Jul. 27—Howard County's highest honor has a new recipient.
Jamie Bolser, a lifelong Howard County native and soon-to-be former county councilwoman, received the Pillar of the Community award at Tuesday's County Council meeting. It was Bolser's last meeting as she announced last month that she had taken a job at Richmond Community Schools.
The award was presented by Commissioner Paul Wyman and was preceded by speeches from Wyman and other county officials, who lamented the loss of Bolser but also reminisced about Bolser's achievements as both county assessor and county councilwoman and their time spent working with her over her roughly two decades in county government.
During her farewell speech, Bolser praised both the employees and elected officials of Howard County for being the reason why the county is fiscally sound, has a fully — funded pension and is debt free.
"We are often at the top of every list that the state puts out, and that is 100% because of the people that work for Howard County, of the unit of government and those that serve as department heads and elected officials," Bolser said. "I appreciate all of you. I say to this council: Our services are only as good as our employees ... It is our obligation that employees are taken care of, and I believe we've been on the right track."
Bolser started in county government in a part-time position in the Auditor's Office, which later became a permanent full-time position. She was later a deputy auditor and chief deputy treasurer. She would later be elected as county assessor.
In 2019, Bolser was approved by Howard County Republican Party precinct committee members to fill the vacancy on the County Council left by the death of longtime member Dwight Singer. For the last year and a half, she has served as the County Council president, taking helm of the regular monthly meetings and annual budget hearings during a time of fiscal uncertainty brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her time as assessor, she served on the assessor's legislative committee. Bolser began the concept of cyclical reassessment in Howard County long before the state Legislature enacted such provisions, saving taxpayers more than $100,000 every four years.
Most notably, Bolser successfully negotiated a nationally recognized settlement with General Motors, Delphi and Chrysler during the bankruptcy proceedings after The Great Recession, recovering 100% of all taxes collected by the auto companies during a time when other states were settling for 10%.
It was that achievement that Wyman recalled Tuesday.
"I remember one of the meetings we had with GM downstairs in the war room having the battle over the property taxes, and I remember during one of the breaks during that meeting, one of the GM executives said to me 'You guys really think you're going to win this?'" Wyman said. "I remember looking at him and just saying 'The facts are on our side.' I said that with such confidence at that moment because in those meetings, at every minute, Jamie had facts at the table. ... It's those kind of pioneering moments that I think about when I think about you, Jamie."
Martha Lake, county councilwoman and former county auditor, described Bolser as a person whose talents reach both "near and far." It was Lake who hired Bolser as a part-time employee in the Auditor's Office.
"She's one of those miraculous people that we love and appreciate, and gives too much sometimes, but she is so willing and so kind and so smart," Lake said.
Other recent Pillar of the Community recipients — the award has been around for more than a decade — include, in part, former sheriff Steve Rogers, former auditor Lake, former commissioner and current Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore, Howard County Sheriff's Dept. Capt. Jordan Buckley, late deputy Carl Koontz, former Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin and Kokomo Common Councilman Mike Wyant and his wife, Nancy, for their work with We Care.
Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.