"This is really all about serving and being a good steward for the people of this district," Robert A. Heaton said Thursday afternoon after announcing his campaign for the seat currently held by Democrat Vern Tincher, Riley, at the Pizza Gallery in Clay City. "The Wabash Valley has helped and supported me a lot in my past and in my career. Now it's time to give back to my community."
A member of the national runner-up 1979 Indiana State University (ISU) basketball team featuring Larry Bird, it was Heaton's "miracle shot" against Arkansas that clinched ISU's spot in the NCAA Final Four.
After Heaton's announcement, Dr. Forrest Buell, a family friend, spoke to the gathered crowd about Heaton's ability to remain calm and cool under pressure.
"I figure if Bob can win at basketball with long shots, then, if he's in politics, I think he has what it takes to win with a few more long shots," Buell said.
People like to reminisce with Heaton about his part in "Hoosier Hysteria" but it's not a conversation he likes to initiate.
"I'm willing to talk about basketball if people want to, but I don't bring it up," Heaton said, adding that he was grateful it might open some doors for other types of discussions in the future. "Basketball has been good to me. I don't mind reminiscing with people about those days when I was Larry Bird's roommate or being in the national spotlight, but there's a time to work and a time to play. You have to find the right balance between the two. You have to keep life in perspective."
Growing up in the Clay City area, Heaton humbly credits his parents and family for his common sense, work ethic and integrity. Qualities he hopes to bring to his political campaign.
"You've got to sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea with people, get to know what they think and how they feel about the issues," he said about the upcoming campaign, which he plans to start in earnest soon after the holidays. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Although he decided to run for office in September, Heaton decided to wait until after the recent elections to make his announcement. He also waited to tell some members of his family.
"I finally called Mike a couple of days ago," Heaton said, but added he plans on talking about political strategy with his nephew Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton.
"Stay positive," Mike Heaton said while congratulating his uncle. "Keep the campaign honest."
As another reminder of keeping life and the upcoming campaign in perspective, Heaton passes out 30-year-old matchbooks from relative Forrest Heaton's campaign for county commissioner.
"He didn't win, but he did what he thought he should to make a change for the better," Heaton said.
Heaton plans on using his family's "can do" attitude and drive to learn about the interests of residents in Clay, Vigo and Owen counties and take their concerns to the statehouse on issues like taxes, property taxes, government spending, creating new higher-paying jobs and streamlining government so people can potentially keep more of their income in the pockets.
"I am a taxpayer too, and I take great issue in how those tax dollars are expended. People need to be informed and educated about how their tax dollars are spent," he said.
"Government needs to be efficient without hindering taxpayers or the workforce."
Owner of Heaton Financial Services, Heaton, 51, said he is proud to be married to a former Brazil girl, Jane Ann, father to two children and one son-in-law and excited about a future with grandchildren.
And he is excited about the future of the Wabash Valley.
"If the Indiana General Assembly is a citizen legislature, then I certainly feel qualified … there have been changes in my life that convinced me to look at this opportunity," he said.
"It's a changing world in which we live and we have to change with it. I am self-employed and I know from regular interaction with my clients that they are concerned about the issues that face our state and country."