Ron Carter: Your City Thanks You for Decades of Service
Last month, the City of Carmel publicy recognized Ron Carter, a dedicated resident, city councilor and volunteer of more than two decades, by renaming the green space formerly known as Center Green— between the Palladium and the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre—to Carter’s Green. The surprise ceremony took place during the Carmel Farmers Market on September 21, 2019, and left its founder, Carter, speechless and overwhelmed.
As a sponsor of the Carmel Farmers Summer Market, our publishers thought it was appropriate to take a look back at the many significant contributions that Carter has made over his tenure as a city councilor and as a private citizen that led to such a distinguished accolade.
Ron Carter—Resident and Advocate
Carter and his devoted wife, Barbara, are Carmel residents and are both avid bicyclists. They picked up their hobby while living in Chicago and North Carolina before moving back to Indiana in 1987.
Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Indiana University. His expansive and diverse background in marketing, marketing communications and sales management, working with national companies such as Rand McNally and then handling major accounts such as Burger Chef and Tropicana, set him on a course that eventually would lead him back to Indiana. After a successful career in the corporate sector, Carter turned his energy and passion to volunteerism and advocacy and to projects that were more civic-minded.
First elected into public office as a Carmel City councilor in 1995, Carter’s vison, leadership and business acumen helped shape the city to what it is today.
“When we lived in Chicago and North Carolina, we [Barbara and I] were avid bike riders, and when we moved back here, I somehow got involved with a group called the Hamilton County Alternative Transportation Task Force,” Carter said. “I was also involved with [as a founding member] the Monon Greenway Committee.”
As a member of the Monon Greenway Committee, Carter was instrumental in disseminating information and garnering support that would lead to the purchase of the abandoned rail line that ran through Carmel and its unincorporated areas and the eventual transformation into a first-rate rail trail.
Though there was much opposition that included property owners whose property was adjacent to the rail line, Carter and his committee’s perseverance won in the end.
“I was trying to get the city [Carmel] to take the rail line, which I have described on many occasions as a linear junkyard, and turn it into a functioning rail trail,” Carter said. “Our committee met once a month, and we put together petition drives, brochures, a logo, T-shirts and other collateral material that we needed to promote it.”
The Monon Greenway Committee gathered 3,000 signatures from people who were for the proposed Monon Rail Trail, and they presented it to the city council at that time.
“This was the 1993 time frame,” Carter stated. “The council and the mayor at that time not only didn’t want it, they treated us rudely and would not even look at the petition. They didn’t have the vision or the care about parks and greenways in general—let alone creating a rail trail.”
Carter thanked Nick Kestner, Phil Anderson and the Carmel Rotary Club for their contributions and support of the Monon Rail Trail, which, he claims, would’ve “never gotten off the ground” without them. He also thanked Judy Hagen and Sue Dillon for their work through Parks and Recreation. Carter added, “Their work was so important to me, and they’re all such good people.”
The 1995 Election
Carter had served on the Board of Zoning Appeals for a one-year term prior to running at-large for city council. He was elected in the 1995 May primary—the same year Mayor Jim Brainard won the primary.
“The mayor [Brainard] and I first encountered each other at a candidate forum,” Carter recalled. “We both seemed to have a similar vision for the city, and when we were walking out to the parking lot, he said, ‘You and I need to have lunch.’ I ran my campaign on the revitalization of Main Street, the Monon Rail Trail, keeping taxes low, developing more parks and green space for the community and responsible development.”
At the time that Carter ran his first campaign for city council in 1995, there were less than 50 acres of parks and green space in the city and no bicycling infrastructure to speak of. Today, there are more than 500 park acres.
Nearly a Quarter of a Century of Impact
Throughout his tenure on the city council, Carter helped Mayor Brainard complete the Monon Trail, the Center for the Performing Arts, the redevelopment of Old Town and City Center and served as president of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.
Carter is also a founding member of the Carmel Farmers Market and is currently its president. Carter was named the 2006 winner of the Most Valuable Volunteer Award given by the former Carmel Chamber of Commerce (now OneZone).
Carter has been a major supporter of the Carmel Fire Department, its leadership, its firefighters and EMTs, both as a politician and as a citizen of Carmel.
“They’re [CFD] just wonderful people, and they have been such an important part of the overall ethos of this community from the standpoint that whenever and wherever they show up, they project the goodness of our community, so it’s not hard to get associated with them and want to support them in any way that we can,” Carter emphasized. “I enjoy being around the firefighters and enjoy helping them to be the accredited group that they are.”
Life After Politics
After a devastating loss in last May’s primary, Carter and his wife have had some time to reflect about all the sacrifices made, the amount of support that was given to Carter and his family throughout the years, the battles won and the battles lost, as he moves ahead with what comes next for him and his family.
“I’m not sure what comes next,” Carter said. “The biggest disappointment of my not getting reelected from a personal standpoint was standing with my grandkids and kids and seeing the sadness and hurt on their faces the night of the election. It was a moment I, unfortunately, won’t forget. I am going to stay involved with the farmers market.”
When asked when he looks back at the last 25 years of his civic career if he had any inkling that it would have all turned out the way that it has, Carter said, “None of this was a huge master plan. Everything just fell into place, and then everything else was built upon that. While there has been a lot of planning, especially in the last decade, there’s been a great deal of luck also.”
In the Mayor’s Own Words
“Ron was part of a very dynamic, brilliant team of people that got things done, and his role was critical at times when projects could have failed had it not been for a group of people—including Ron—that took great political risks, and as a result, they changed the landscape of downtown Carmel forever,” Mayor Brainard shared. “One of the many accomplishments that Ron should be most remembered for is the establishment of the Carmel Farmers Market. Ron has been at the market almost every Saturday morning for over 20 years, in addition to all the planning and off-season work that has to be done and that the public never thinks about or sees.”
Brainard concluded, “I think Ron should be celebrated for his fierce advocacy for best-building standards and high aesthetic standards in our community. He was not afraid to put high standards in place, and as a result, the city’s development standards are some of the best in the United States. One of the reasons that I wanted to name the green after Ron is because of his public service and the lesson it provides for others, not just now but for future generations, about how local, unselfish civic leadership makes a difference in a community for generations to come.”