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State's top rural development officials abruptly resign

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Dax Norton, director of Indiana's Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and his deputy quietly left their posts late last month, and state officials are offering no explanation for the departures.

Norton and Deputy Director Jon Craig departed on Aug. 29, the same day they submitted letters of resignation, said Ashley Hungate, director of communications for the state personnel office. She added that Norton and Craig have been deemed eligible for rehiring.

Neither Norton nor Craig could be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Norton’s letter said he’s decided to “pursue other interests,” while Craig didn’t give a reason for his resignation, Hungate said.

Norton led economic development efforts for Boone County before his appointment this year, and Craig was mayor of Petersburg in southern Indiana.

“Dax, from our standpoint, has been very good to work with. He’s been very engaged,” said Andy Frazier, executive director of the Indiana Association for Economic Development.

Frazier said he received a brief email on Sept. 3 from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann’s office about the departures. Chief Operating Officer Kyleen Welling will serve as interim OCRA director until new leaders are appointed.

Hungate said she could not comment on the abrupt nature of the resignations. The state determines eligibility for rehiring on a case-by-case basis, though ethics violations are a common reason for ineligibilty, she said.

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