Aspire Recognizes Norm Gabehart Accomplishments

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 1.9.21

Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance

Johnson County, IN – Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance today praised the economic development efforts of Whiteland Town Manager Norm Gabehart who plans to retire on Friday, Jan. 15. Gabehart’s novel financial approach resulted in improving the balance of the town’s general fund from virtually zero in 2014 to a level now close to $100,000, a significant financial turnaround by any measure.

“Johnson County experienced dramatic growth over the few decades, and Norm has certainly been instrumental in fostering and managing much of that growth in recent years,” observed Aspire President and CEO Christian Maslowski. “He is passionate about economic development and infrastructure growth, and he is a skilled integrator of opportunities with possibilities. Norm sees possibilities where many people cannot. We are thankful for his leadership and partnership over the years!”

Gabehart’s career was marked by departing from the normal process by evaluating the best way to approach a project. This often resulted in directing employees to perform the work rather than outsourcing it. “For example, major stormwater projects throughout Whiteland were forecast to cost $750,000 but we did the work in-house for $200,000,” he said, recalling his tenure as operations director for the City of Greenwood Public Works Department. “I knew I had competent people and bringing the work inside enabled them to perform their jobs to the fullest extent possible. Not only did we save money, but employee morale was enhanced and overall attitude improved.”

He applied this approach to town finances as well. “Previously much of the work was performed by consultants,” Gabehart noted, “but today, town employees work on budgets, billing, tax rates and other financial matters, again saving the town money and instilling employee pride.”

Town employees benefitted from Gabehart’s approach. “In the past five years, town employees have received a minimum cumulative raise of $12,000,” he said, “and we’ve hired four additional police officers.” And the citizens have benefitted as well, he noted, with no rate increases in the past five years for water, wastewater and stormwater services. As another example, Whiteland experienced its largest-ever growth in single-family dwellings — more than 14% — during 2019-2020, representing $14 million in assessed valuation.

Gabehart is fond of the town he has led for six years, which he referred to as “an honor and a pleasure.” He observed, “The citizens of Whiteland broadly portray the examples of great acts throughout the year, serving as examples of solutions rather than problems. I am so proud of this community and the citizens who make this town a close-knit, vibrant place to live!”

During his years of service as Whiteland town manager, Gabehart worked closely with its Community Development and Engagement Director, Carmen Parker. “The biggest thing Norm brought to the table was his ability to remove red tape, to work with developers to meet their needs,” she said. “For instance, if water lines needed to be extended to the I-65 interchange, he would arrange for the developer to build the lines, then be reimbursed through the tax abatement process. This model was used for industrial and residential developments throughout Whiteland.”

And while working in different municipal capacities in his native Greenwood during the early 2000s, Gabehart often interacted with Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gail Richards. “Norm was adaptable to various situations and did whatever it took to help move Greenwood forward,” she recalled. “Everything he learned in Greenwood prepared him for his job in Whiteland overseeing multiple departments. He was always diplomatic in handling situations with government officials and citizens alike.”

“We wish Norm well in his well-deserved retirement,” Maslowski concluded. “We know his legacy of innovative financial management will endure for many years.”