Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron has been making headlines recently, so we wanted to learn more about her and find out how her first term as mayor is going — in her own words. Here’s the scoop directly from Mayor Styron:
Q. You are the first elected mayor of Zionsville—congratulations! How do you feel your first term has been going so far, and what have been the greatest hurdles?
Originally, I ran for office to talk about issues and opportunities I did not see our Town government addressing. From my perspective as a 20-year resident, there was no clear economic development plan, Zionsville recreation programs were limited to our nature center that was only open on the weekends, and areas in our village business district were declining into blight. After creating the mayor’s role, not much changed in our Town. My campaign focused on new ideas and initiatives I believed would be desired by our community.
While campaigning, I met Julie Johns-Cole. She is phenomenal — super-smart, hard-working, and fun. When I won the race, I asked Julie to join me on this adventure. I’m so incredibly fortunate to work with her every day. We make a great team.
As far as hurdles, COVID-19 certainly complicated some of our initiatives. However, I believe our COVID-19 assistance programs and events like our weekly “Dine on the Bricks” helped us support the community during that time.
I am pleased to share that over the last two and half years, we have a long list of accomplishments. We landed our first new corporate headquarters in Creekside Corporate Park in years. We have a growing number of recreation programs offered through our Parks Department that are routinely filled to capacity. Our Police Department has focused on training and obtaining CALEA accreditation which signifies ZPD as a Gold Standard for best policies and practices in law enforcement.
In the past year and a half, I have learned so much about all the hard work citizens throughout the community do on a daily basis. I love the energy of our community. The issues impacting Zionsville are important issues for all of us — neighbors, business owners, firefighters, police officers — and I’m grateful to connect with constituents to achieve our common goals. Since becoming mayor, I set out to build and lead a team of public servants committed to unprecedented levels of service to Zionsville citizens. It is the Town’s hard working and dedicated employees that are the driving force behind our successes and achievements.
Q. In addition to being the mayor of Zionsville, you are also a single mother. What strategies have you used to help balance your professional and family life?
I am a mom first and a mayor second. Sometimes that means getting creative with my time and prioritizing evenings and weekends as family time only. Our Town Council recently agreed to shift morning meetings to 30 minutes later because before 7:30 a.m., I am with my youngest son getting him ready for school. And after 6 p.m., I am home with my son. I could sit here and tell you I have it all figured out — the ideal balance between professional and family life — but that wouldn’t be true. There are always sacrifices in juggling the personal and professional and sometimes I miss out on important moments … recently I didn’t make it to the last day of school which was 4th grade graduation for my youngest son. And yet, being a mayor and serving Zionsville citizens is a true honor and privilege. I am grateful for this opportunity every day.
Q. It appears that a majority of the people that currently work with you in Zionsville Town Administration are women. Was that intentional? If so, are you hoping to continue to bring more women and diversity into local government in Zionsville, and if so, how do you plan to accomplish that goal?
I did not intend to hire mostly women, however, we have attracted a lot of really talented women to join us here at Town Hall. I was intentional about adding more diversity to our 30+ boards, commissions, and committees. It is impossible to truly meet the needs of our growing community if those of us working in Town Hall don’t reflect our population. We have a terrific team of men and women of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. The creativity and synergy this brings to decision-making shows in the initiatives we successfully launched.
We have established several citizen-led advisory groups including the citizen-led Climate Action Plan Steering Committee that helped create Zionsville’s first Climate Action Plan. The citizen-led Pedestrian Mobility Advisory Committee (PMAC) works with the Department of Public Works to evaluate the need for crosswalks throughout town. Through these groups and others, citizens can provide input on the policies that shape their government and our town. I have made it a priority to meet with various groups and homeowners’ associations to answer questions they have and to let them know how they can get involved with their local government.
Q. What are some of the major successes that you have seen in your first term, and what plans do you have to continue to build on those successes?
Zionsville has seen successes in the areas of economic development, community amenities, public engagement and sustainability and environmental stewardship. We landed the first new corporate headquarters in Creekside Corporate Park in four years (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), adopted the Zionsville Gateway Area plan, developed and implemented the first Climate Action Plan and opened the Town’s first dog park.
We established the Municipal Action Center (MAC), which was one of my campaign goals. I wanted to see customers interacting with local government have a very easy one-stop shop for approaching the town with their needs. With the MAC fully established, residents can conduct business at one location.
Last year we established the Zionsville Parks Foundation. The foundation will collaborate with the Parks Department, the park board and the town council on various projects, including scholarships for summer programs and park and land acquisitions.
Now we’re in talks about the future of Carpenter Nature Preserve, 200+ acre property formerly known as Wolf Run Golf Club. In the future, I hope to see it become a park and nature sanctuary for Zionsville. The idea of having this park at the northern boundary of Zionsville and Starkey Park on the southern side will start to create a ring of nature around our community. Other initiatives underway are plans to extend and widen the Big-4 Rail Trail.
Q. What are your goals for the remainder of your term, and do you plan on running for reelection?
I aim to continue to seek opportunities for economic development while also maintaining our sense of place. Maintaining our unique sense of place, excellent school system, and natural areas is a primary role I play. As Zionsville continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, it is important we preserve and protect our natural spaces. I am also looking at other corners within Zionsville, including our rural areas, where we can continue conversations with constituents and enhance the sense of place there too. And yes, I am running for re-election. The campaign is getting ready to kick-off later this summer. If any of your readers are interested in supporting Team Re-Elect Emily for Mayor … they can make a contribution here.
Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven.