Tom Godby’s surname is one many Indianapolis residents likely recognize immediately. Affixed to a fleet of Godby Heating and Air vans that roam central Indiana, Tom Godby built a heating and air conditioning business when only 20% of homes had air conditioning. His life has been filled with “blessings, luck, and some skill” according to the man himself, “but mostly just being in the right place at the right time.”
Godby has served 2.5 years on the board of the IMPD Mounted Horse Patrol Association. A role he describes as “incredibly fun, because if it wasn’t, I’d stop doing it.” He brings a wealth of experience in business and philanthropy to the Mounted Patrol. Having been involved in real estate, banking, medical contracting, charter schools, and the heating and air conditioning business, there’s 50 plus years of experience, skill, and relationships to draw from. And in an even more fitting twist, “My son was an actual cowboy on the Padlock Ranch in Wyoming. It’s 800,000 acres,” says Godby.
That may be why after seeing and hearing about pristine Wyoming ranches Godby was embarrassed by Indianapolis’ Mounted Patrol facility. “When I saw them,” he said, “where the officers work, I was horrified. It was embarrassing. I knew they needed something. Being a friend to [Board President] Turner [Woodard], I joined to help secure property for them. Now we’re about 30 days away from that becoming a reality.”
“I’ve enjoyed the horse patrol board more than any other, and I’ve been on a lot of boards, like Riley Children’s Hospital and Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital,” Godby adds. Godby also has a solid resume of public service work from 40 and 50 years ago.
“I was a city fireman from 1967-75 when I came out of the service. This was at a time when things were pretty bad in parts of Indianapolis. There were riots and burnings back then, particularly around Indiana Avenue. There was a lot of comradery between us and the police department. They’d hang out at our stations for brief breaks, and we’d never respond to a fire in places without a police escort,” he said. It may sound dire, but Godby recalls it as “a real fun part of my life”, a recurring philosophy of his.
There was no Mounted Patrol unit in the 60’s and 70’s. It had been disbanded in favor of cars years earlier. But in the 80’s Mayor Stephen Goldsmith brought the Mounted Patrol unit back after pleas from Downtown businesses for more personable security. “I remember seeing them on West Street, and at the Marion County fairgrounds around that time,” recalls Godby.
The Indianapolis Mounted Patrol has shrunk and grown and shrunk and grown since the 80’s. “I’ve spoken to people in Dallas and New York, where their Mounted Units could be a department unto themselves. But you expect that from places like that. But I don’t believe that at our size that means we have to have sacrifice quality, service, or efficiency at scale,” says Godby.
Some of those changes in quality and service may require some additions and changes to the Association board itself. “We have to be connected and inclusive. We have little ethnic diversity on our board and that’s as important on boards as it in public service and business.”
“I see two other things with this I have a vision for and some others do, too,” he says, “Mounted Patrol could be the face of our department. It’s something the visitor’s bureau could latch on to. Second, and more important, I’d like to talk to Chief Riggs and Mayor Hogsett about getting the Mounted Patrol in our poor neighborhoods. The only interaction with police in these neighborhoods is when someone’s been shot. Having these guys ride in neighborhoods gives them – and especially kids – a positive interaction.”
With that vision and a new facility, Godby says, “In 10 years we’re going to have another half dozen officers on horseback. I think it’ll be the pride and the face of IMPD. You couldn’t put a better picture out front for conventions and public safety. It’d be a great tribute to the Association and IMPD.”
Godby’s business successes meant in part being in the right place at the right time. It’s success and luck he hopes to transfer to everyone in Indianapolis. “My dad used to say two things. First, it doesn’t matter what you can do, just what you can get others to do and two, find out what people want and give it to them.” For the citizens of Indianapolis, that’s increased public safety and an ebbing of violent crime. He says, “I’m excited to build a world class equestrian facility, it’s the first step toward everything.”