As I mention on my site, I have started interviewing state tax professionals across the country and will be posting them on this blog to help each of us build connections and get to know each other better.
To be interviewed, all you have to do is answer the 14 questions (found here) and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org to be published on the blog.
I have received feedback from professionals that answering the questions is a great exercise. Looking back is a good way to help you move forward.
To read prior interviews, go here.
Today's guest is Adam Krupp, the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Revenue and former BigLaw attorney. Adam is a very active and forward-thinking Commissioner. His story and path is unique and I think you will find his interview very informative and insightful.
Birthplace: Rockledge, Florida
Hometown: Plymouth, Indiana
Education: Bachelor’s degree (Purdue University, 2000) – Majors: Speech Communication, Theatre Education; Minor: English; J.D. (Indiana University McKinney School of Law, 2004)
Career: 18 years, starting as a high school English teacher and Speech/Debate coach in southern Indiana, followed by private law practice with two New York law firms, with multiple stops in Indiana state government employment along the way (including: clerking for the Indiana Court of Appeals, serving as in-house counsel for an social services agency, general counsel for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, special counsel for then-Governor Mike Pence, and now commissioner of the Department of Revenue). I have been an adjunct professor for the IU law school, as well.
Best Career Move: Without a doubt, my best career move was making the tough decision to leave teaching to head back to school. As much as I enjoy teaching, generally, I needed a few more years to mature – graduating from college in 3 years to start teaching high school at 21 was not ideal, in hindsight – and to find my role in this world. That change presented me with an opportunity to live and work in New York City, which was a dream growing up as a small-town kid in Indiana who wanted to be an actor. But instead of waiting tables or temping to leave time for auditions, I ended up wearing suits and walking into corporate boardrooms, buying tickets to stage productions as much as possible. I made great friends, career connections, and experienced a completely different and unique culture in another part of the country – the latter of which likely would not have occurred had I not left my teaching job to enter law school.
Second Best Career Move: Leaving the private practice of law to commit myself to public service. The last few years have changed my life, and now I find myself doing something I truly love instead of worrying about how much money I can make by the time I’m 50. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to impact millions of people through each stop in state government, and being a transformational change agent at my core, I believe I’ve had a positive impact each stop along the way – people have received Medicaid benefits much faster, had easier trips to the BMV, and are now experiencing better interactions with revenue agents who are here to assist and provide customer service as their primary objective (instead of collecting as much revenue as possible). When you’re put in a position to change the entire culture of an organization – in my case, multiple organizations – it is an incredibly rewarding, self-fulfilling experience.
Career Goals: Leave each place in better shape than it was when I walked in the door; change the narrative that typically applies to state government employees and agencies; develop and inspire future organizational leaders; help Governor Holcomb put Indiana on the map.
Best advice ever received: Stay true to yourself and good things will follow.
Biggest challenge faced on the job: I gather the upcoming modernization project for the Department of Revenue will rank pretty high on the list, but we don’t actually start that 4-year implementation for another month or two, so I’ll point to the fact that on my third day as general counsel for Indiana’s BMV, I was essentially told by the administration that I needed to re-write Indiana’s motor vehicle code. At the time of my arrival, the agency had just been ripped to shreds publicly by an independent assessment performed by BKD, was sued in a multi-million dollar class action, and getting beat up in the press on a weekly basis. In addition to repairing the agency’s image and navigating through the problematic lawsuit, I somehow had to find time to re-write 1,000 pages of laws in 5 months … laws that I was reading for the first time. The only answer was to put in the time and get to work. 5 months later, after averaging 80 hours per week (at government pay!), I was lobbying for and testifying about a comprehensive re-write of the motor vehicle code in a 400+-page piece of legislation … plus, it was my first experience with Indiana’s General Assembly. Thankfully I had an experienced legislative director at my side to teach me the ropes of how that process works. I viewed that as the biggest challenge of my professional career. Today, I proudly display in my office a framed copy of the bill’s first page with the pen then-Governor Pence used to sign the bill into law.
Career tip for students: Don’t stress out over what your immediate plan is for after graduation! I thought I had everything figured out, rushed to finish college in 3 years, and that career choice lasted one year. Then, I had it all figured out during law school and sure enough, life pulled me into multiple directions. Be open to opportunities that might not fit your 5-year plan. I’ve been the commissioner of the Department of Revenue for 13 months, and I can honestly say this job was nowhere on my radar 15 months ago … yet it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had, professionally. Truth be told, I purposely avoided all tax classes in law school because I *knew* I’d never have anything to do with tax other than once per year when I had to file mine. Oops?
Role model: My sophomore speech/drama instructor, Dan Tyree. He went on to become assistant principal at my high school after I left and then superintendent of the community school system before retiring last year. He was a larger than life individual, Hall of Fame inductee in his field, and master motivator of kids like me. You wanted to mimic his confidence, excellence, and strive to meet his lofty expectations. He’s the reason I wanted to coach speech/debate, following in his footsteps, and even though teaching didn’t work out for me, we have remained close over the course of my 21 years since graduating high school. One of my proudest moments was being able to present him with the Sagamore of the Wabash last summer, an award from Indiana’s governor, recognizing his incredible career in public education (42 years), leaving a legacy that won’t be matched anytime soon.
Family: Wife (Rachel), Sons (Coleman - 4, Cassius - 5 months)
Pastimes: Running, playing tennis, attending live sporting events (especially college basketball), and chasing my kids around the house. A prior chapter of my life would have included reading newly-published one-act plays and signing up for community theatre opportunities.
Favorite movie: Rain Man. I could watch it every single day and not get tired of it; Dustin Hoffman’s character portrayal was legendary – at a time when nobody understood autism and many hadn’t even heard of it. It inspired me to want to become an actor, frankly. It has to be one of the top performances in film history!
Favorite restaurant: Okay, this is going to sound ridiculous, but I really miss the Chirping Chicken on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. When I was a single guy, working insane hours, and lived near 72nd / Amsterdam, I probably grabbed late-night meals there 4-5 nights per week. The chicken sandwich was delicious, and they made special-order fries the way I liked them as soon as I walked in the door! From time to time, they put a Gatorade with my order “on the house” because I looked so exhausted and the staff thought I needed a jolt. I loved that I could interact with the staff every time I walked in. Customer service at its finest!
Ideal vacation: I’m unaware of what a “vacation” is, since I haven’t really had one in several years, but I’m guessing it involves time away from work! Ideally, the entire family is relaxing near an ocean, and I get to run on the beach to start each day. I have to be someplace warm to consider it a vacation – I become a more care-free, relaxed person when I can put flip-flops and shorts on and not feel pressure to check my email! That’s what my wife tells me, at least …
I hope you enjoyed meeting Adam.
Thank you Adam for sharing.