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Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:00 am

Coats makes covert visit to honor friend

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats slipped into Fort Wayne on Thursday to attend the retirement party of an old friend.

Coats and his wife, Marsha, and their security detail showed up at Parkview Field to see Frank Zirille, who is retiring as the director of Wellspring Interfaith Social Services.

“I was really surprised when he stopped in. I didn't expect that at all,” Zirille said Friday.

Zirille said he and Coats each started working in Fort Wayne on April 10, 1972 – Zirille as the head of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Coats as an attorney for Mutual Security Life Insurance. Coats volunteered to be a big brother, and Zirille matched him with a little brother.

“In fact, he called his little brother last night. He is still in contact with his little brother,” who is about 50 years old and living in South Carolina, Zirille said.

Zirille said he and Coats have remained friends during Coats' service in the U.S. House in the 1980s, the Senate in the 1990s, as U.S. ambassador to Germany in the 2000s and for another stint in the Senate in the 2010s. They attended a Chicago Cubs playoff game together last year, and Zirille was Coats' guest when Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress in 2015.

“Not that our politics are necessarily aligned – they aren't,” Zirille, 75, said with a chuckle about Coats, 74, a conservative Republican who took a job this year in the Trump administration as the nation's top spy. “But that doesn't matter. We don't talk politics too much. We talk family and personal things.”

Speak your mind on tax increase

Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, has outlined the procedure for two upcoming public hearings on Allen County's income tax.

The hearings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and July 11. Residents will be allowed time to discuss whether they support or oppose increasing the county's local income tax. Allen County residents currently pay 1.35 percent to the local income tax; the hike would increase that rate to 1.5 percent.

A sign-up sheet will be posted in the City Council chambers at 4:30 p.m. on the hearing days, Crawford said. The allotted time for each speaker depends on how many people wish to speak.

“Right now we're planning on two minutes per person, but we could alter that when we see how many show up,” Crawford said.

The council plans to vote on the increase at its July 11 meeting. If approved, the increase would take effect Oct. 1.

Libertarians plan outreach meeting

The Libertarian Party of Allen County will have an outreach meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday in the back room of Liberty Diner, 2929 Goshen Road.

Brett Bittner, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Marion County, will give a presentation titled “Free Minds and Free Markets.”

Admission is free but does not include the price of a meal. For details, go to www.allencountyLP.blogspot.com or call Jeannette Jaquish at 260-484-5946.

Gregg a partner at Indy law firm

Former Indiana House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate John Gregg has moved to Ice Miller LLP – a prestigious Indianapolis law firm – as a partner.

“John's unique experience, at the intersection of law, business and government, allows him to serve a variety of clients including municipalities, universities, small businesses, the agriculture community and corporations,” a news release said.

His practice focuses on economic development, corporate strategic planning, small business development and the support of energy and agriculture initiatives throughout the state.

Gregg served 16 years in the Indiana General Assembly, including several top leadership positions, culminating with his election to serve as speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives for the last six years of his time in office. He was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Indiana governor in 2012 and 2016.

Gregg lives in Sandborn, where he and his wife operate a farm.

Journal Gazette writer Dave Gong also contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.