For Jim Arnold, former Indiana State Senator and newly appointed member of the La Porte School Board, public service has been a part of his life since his own father dedicated his career to politics and service. Now in his 51st year of public service, Arnold is making his own legacy as a dedicated and noble civil servant.
Born and raised in Michigan City, Arnold attended Elston High School, where he was captain and catcher of the Red Devils Baseball Team. The team won the conference in 1962, the same year Arnold graduated.
“I was tickled by that a bit because I live in La Porte now, but when we won the conference, we actually beat La Porte that year,” Arnold joked.
After graduating from high school, Arnold enrolled in Western Michigan University, where he was supposed to play baseball until an unfortunate injury stopped that dream.
“I had hoped to play baseball there but that summer I graduated, I broke my kneecap in La Porte playing baseball,” he explained. “So, I ended up going to Western Michigan for one semester and then I dropped out and went into the United States Air Force.”
Arnold served in the Air Force until 1967. He then enrolled in Valparaiso University where at first, he not only went to school, but he also worked full time at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.
“I was married and had a young daughter at the time, so I started going to school part-time,” Arnold explained. “It took me 10 years, but then I finally graduated with a degree in Political Science and History in 1976.”
His career with the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office was the start to his impressive public service career. Arnold worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 32 years, eight of those years as the elected sheriff. After decades in law enforcement, Arnold went down another path.
“I served four years in the prosecuting attorney’s office as a chief investigator paralegal,” he explained. “Then I served four years at the Indiana Department of Transportation and Sub-District Manager in La Porte, and then I did 10 years in the Indiana State Senate.”
Not only did Arnold’s long career in public service ready him for his 10 years in the Indiana State Senate, but also by watching his father’s time in the Sheriff’s office, the Indiana State General Assembly, and then finally as mayor of Michigan City. When Arnold decided to run for Senator in 2005, he sat down with Senator Anita Bowser, the woman who succeeded Arnold’s father.
“When I was leaving the Sheriff’s Office in 2005, I had a meeting with Senator Bowser in Michigan City,” Arnold explained. “I told her that when my term is up as sheriff, the only office I was interested in running for was State Senate. I wanted to move on and I felt that it was the best opportunity for me to utilize my education and background.”
A month and a half after Arnold left the sheriff’s office, Senator Bowser suddenly passed away during session.
“I was then elected by the party caucus to fill out her term,” he said. “And then I ran and was elected twice.”
Just recently, Arnold decided not to run for reelection after an impressive 10-year career in the State Senate. Arnold decided not to run again in order for him to spend more time with his beloved wife, Lauren, and the rest of his family.
“I want to spend my last years among my wife and my family,” Arnold said. “I’ve given up so much time. I haven’t seen my grandkids play baseball yet, so that’s what I’m doing all summer!”
But the Michigan City native’s career in public service didn’t end there. In November of 2016, Arnold was elected to the La Porte School Board, a job he adores because of the freedom and the special place for education he holds in his heart.
“I wanted to contribute something to the community and education in our community and our state has always had a special place in my heart,” he explained. “So, I decided that I would run for the School Board. It gives me the opportunity to make some positive contributions to the local school system and it allows me to be at home.”
When Arnold isn’t serving his community and making positive change, he is watching baseball, a sport that he has loved since his own days of playing for the Elston High School Red Devils.
“I am a big baseball fan, always have been,” Arnold said. “I love the Chicago White Sox, especially since they, along with the Giants, tried to scout me in high school!”
He loves to fish and read biography and history books, specifically books about the Civil War and World War II. Arnold is also a family man and treasures the time he spends with his seven children, his 13 grandchildren, and his wife of 25 years, Lauren.
“A lot of politicians will tell you that you can only be successful when you have people behind you,” he said. “And Lauren has been with me every step of the way for 25 years.”
His passion and his commitment to a community he loves dearly makes Jim Arnold a public servant everyone can count on. As he celebrates his 51st year in public service, Arnold shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to do incredible and positive work for the La Porte and Northwest Indiana community.
“I’m proud to say that I have 51 years of public service and I’m proud to say that I have always tried to do what is right,” Arnold explained. “I never did anything that was for self-advancement. When I was down at the state house, I was making decisions that were going to affect me, my family, and the people I represented. That’s why I believe public service is such a noble venture.”