Carmel’s 3 female mayors share stories at historical society’s spring tea


The Carmel Clay Historical Society celebrated “trailblazing leadership” by recognizing the city’s three female mayors during its April 26 spring tea at The Barrington of Carmel.

Mayor Sue Finkam and former mayors Jane Reiman and Dottie Hancock spoke about their time in office, highlighting accomplishments and sharing humorous anecdotes.

Reiman was Carmel’s first female mayor and served two terms from 1980 to 1987, at a time when the population of Carmel was near 18,000. Her accomplishments included expanding Carmel Drive to Meridian Street and widening Range Line Road from two to four lanes.

She said she was adamant about increasing pay for police and firefighters.

“I believe that is the reason Carmel fire and police have the most outstanding departments in the state of Indiana” Reiman said.

She said that early in her first term other people in meetings would often direct the conversation to the men in the room.

“(That happened) until I put up my hand one day and said, ‘I am the mayor,’” she said, adding that she learned to “act like a lady, think like a man and work like a dog.”

Hancock served as clerk-treasurer for eight years before becoming mayor in 1988, serving one term. Having already had a close working relationship with the city department leaders, she knew who she wanted on her team when she became mayor.

“We were a team and I surrounded myself with absolutely wonderful people,” she said.

Early in her term, Hancock worked closely with Carmel Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Blondin to strengthen the relationship between the two entities. During those discussions, the two women decided to launch CarmelFest to celebrate Independence Day.

“And look what CarmelFest is now, people come from all over,” Hanock of the annual two-day festival now presented by the Rotary Club of Carmel.

She said had some interesting requests during her term, such as when Police Chief Gary Barney requested rocking chairs for his office, explaining that rocking was effective in calming people.

Sporting a blazer and a T-shirt emblazoned with “Women drive change,” Finkam, who took office Jan. 1, updated guests about several new city hires. She said that Nick Weber, newly hired to be the executive director of economic development, is working to study and address office space along U.S. 31 amid changing expectations and desires of workers.

“We have to be smart and make sure that the U.S. 31 corridor stays that amazing corridor it has been, and we don’t just ignore it and let it go vacant and empty,” Finkam said.

Finkam also spoke about changes to the city’s youth engagement programs. A new Mayor for a Day program will be open to middle school students in addition to the existing Carmel Mayor’s Youth Council for high schoolers.

“We want to involve the youth early in civic engagement and leadership,” Finkam said. “We will have a fun day for them to see what it’s like to be a mayor, which is convening people around big ideas and promoting the community.”