This week, along with many Hoosiers and Democrats in Madison County, I was saddened to hear of the death of former Gov. Joe Kernan and, locally, Bud Wood.

During the several times I had the opportunity to spend time with Kernan both as lieutenant governor, governor and co-chair of the Committee on Local Government Reform, he was always personable, easygoing and had a smile on his face.

Kernan was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and a three-term mayor of South Bend before going on to state political office.

He conducted himself admirably when Gov. Frank O’Bannon died unexpectedly in 2003. The state looked to Kernan for guidance and reassurance, and he delivered.

Kernan lost a bid for a full term as governor in 2004 to Republican Mitch Daniels.

My acquaintance with Bud Wood goes back more than four decades. Much like Kernan, he always seemed to have a smile on his face and took every political defeat in stride.

When I first came to work in Anderson in 1977, one of my first objectives was to figure out the local political landscape. I had conversations with both Democrats and Republicans on the strong suits of each political party.

Bud Wood was one of the so-called “Dirty Dozen.” They were 12 precinct committeemen for the Democratic Party who seemed to always have their pulse on what was taking place.

Bud was an old-school precinct committeeman. He knew every resident of his precinct and knew their political affiliation. If a resident had a problem, they contacted Wood to get it resolved.

Along with former Democratic Party chairman Tom Ashley, Wood was the go-to guy if you were considering a run for public office.

No doubt the political advice he gave to many a candidate paid off on Election Day.

Both Ashley and Wood were chairmen of the local Democratic Party when the political makeup of Madison County was extremely different than what it is today.

There was a time when it was expected that political races would tend to lean Democrat, particularly in Anderson, Elwood, Alexandria and Madison County.

Before the start of the new century, it was the political power of the United Auto Workers union that helped elect Democrats to local office.

In fact, Wood was the party chairman when Democrat J. Mark Lawler won four consecutive terms as mayor of Anderson.

Even in recent years, when I would see Bud at a Rooster Club meeting or a political event, his insight and knowledge of what was taking place politically in Madison County remained astute.

One of the things I learned about Bud in the 1990s that I would not have anticipated was his ability on the dance floor. He glided along to the music.

My guess is that Bud and his wife, Vera, are dancing in Heaven.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide’s column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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