Governor Mitch Daniels blows out his candles at a surprise birthday party during his visit to the Country Junction in Center Point. Daniels turned 57 years old on Friday. The governor was in Clay County as part of numerous visits to cities and towns in west-central Indiana.
Governor Mitch Daniels was treated to an impromptu fifty-seventh birthday party during an appearance at the Country Junction restaurant and gas station in Center Point Friday.
The governor greeted a gathering of Republican county officials, enjoyed a breakfast of bacon and eggs (over easy) and held court with a table of area farmers during his one-hour visit. Country Junction owner Leanne Rhodes presented Daniels with a birthday cake, though it came in at a few candles shy of 57.
Daniels' stop was one of a string of appearances in west-central Indiana this week. The governor appeared in West Lebanon for a meet-and-greet with the senior class at Seeger Memorial High School, attended a Lincoln Day dinner hosted by the Vigo County Republican Party and traveled to Montezuma to announce plans to bring high-speed internet access to rural Indiana.
Daniels, who avoids hotels when on the road, spent Thursday night as a guest in the Center Point home of Steve and Lynn Stoelting.
"We had a very nice visit, and we were very honored to have him," Mrs. Stoelting said. "I've not always been up on politics, but I was very impressed with his knowledge on a wide variety of different areas."
The governor saw it another way.
"They became about the hundredth victims of my freeloading," he joked. "We never do stay at a hotel."
A sign above the Junction advertised a price of $2.69 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, a stark reminder of the surge in gas prices in recent weeks. While Daniels admitted there is no easy solution to the problem of inflated fuel prices, he said Indiana has taken a proactive approach to reducing dependence on oil.
The governor praised the state's progressive attitude toward developing alternative fuel sources. He cited recently-announced plans to build the world's largest biodiesel plant in Warsaw, Ind.-- as well as eight other biodiesel or ethanol production facilities-- as reasons for optimism.
"Over time, developing (alternative) fuel sources will be a lot of the answer," he said. "Unfortunately, that won't help this summer."
Daniels also took the opportunity to apologize for robbing Clay County of several prominent officials. Onetime Clay Circuit Judge Ernest Yelton, former county prosecutor David Thomas and erstwhile Sheriff Rob Carter Jr. have all been appointed to state-level positions since the governor took office.
"I feel guilty every time I come to Clay County. I feel like I've picked you clean," he joked.
Larry Moss, president of the Clay County Council and vice-chair of the county's Republican party, applauded the governor's ability to engage and comfortably interact with Junction customers.
"I think when people meet him, he's a very personable person," Moss said. "He's always listening."