Paul Labovitz and his larger-than-life personality came to us when the Indiana Dunes needed him the most. Both internal and external relationships under the previous superintendent were strained at best. Some of our surrounding communities had little connection to their federal neighbor and others eyed the park with suspicion and distrust. To say that Paul inherited a broken Indiana Dunes may be an overstatement. However, what Paul did inherit was an Indiana Dunes that had yet to seize its full potential within the community and for the community.
Looking back at early articles introducing the region to Paul, the same words pop up time and time again – communicator, collaborator, and strong skills in consensus building. These words could not be truer. Immediately, Paul strengthened relationships between Indiana Dunes and its stakeholders. He repaired damage from soured partnerships and helped rebuild trust with the National Park Service. Moreover, he did all of this just in time to ready our region for the big renaming of Indiana Dunes as a National Park.
Today, Paul includes the region in the creation and implementation of the vision for the Indiana Dunes. Tourism is thriving more than ever, and our communities better understand the value and benefits of the park. Paul and his team have made the park more accessible and welcoming not only for locals, but as a destination across the nation. Our region can stand tall knowing we have as many – if not more – visitors to the Indiana Dunes than Yosemite.
Therefore, we are honored to award this years’ Paul H. Douglas Memorial Award to Paul Labovitz – the communicator, the collaborator, the consensus-builder. Paul has fostered numerous partnerships across the region, bringing so many together to protect and steward the dunes for years to come. We’re so grateful for his passion, humor, and positive energy in collaborative circles. But most importantly, we are so grateful for his leadership that has helped our communities recognize the Indiana dunes as a true centerpiece of Northwest Indiana.