To call Geoff Paddock a public servant would be an understatement. He’s been involved with making Fort Wayne a better place to live since he graduated from Indiana University. First he worked for then-Indiana Secretary of State Evan Bayh, then as a district director for U.S. Rep. Jill Long, before overseeing the construction of Headwaters Park. He still keeps a watchful eye on the park while also representing the Fifth District on Fort Wayne City Council and is working to bring high-speed rail to the city as well as new development to the former General Electric plant on Broadway. Find out his favorite spot at Headwaters as we play 20 Questions.
1. From Headwaters Park to high-speed rail to the GE plant, you’ve been involved with a lot of projects that have or will really help the city. Do you consider yourself a visionary?
I’ve never really looked at myself that way, but I have always tried to be very community-conscious.
2. What prompted your interest in politics?
The idea of public service, trying to give back to the community, is in my DNA. I am very happy with the opportunity to serve and be involved with the community.
3. Where does that come from?
Probably from my parents, particularly my mother, Kathleen. She was a schoolteacher for 40 years. She encouraged me along the way.
4. What role will Headwaters Park play in riverfront redevelopment?
I’d like to think that Headwaters Park is the catalyst for riverfront development. It took a little longer than we liked, but the time is right now for further development. The design of the park has helped inspire development (plans).
5. You are also very involved in helping gather ideas for the old GE site on Broadway. What do you want to see there?
I’m just tickled to death that we’re just moving forward. There are a number of thoughtful folks with any number of projects. This will be an enormous boost to downtown.
6. What will it take to get the GE site developed?
An enormous amount of private investment, (plus) state and local tax credits. I’ve always been a strong supporter of the public-private concept.
7. What’s the status of the high-speed railroad between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, that would come through Fort Wayne?
We’re making slow, steady progress. There’s strong bipartisan support among (Indiana) mayors on the route. It’s bogged down on the Ohio side. Gov. Pence has given some support, but (Ohio) Gov. Kasich has not been as strong (a supporter). We are raising money for an environmental impact study along the route.
8. How would Fort Wayne benefit from having high-speed rail come here?
Fort Wayne can be a destination. (High-speed rail) makes it easier for (tourists) to come here. It can be a great marketing tool for us. It’s not just that we can get to Chicago or Columbus faster. They can come here, too.
9. You are one of only two Democrats on Fort Wayne’s city council. How can you fight for typically “Democratic” ideals?
There are so many nuts-and-bolts ideas that you can build consensus on. There’s only nine of us. You’ve got to reach out to every member of council. We’ve got a lot of respect for each other, and we’ve got a lot of respect for the city. We look beyond politics.
10. Where is your favorite spot in Headwaters Park?
The Lincoln Pavilion. I am proud of that. I do encourage folks to walk the park – there are 25 acres of grassy areas, plantings and flowers. And the interactive fountain.
11. What’s your favorite thing to do at Headwaters?
Watch people have a good time. Watching folks enjoying themselves at a festival, at the fountain or ice skating is good.
12. If you could wave a magic wand and eliminate a societal ill, what would you fix?
We have a homelessness issue that’s very near and dear to my heart. I am pleased with the effort being made to try to reach as many people as we can. I want to spend more time on that. We need to continue to strive to find support and help for those folks who are truly in need.
13. If you could be elected to any office, which would you choose?
I’m very happy where I am right now. I enjoy being a councilman. This is a position where you can get involved. That’s a politician’s answer, isn’t it?
14. Who are your heroes?
I have political ones like Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt. And my grandfather, Dee Fryback. He was a self-made man and a very respected businessman in Decatur. And my brother Steve.
15. Who was your favorite teacher?
Mildred Johnson, my fourth-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School on Vance Avenue. She was a very inspiring and caring teacher, and I had a number of them.
16. What can you not live without?
Day-to-day activity. I walk or ride my bike every day. And I like to work.
17. What three words would people use to describe you?
I hope they’d say sincere and hard-working and caring.
18. What were you like as a child?
I was a normal kid. I would ride my bike, play basketball and tennis. I loved Fort Wayne. And I was a pretty good student.
19. What’s your secret ingredient?
20. What do you want your legacy to be?
I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who cared about Fort Wayne and who wanted to leave it a better place.
First appeared in the July 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.