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Spinner stepping down as OCRA executive director

Denny Spinner
Denny Spinner

The leader of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) is stepping down. Executive Director Denny Spinner is resigning from the position after three years to take over as interim director of the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement. His last day at OCRA was Friday, Dec. 1.

In a statement, Spinner said it's been an honor serving in the position, and in working with rural communities, he "saw the potential of rural Indiana being the state’s next great economic frontier."

Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch serves as the state's secretary of agriculture and rural development. She said Spinner's experience as the former mayor of Huntingburg was a real bonus, when it came to working with small, rural communities.

"He walked in their shoes. He understood the problems that they dealt with, and so, we're looking for someone who brings those same strengths to the office," Crouch told reporters in Valparaiso on Thursday.

OCRA oversees a number of programs, including the Indiana Main Street program, the Indiana Connectivity Program and federal Community Development Block Grants for Indiana's rural communities.

Going forward, Crouch said OCRA plans to bring back the Stellar Communities program in 2024. It helped communities get funding for place making projects, housing developments and a number of other uses, through partnerships with multiple state agencies.

"It's been kind of life-changing for the communities that have been awarded those grant monies because it has given them the opportunity to instill pride in their communities or within their region," Crouch added.

Crouch said what sets Stellar apart from the state's other economic development programs like the READI grants is its focus on capacity-building and local leadership. She expects that the revived Stellar program will be open both to individual communities and regional partnerships.