Remembering a Dedicated Boone County Leader: Steve Jacob
Boone County lost an iconic statesman last month. His family lost an extraordinary husband, father, grandfather. And many others, including myself, lost a great friend and leader.
While many knew Steve on a professional level from his 18-year career with Time Warner Telecom (Bell, AT&T and Ameritech), where he served as a vice president, executive director of government affairs and general manager, local folks knew Steve as a dedicated public servant that worked tirelessly on behalf of Boone County residents, businesses and schools.
I interviewed two mutual acquaintances who worked alongside Steve, who graciously shared some of his achievements over the years that have helped shape the present and future of the county he loved and cherished so immensely.
Before He Was the Toast of the County
A lifelong Hoosier, Steve was raised on a farm in southern Indiana, where his passion and deep dedication for family and community was nurtured. A natural-born leader, Steve worked his way up through the ranks of Indiana “Ma Bell” (Indiana Bell Telephone Company for those born after 1984) to become a vice president of Ameritech.
Steve earned his B.S. in management at Purdue University, completed the Executive Development Program at Wabash College and served as a Congressional Fellow for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. Before retiring from the private sector, Steve worked at Woolpert Engineering and Time Warner Telecom.
The Epitome of a Servant Leader
Locally, Steve is best known for his years of public service leadership. He served on the Boone County Council (District 4) for 20-plus years. For a number of years and up to his passing, Steve served as the council’s president. He was chairman of the Boone County Convention & Visitors Bureau, past member and vice chairman of the Boone County Republican Central Committee and a past member of the Boone County Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Committee.
Those who worked with Steve can attest that he deployed diplomacy and worked across the aisle to bring everyone to a place of center where they would work to find a “win-win” for all concerned.
Elise Nieshalla, Boone County Council President, shared, “I started serving on the [county] council five years ago. As president of the council, Steve was very purposeful in helping me understand the processes, acronyms, and made many introductions for me. He made sure newly elected officials were assimilated in so they could be as effective as possible in their elected office. I am tremendously grateful for that. Steve was so skilled at bringing together all the parties involved to look for the win-win for all. It was a true honor to serve with him and, of course, to learn from him.”
When asked what Elise thought a main area of focus for Steve was as it related to our county, she replied, “I would say public safety. Making sure that we had SROs in all of the schools was something he was emphatic about. And making sure we [as a council] do everything we can to partner with the towns and do our part to make sure that the county’s schools are funded and staffed with SROs every school day.”
Working to Build a Better Future for Boone County
One of the county’s three commissioners, Tom Santelli, worked with Steve for many years and on many projects that impacted Boone County.
“Steve was focused on action-based items for the county,” Tom said. “He was a strong supporter of balancing the budget and maintaining what I call the ‘strategic reserves.’ Steve made sure that we had funds available for emergency situations and for opportunities that were presented to the county.”
In addition to the school’s SRO initiative, Steve played a vital role in the development and passing of the county’s Local Income Tax (LIT).
“Steve and I worked on the LIT, which is dedicated to public safety,” Tom shared. “Steve felt that without public safety, you don’t have quality of life. Steve worked tirelessly on getting enough funding so that we now have 24/7 medical care and enhanced mental health care for our jail programs. He was also a big supporter of a 911 call center and obtaining funding for enhanced capabilities for that. Passing the LIT also gave our sheriff, Mike Nielsen, the firepower within his five-year strategic plan to get many things done that we had shortfalls on before.”
Tom added, “If you look back and look at much of what we do today is the result of Steve’s efforts.”
What some people may not realize is how big of a role Steve played in the connectivity of the county’s trails and the Big-4 Trail project. He was also instrumental in getting the engineering study that started to link the project together—a study that cost $30,000, funded through the Boone County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“That [project] has been a fun one and excellent opportunity to work with all the towns up and down the trail,” Elise said. “Steve was an advocate [of the trail] from day one and worked to bring the necessary parties together. It’s really neat now because the momentum is huge, and it is close to being a reality. He was very much involved with all the communities, discussions and grant processes and with the coordination of issuing letters of support to the communities as they would go after grants.”
Another major project that Steve was dedicated to seeing through the process was the dark box loophole. Sadly, he did not live to see the most recent progress, but Elise knows he would be immensely proud of the momentum.
“Steve and I made several trips down to the statehouse to lobby legislature for closing the dark box loophole,” Elise shared. “Recently, another hurdle was overcome toward getting that loophole closed through legislation. Every time we cross another hurdle, I’m giving a thumbs-up to Steve because he laid so much of the groundwork. I’m waiting for the day when it will be signed into law by our governor. That would have made Steve very pleased to protect the taxpayers from a tax shift.”
Steve Jacob was a champion for all things Boone County that provided safety and health to the residents and prosperity to the businesses.
“Steve treated everybody with dignity and respect,” Tom stated. “He had character and charisma. He was a student of understanding governmental processes and wasn’t afraid to bring in consultants that were subject-matter experts. He knew how to bring the right teams together to provide knowledge-based actions for county government and beyond that. Everything we’re currently doing is based on a strong foundation that Steve helped set.”