When 51-year-old Jason Eckart accepted the role of Hope Town Manager a little more than one month ago he was admittedly in uncharted waters.

Eckart had previously been involved with Main Street of Hope for a period of about three years and was appointed as, what he describes as a “very quiet,” president for the organization. Then, following the previous Town Manager Frank Owens’ exit, Eckart says he saw the town's posting online seeking a replacement. The Columbus native applied because he wanted to have the opportunity to help Hope grow and make it thrive, he says.

Since settling into his new position, Eckart recently spoke via phone to discuss his background, previous experience as a business owner, short- and long-term goals for Hope, and what he enjoys doing with what free time he finds.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, who is Jason Eckart?
That is a great question. Well, I am a person who enjoys the small town life of Hope and I am excited about my opportunities to help Hope grow, but yet maintain that awesome small town atmosphere. The people here are amazing.

I was born and raised in Columbus. I spent a long time in Colorado. I owned a German auto repair business and moved back about five years ago and relocated just south of Hope.

What brought you to Hope?
I moved back to Columbus due to being around my parents, that was my main reason for moving back. I spent a lot of time in Colorado and being back in town closer to my parents is something I’ve tried to do for 10 years and it hadn’t worked out.

If you would, please share a bit about your background. Where did you attend college? Previous work?
I was a Columbus kid. I went to Parkside Elementary School and from there Northside Middle School. I graduated from Columbus North High School. After that I spent some time in college and ended up graduating from Vincennes University with an associate’s degree in science. I studied aviation maintenance. So, I was an aircraft mechanic in Chicago for a couple of years. Then I moved to Colorado and one thing led to another and I opened my own European car shop. Ended up selling that and moving back to Hope.

How does previously having been a business owner influence your current position, if at all?
Being a business owner is a great benefit for my current position. I feel like it is. I can talk to about any person from about any walk of life and that is a good thing, I think.

Compared to your previous work experience, how does this compare?
It absolutely is a new venture for me. I am very excited about it. I enjoy people and I like to discuss the small town atmosphere of Hope and I think I have a good plan about some possibilities to get the town Square – all the businesses in the town Square occupied. Hopefully, I can help make those businesses thrive, that is my job.

If you would, please share some thoughts about your short- and long-term plans for Hope.
We have two new EV stations that were purchased by the town and they will be installed in the near future. Certainly before Hope Heritage Days, hopefully, early summer we will see those installed.

I am onboard with the green movement. I would like to see this town become a little more green and more environmentally conscious, because I think it is the right way to go for a town. I think that we are one of the only small towns in the state that will have two EV charging stations up and running. That is pretty exciting for us. We are going to try them out.

Basically, the whole goal is to get people coming to the town Square and spending some of their hard earned money at our local businesses on the town Square while they are waiting on their vehicles to charge. We will have two medium scale chargers that take two hours to charge – which is adequate time for someone to charge their vehicle and have lunch or do some shopping. That is really exciting news for us.

Goals over the long-term are constantly on my mind. I am trying to figure out a plan of action on how to get this town to thrive a bit more.

I am trying to wrap my head around what is needed in the town. I know we would like to see all the businesses thriving in the town. I personally would like to see another restaurant that is open in the evening time – so looking to add more nightlife and evening options because if the citizens of Hope want to go out and have a burger there is really no local option, which means they are driving to Greensburg, Columbus, or Shelbyville for dinner in the evening. We want them driving to the Square and spending their money there.

We would like to make our town a destination spot for more people from out of town. We are arguably one of the best town Squares in the state and people need to come check out our local businesses. We have a lot of diversity in our businesses and we even have an awesome pawn shop.

That is a really big thing for us, finding our niche. There are several buildings that could be available if there’s someone interested in starting up a neat little business.

When you have free time, what do you enjoy doing? Any hobbies?
I have an affliction for old volkswagons, so I currently restore old volkswagons and I also have a Harley Davidson I like to go out and get lost on. It is a lot of fun.

One last question, has there been anything with this new role, so far, that you weren’t quite expecting?
No, not really. I am trying to figure out a good development plan right now. It is turning out that it is going to be a bit more work than I thought. When we start new jobs we have these hopes of everything being easy and it is certainly not going to be easy – especially given the current economy. There are a lot of things I would like to do and I am trying to hash out a plan to overcome the obstacles and make it happen.