For Andy Zay, serving in the Indiana Senate is a lot like being a business owner.
“Serving emulates what I try to do, whether it’s when I’m working for my customers or working for my constituents. I call it constituent service in the political world and customer service in my business world,” explains Zay. “I have a 48-hour policy. If someone contacts my office, we respond within 48 hours so they know that they’re being heard, even if we need time to work on a solution.”
Born and raised in Huntington County, it seemed almost inevitable that Zay would take over the family business. He had other plans, though, and left to attend Indiana University in Bloomington.
“I was the classic small-town boy,” he says proudly. “I was going to take on the world and was sure I was never coming home. What changed? I think that entrepreneurship and owning your own business was really ingrained in me through my whole life. The opportunity to come home was the path to owning my own business.”
Not only did he return to Huntington, but he became the third-generation owner of Zay Leasing & Rentals, married a hometown girl, began to raise a family and got into politics.
In politics, “It’s easy to sit back and complain, and we all get caught up in that at times, but to be a part of the solution is what’s important,” emphasizes Zay. “I did serve at the township level for the largest township in Huntington County and worked for Senator Dan Coats when he ran for U.S. Senate. I also worked for Mike Pence when he ran for governor and for Congressman Jim Banks.”
Zay was elected to represent the 17th District in the Indiana Senate in November 2016 and recently announced plans to run for the Indiana Third Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It’s fun and engaging to meet people and find out what’s going on in their lives, and what their challenges are in their businesses – and to be a cheerleader and a champion for northeast Indiana,” says Zay of his time as a lawmaker. “I enjoy serving the rural areas as much as the cities and towns. The big initiative that I’ve had over the last few years is extending broadband out to rural areas, and being a partner and player in that. We’re trying to ensure that everyone can have access to high-speed internet service.”
He and his wife Cindy, a banker, have five children: Joe, Corinne, Rees, Meredith and Isaac; a daughter-in-law and son-in-law, along with two young grandsons. With their youngest son still in high school and involved in travel baseball, the Zays stay busy with his activities. They also enjoy planting and tending a big vegetable garden on their 10-acre property.
As if he isn’t busy enough with running a business, serving as a senator and raising a family, Zay is a public address announcer for local high school football and basketball games, and is back in school himself. “I’m taking my last class for my Master’s degree in Public Affairs. The reason I’m working toward that is so I can someday teach at the collegiate level – to be able to share this experience of being senator. To be able to give that inside perspective to a political science or government class would be great. I want to be prepared to do that. It would allow me to stay engaged and share with the next generation.”
As Zay embarks on the next chapter of his political career, he’s not only looking at the future through his own eyes, but through the eyes of his children and grandchildren. “It’s not about where I am and not even as much about where I’m going. It’s really about what I can leave behind. That’s how I look at my political work. We pass a lot of legislation, we can do a lot of initiatives, a lot of service; but it’s not always about the here and now. Many times it feels like that, but my primary reason for political life is to leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren by building strong, resilient rural and urban communities. The work that I try to do or the vision that I try to impart on my colleagues is about what we’re leaving for the next generation.”