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Pond ends 35-year House career

Peers hail her service, stamina; GOP caucus to fill slot


– Rep. Phyllis Pond’s 35-year career in the Indiana House is over.

She submitted a letter of resignation Friday that is effective Oct. 15.

A caucus of local precinct committee men and women will appoint a replacement to fill the remainder of her term, which ends in late 2014.

“Due to the recent diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, I regret it will be necessary for me to resign,” Pond said in the letter. She was unavailable for further comment Friday.

The retired kindergarten teacher has served since 1978 and has shown a special interest in education issues.

“It’s a bittersweet day. Phyllis will be missed tremendously. She is the longest serving Republican in the House and really a woman who broke all kinds of glass ceilings,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

“It’s also a great time to honor her for her decades of dedicated service to Hoosiers – both in the classroom and in the Statehouse. I just got off the phone with her and told her I loved her.”

Pond chaired several committees during her time and was a vice chairwoman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee at one point. She was the first woman to sit in the front row of the Republican side of the chamber – a place of influence.

Bosma said even while struggling with health concerns she has been dedicated. He remembered that her family once had to take the keys to her car out of her hospital room to deter her from leaving.

“She loved being where the action was and in the thick of it.”

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Tim Berry said Pond “has been a quiet and effective public servant for the people of northeast Indiana for over three decades. Her tireless work on behalf of her constituents was rewarded every two years with re-election.”

Pond, 82, had already said she would not seek re-election, and several local residents said they will seek the House District 85 seat, which comprises much of northeast Allen County, including New Haven and part of Fort Wayne.

They include 31-year-old Fort Wayne attorney Casey Cox, as well as Denny Worman of Leo. Worman, who works in real estate, has challenged Pond unsuccessfully four times. Others have been making calls looking for support.

The person appointed to the vacancy could have an advantage in the primary and general elections.

Pond has said she will not endorse anyone to replace her.

After news of her resignation, politicians from both sides of the aisle flooded reporters with statements applauding her.

“For 35 years, Phyllis Pond has tirelessly and selflessly served the people of Indiana, and her work has embodied both Hoosier values and spirit,” Gov. Mike Pence said. “During both my time as U.S. congressman and now as governor, it has been my distinct pleasure to work with her on a number of occasions. Her insight, expertise and passion for public service will most certainly be missed in the Statehouse, but her legacy and her impact on Indiana will live on for generations to come. The first lady and I offer our thoughts, prayers and profound gratitude for her service, and wish her and her family all the best.”

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, added: “I’ve known her for many years and have always admired her tenacity, work ethic and spirit. She has been a champion for the people of northeast Indiana and we’ll miss her greatly. I wish her the very best as she focuses on her health and family.”

And House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath said Pond “has been a terrific leader for northeast Indiana for many years. She is full of common sense and kindness. I join other state leaders in expressing thanks to Representative Pond for her capable public service and for her dedication to the communities and citizens she has served.”

Pond has a bachelor’s degree in education from Ball State University and a master’s from Indiana University.

While in the House, Pond has worked on many key pieces of legislation. She was the original author of the Primetime educational bill to lower class sizes to 18 in kindergarten through third grade. In recent years, she helped author a law setting up a mediation process for marriage dissolution.