Bart Peterson

This month, the ex-mayor marks two years on the job at the pharma giant, a position that has kept him invested in the city’s health.

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Bart PetersonAge: 52  Gig: Communications exec at Lilly.  Talking Points: This month, the ex-mayor marks two years on the job at the pharma giant, a position that has kept him invested in the city’s health. And close enough to swing by for a chat.   

There are people who start running for office when they’re 21 years old. And then there are people like me, who come from nowhere. There’s no way to predict people like that.

As mayor, I never had a day off. I had a sense that I was solely responsible for what happened to the city. Everything that occurred, I took very personally. Weekends were even busier than weekdays.

I don’t miss performing at events on Saturday nights.

I miss the ability to set the agenda for the city. One thing I can’t be accused of is not having an agenda. But I’m the sort of person who doesn’t spend a whole lot of time looking back. Now I have a job I can plan.

I don’t expect to ever go back into politics, and my family is quite happy with that decision.

Indy needs modern, growing industries. I was in Lyon, France, this spring. Historically, it was the fabric capital of the world. It’s still considered the fine-dining capital of France. But they’ve made a push to create life-sciences jobs. Without that, those other things might fade away.

I’d love to see Indianapolis develop more of a reputation as a fine-dining city. That’s one place we could improve.

People still ask me if I agree with the property-tax cap, if I agree with privatizing the parking meters. But I’ll let someone else worry about it. That’s not my business anymore.

I’ve always thought of Lilly as the most important company in our city, but I didn’t know it very well before taking this job. It’s impossible to see how big it is from the outside.

 
I finally know the name of every drug that Lilly markets. Do I have an intimate understanding of every one? Probably not.

John Lechleiter eats in the cafeteria. He is about as approachable as CEOs come.

He would be a good mayor, actually.

You have to treat people right. It’s remarkable how often they keep showing up in your life. 

 
—As told to Daniel S. Comiskey

This column orginally appeared in the June 2011 issue.

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