The Indiana Republican Party has selected its first round of individuals for its inaugural diversity class as it tries to expand the party’s reach in the state.
The GOP announced in July that it was launching the Indiana Republican Diversity Leadership Series as a way to build more diversity among a party known for being largely represented by white individuals.
On Thursday, the state party released the names of 17 people who will be in the first class, and the list includes a mix of Black and Hispanic individuals and a member of the LGBTQ community. The selected participants are from eight different counties.
“We need to find ways to add diversity to our party both in elected and non-elected positions,” Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer said. “We felt like this was a good first step. It’s not going to solve everything by any means.”
The inaugural class includes:
- Irene Bublik, native of Argentina and freelance language consultant and court interpreter in Marion County and U.S. District Court;
- Tiffanie Ditlevson, commander of the Veteran’s of Foreign War Post 1120 and vice president of the Catholic Charities of Indianapolis Agency Council;
- Vittorio D’Uva, internet manager of Royal on the East Side, an imported luxury car dealership in Bloomington;
- Cody Eckert, senior legislative assistant with the Indiana House Republican Caucus and first openly LGBTQ Republican to win elected office (Greencastle City Council);
- Michael Garza, administrative assistant for Decatur Main Street;
- James Jackson, lead pastor of Fervent Prayer Church;
- Sean Jointer, developer and general contractor, and board chairman for Refuge Place;
- Paul Jones, program coordinator for the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside;
- Fletcher Kitchell, full stack application engineer for Royal United Mortgage;
- B.R. Lane, regulatory, government affairs and public policy professional;
- James Lewis III, lead quality advisor for General Dynamics Information Technology;
- Emery McClendon, former law enforcement officer;
- Derrick Miller, executive director of Indianapolis Communities Safe House Alliance;
- Willie Miller, vice chairman of the Gary Republican Party and professor at Oakland City University;
- Christopher Mitchem, public affairs specialist for Bose Public Affairs Group;
- Tasha Phelps, president and CEO of PhelcoTechnologies Inc.;
- and Ricardo Torreblanca, native of Peru and president of Core Foundation.
“This class is really impressive,” said Whitley Yates, the Indiana Republican Party’s first director of diversity and engagement, who was hired last year.
Yate said she thinks the perception that the Indiana Republican Party is not diverse is not accurate and hopes this class can continue to attract more diversity to the party.
“It’s not that we touch just the people in the series, but that the people in the series are touching people in their communities,” Yates said.
The class will meet monthly starting in January and sessions will cover topics such as civic engagement, campaign management and state government. During the course of the program, participants will meet with a variety of Republican leaders to help build their connections in the party and offer their insight to current elected officials. Yates and Hupfer will lead the class with help from a 12-member advisory council.
Hupfer said participants are not expected to run for office someday, but the goal would be to prepare them for that possibility, if that’s a path they choose to take.
After the program ends in June, the group is expected to travel to Washington, D.C., and meet with Indiana’s congressional delegation and members of the Republican National Committee.
“I’m hoping they realize their network doesn’t have to stop at Indiana state lines,” Yates said.