish we could find pre-k and kindergarten available for everyone. That’s my primary focus. I’ve seen it work on my own family. My niece is only 8 and she is a quick learner. She started preschool in Franklin Township, a church daycare, but when she went to the public school she was further advanced than some of her peers. Going into first grade you could see who went in at pre-k level and who hadn’t. If they have the opportunity to thrive and set themselves ahead, that’s great.”

Gun violence: “I have been asked to author a bill to require mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes that are committed with guns. Right now it’s within the judge’s discretion. Right now, an offender could plead out and not necessarily serve time. I plan to author a bill that requires mandatory sentencing. That’s one of those situations where I am a strong advocate for gun owners’ rights, I support the second amendment, I have a license to carry and we’re good law-abiding gun owner but there are people that aren’t law abiding gun owners. If this can save one life and require offenders to serve time in prison, then let’s require them to serve time… My bill, at first glance, the suggestion will be a felony committed with a gun must require a 20-year sentence. I don’t think that will pass the legislature. I’ll be happy with five. Right now it’s ‘may’ sentence somebody. My language will be ‘shall.’”

Public Health: “New this year to me, I’m on the public health committee. I’m really excited to tackle issues since I work for a hospital. We want the president and the governor to sponsor HIP 2.0. They’re at a standstill. We would not expand Medicaid. This is an avenue to provide more coverage to more Hoosiers.”

Human trafficking: “That was brought to light when the Super Bowl came to town. There was a fear and a known concern that bringing a Super Bowl to town increases the ability of human trafficking. It was on the radar in 2012. One thing I’ve learned, and it’s my plan to advance the bill this year, is that other than a sentence, the offender may walk away with no time served and a slap on the hands. Other states have a human trafficking fund so the offender required to pay a fee to a fund to support domestic violence programs. I have a bill that I plan to introduce for (an offender) to pay a fee into a domestic violence fund.”