photo of Jane Henegar

Neighborhood success

The neighborhoods of Indianapolis rely on Jane Henegar '83 to improve their lives. Henegar, Indianapolis's deputy mayor for neighborhoods, works for the city's first Democratic mayor in more than 30 years. Her job is not only to be an ombudsperson to neighborhoods, but also to consult them in solving issues. "Consistent with the mayor's emphasis on neighborhood issues and neighborhood-based solutions during his campaign," she says, "I try to incorporate the neighborhood power structure by involving neighborhood associations and community centers in decision-making processes." Her Quaker upbringing plays a role in this, since Quakers emphasize consensus before moving forward: "That is a great tool in public life. You want to bring everyone in and hear everyone."

Henegar stresses that every issue is a neighborhood issue: "There's no issue in city life that I don't get involved in." She points to housing, crime, trash collection, traffic and parking, and sidewalk repair as examples of problems she deals with daily. "The state of your street, whether you have a job, the quality of your school system-those are all things that affect the quality of life in any particular neighborhood," she says.

Housing is Henegar's main focus and an example of how neighborhood problems correlate with wider, citywide ones. In the poor Indianapolis public school systems, some classrooms have 100 percent turnover. The reason, she explains, is multilayered. The lack of affordable, decent housing, domestic violence, substance abuse and parents' access to jobs "all play a role in whether a family moves a lot, or whether they are able to stay in a home for the whole school year. By addressing all those things, we can have an impact."

Henegar grew up on a farm in Bloomington, but bypassed the university in her own backyard to come to Bryn Mawr, where she majored in political science. Then it was back to Bloomington for law school. "When I was in law school, I used to brag about Bryn Mawr all the time," she says.

After clerking for a judge in Texas, she moved to Washington DC to practice legislative law. She became interested in political matters there, but D.C. politics did not appeal to her. "In Indiana, you can organize volunteers and get out the vote. That's just not what you do in D.C. Indianapolis is a very small place and a very friendly place. If you volunteer and show up, you get to know people quickly."

So she moved her family back to her home state, but this time to Indianapolis. She became state director for Senator Evan Bayh, where she was involved in constituent services and represented the senator in his absence.

Henegar wants to present Indianapolis as an arts and recreation destination: "The art museum plays a big role in the cultural health of Indianapolis." She recently made the Indianapolis Business Journal's "40 Under Forty" list, and its "Women to Watch" list, also.

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