LEADING QUESTIONS: New councillor in for wild ride

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Welcome to the latest installment of  “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses and civic leaders to talk shop about their latest challenges and the habits that lead to success.

Political neophyte Angel Rivera, 28, took the express lane to a seat on the City-County Council in March, becoming its first Hispanic Republican. Councillor Kent Smith had resigned to take a full-time position with the Indiana National Guard, leading to a special election to fill Smith's at-large seat.

A native to Puerto Rico, Rivera moved to Indiana in 2000 to attend Indiana University in Bloomington, where he earned a degree in political science. Along the way, he also served as chairman of College Republicans at IU. Starting a career in software sales, Rivera sated his craving for public service by serving on Indianapolis' Board of Public Works and the mayor's Latino Advisory Council.

When some friends joked at a lunch in February that he should run for Smith's vacant seat on the 29-member council, Rivera quickly began to take the suggestion seriously.

"When the opportunity came to have a 30-day or less campaign, it was too good to pass up," Rivera said. "I also live in the center of downtown, which means running as a Republican would be futile. So it's a good opportunity to serve without moving."

A special caucus of Republican precinct committee members elected Rivera from a field of 10 candidates. Due to the timing and his choice of council committees, Rivera quickly found himself on the front lines of several major issues, including the sale of Indianapolis Water to Citizens Energy, approval of the Capital Improvement Board's 2011 budget, and the city's controversial plan to lease its parking meters to a Dallas firm for 50 years.

"The first lesson is that this is not a part-time job," said Rivera, who remains director of business development for The Consultants Consortium, a local minority-owned software firm. "I'm sometimes a little overcome by the amount of energy it takes to be prepared, to be so informed that I can be a valuable addition to all those debates."

One way Rivera blows off steam is to jump on his Ducati SportClassic GT1000 and trek down to southern Indiana in his rapidly diminishing free time. In the video at top, Rivera discusses his initial experiences on the council, what he's learned so far, and how riding his motorcycle helps keep him mentally fresh.

When Rivera was elected, local Republican leaders touted him as a link to the city's growing population of Hispanic voters. Rivera himself said that one of his top goals would be to bring local Latinos closer to city government. In the video below, Rivera discusses his efforts to reach out to community members and address their concerns.

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