Mayor Tom DeBaun improved Shelbyville’s economic outcomes by elevating educational attainment.

INDIANAPOLIS (February 19, 2024)– In three terms as Mayor of Shelbyville, Ind., Tom DeBaun helped establish an adult high school so more residents could earn diplomas, bolstered the local childcare system to support working families, and created a countywide scholarship program to raise the city’s lagging postsecondary attainment.

He joins TPMA today as Senior Director of Indiana Economic and Community Development, and he’ll leverage his experience of improving outcomes for a Central Indiana city to help communities across the state and country develop their own strategies for economic growth.

“A lot of economic development projects represent a piece of the whole puzzle,” said DeBaun, who finished his final term as Mayor of Shelbyville at the end of 2023. “I’m more of a big-picture guy. I’ll ask communities to focus on how issues are interrelated and raise opportunities for addressing key needs.”

This approach reflects the people-centered, problem-solving orientation DeBaun applied over 12 years as Mayor of a 20,000-person community. He was first elected in 2011 after more than two decades in public service as a probation officer and head of the city’s building and planning commissions. Running for mayor presented an opportunity to tackle key issues facing Shelbyville, including its need for college-educated talent, aging population, and infrastructure challenges.

Under DeBaun’s leadership, the city turned a blighted block into a Excel Center high school focused on helping those who had dropped out to earn their diploma. To ensure Shelbyville residents who wanted to work and learn had access to childcare, the city also partnered with existing providers to elevate their quality of care, and established a coalition of cross-sector partners who worked together to launch an early learning center to expand high-quality seats.

Inspired by communities such as Kalamazoo, Mich., DeBaun also brought together industry and education partners to create Advantage Shelby County, a program offering free tuition at Ivy Tech Community College to any high school graduate in the county. The initiative includes more than two dozen degree programs in high-demand jobs that require post-high-school credentials.

These workforce investments responded to employers’ calls for more skilled talent, and thereby led to economic growth. The city’s two largest employers, tool manufacturer Ryobi and fiberglass insulation manufacturer Knauf Insulation, grew their capital investments and workforce during DeBaun’s tenure as mayor.

DeBaun also invested in the community’s hospital system and infrastructure as key strategies for spurring population growth. After spending a day in a wheelchair, he recognized the challenges aging or missing infrastructure creates for those in wheelchairs, as well as young families pushing strollers. By adding miles of trails, upgrading sidewalks, and reconnecting neighborhoods to schools, Shelbyville became more accessible for older residents and more attractive to young families. His administration also led a $23 million, award-nominated downtown redevelopment project, Shelbyville Square, which is credited with revitalizing the civic center.

“The results under Mayor DeBaun’s leadership in Shelbyville remind us of the power that local communities have to transform their outcomes and opportunities,” said TPMA CEO Mark Gramelspacher. “We’re delighted to have him work with our team to help catalyze similarly transformative results in communities across our state and country.”