It didn’t seem to matter much to newly elected Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels that the motorhome being donated for a year to his administration Friday morning (Feb. 25) was four years old or that it had 21,000 miles on the odometer or that it had been quickly refitted for use as a mobile governor’s office by the employees of the donor company – Monaco Coach Corp.
Nor did it seem to bother the new Republican governor, a former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, that the relatively large media contingent assembled in front of the 40-foot coach in a Wakarusa, Ind., production facility seemed more interested in asking him about his latest political initiatives rather than the details of the 2001 Beaver Patriot Thunder being donated to his office.
On the contrary, Daniels seemed genuinely appreciative of the gesture Monaco was making by allowing him to continue a practice he had embraced with some political finesse during the recent gubernatorial campaign: Utilizing a motorhome to travel the state and greet the public on a regular basis.
The appreciation was clearly mutual.
“We had the good fortune to get to know Gov. Daniels before he was governor, well over a year ago, and spent some time with him and became very enthused about what he stood for and what he was trying to get moving in the state of Indiana,” Richard Bond, chief administrative officer for Coburg, Ore.-based Monaco, told a large crowd of Monaco employees. “We at that time were a little jealous because he was driving in a different vehicle called ‘RV-1.’ But we thought as he campaigned so effectively throughout the state of Indiana that not only was it an effective thing to do – to take a motorhome around to visit every nook and cranny in every town in every county in this state – but it was also the right thing to do.
“And we were very pleased to find out that after the election, after he became governor, that it was his intention to continue those travels throughout the state of Indiana,” added Bond on behalf of Monaco’s 6,000 employees, 3,000 of whom work in Indiana. “And we were so pleased that we got the opportunity to be able to supply a motorhome to allow him to continue to do those things.”
Bond then turned the keys to the coach over to Daniels, who joked about “moving up” from the road weary, gas-fueled Damon Class A donated to his campaign last fall by retired Damon Corp. executive Don Pletcher. That coach, now covered with thousands of signatures of Daniels supporters, attracted major publicity in a campaign-funded television show that featured Daniels visiting the electorate on the road.
In his remarks to the Monaco crowd on Friday, Daniels said he had logged “70,000-odd miles” in that old battered Class A.
“Everybody knows about Monaco and what a premier company it is and what it means to the economy of this state,” said Daniels. “And now you’ve made possible something I’m going to try to use very effectively for the benefit of all Hoosiers.
“The opportunity to travel this state for close to a year and a half, meet people of all kinds in all walks of life in every little corner of Indiana was a tremendous experience for me and the two young men who were with me. We learned so much that it was obvious to me that if I should be hired as governor, it would be a terrible mistake not to continue that. And we do intend to do that. I intend to be as in touch and accessible as anybody can be in this new job of mine.”
He added, “And I think with your help and the help of this vehicle, we’ll be able to be out several times a month and continue our learning experience and continue trying to draw on the wisdom of as many Hoosiers as we can get to.”