On this day, Mishawaka Mayor Jeff Rea was full of surprises.
Not only did Rea announce that he would resign his elected post to take over the reigns of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce, he also revealed that he recently got married.
“Yes, I was married in May,” said Mayor Rea at a morning news conference at the chamber offices in South Bend. “My wife RayLee, who is in attendance here today and has been a wonderful support through this entire process, I highly recommend married life, it’s very good.”
Rea’s resignation as mayor takes effect on Labor Day. On September 7th, Rea will start his new job as President and CEO of the chamber.
Back in November of 2003, at age 33, Rea won the election that made him the youngest mayor in the State of Indiana.
Rea is now 41 years old, and “Still the youngest looking mayor, not the youngest mayor,” his honor joked today.
Since 2003, Rea has dropped about 70 pounds—meaning he has both grown—and shrunk—before his constituents eyes.
“I’m still in that, you know, trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up mode, I guess,” Rea quipped.
Now the newlywed has landed a new job that revolves around bringing new jobs to St. Joseph County.
“If you look at statistics the last few years, many of the job investment in Indiana has happened south of here, we need to change that,” Rea said.
Rea acknowledged that the job would not be easy. “There are eight-thousand communities in the United States that are all competing for those same jobs and for those same economic development opportunities, so there’s some heavy lifting that has to go along, along the way,”
Rea said he expected to be an active participant in the debate over possible tax abatement changes scheduled to go before the South Bend Common Council in October.
“In Mishawaka, we’ve erred on the side of having no ordinance to be honest with you and an opportunity for our city council to consider things on a case by case basis, and we think that’s given us wonderful flexibility, when the right project came, you can consider it,” said Rea. “I think what we always worried about was being ruled out, you know, oftentimes in economic development particularly, you get ruled out before you ever get an interview.”
While Mayor Rea is now an avid runner, he offered no apologies for running out on the year and four months that remain on his term in office.
“I didn’t necessarily plan to not finish the term, in fact, you know, there are days when I thought I’d like to do this for 20 more years,” said Rea.
Rea insists that he doesn’t see the move as “walking away,” but rather, “as stepping into a wonderful new opportunity and an opportunity where I still have a chance to serve the people of Mishawaka in a different role...."
This marks the second straight time that the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce has tapped a sitting elected official to take over the CEO’s position.
In December of 2008, then sitting St. Joseph County Commissioner Mark Dobson resigned, after he hired on with the chamber. Dobson resigned the chamber post in January of 2010.
Before being elected mayor, Jeff Ray was director of community and economic development for Mishawaka.