Grose says hoops, love of history set stage as future mayor

Longtime teacher and former Mr Basketbll Jeff Grose stands outside the Tiger Den at Warsaw Community High School Thursday. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Entering the new main entrance of Warsaw Community High School, visitors can head down the spacious, bright hallway, take a few steps down a flight of stairs and then come into view of the Tiger Den — the community’s sports mecca. 

It is undoubtedly Jeff Grose’s favorite view of the school where the former Indiana Mr. Basketball has taught for 28 years.

It is there where a trophy case holds a golden moment in the city’s history — the trophy commemorating the boy’s 1984 state basketball championship — and indirectly, the time in which Grose’s life began to pivot.

His excellence in basketball turned out to be a huge factor in his life. It led him to Northwestern University where he continued his basketball career and fell in love with history, he said.

“Probably never would have happened if I wasn’t really good at basketball, he said, pointing out that he was the first in his family to go to college.

Mayor-Elect Grose, poised to take the reins of city hall beginning in January, spent the past week wrapping up a 35-year career in education, including 28 years at Warsaw Community High School.

The longtime city council member talked with News Now Warsaw Thursday during his homeroom class in room 253 where he’s been teaching history and government since 1996.

On his second-to-last day as a teacher, his students were writing letters to residents of nursing homes and offering encouragement. Another class was working on jury simulations while others would be taking tests, just hours before Christmas break arrives.

It was a busy and emotional week as Grose wrapped up one career while watching Joe Thallemer, the man he’ll replace as mayor, close out his own lengthy career in government service.

He says his work in education has been satisfying.

“I wouldn’t change anything. I am so thankful I can go out saying I did dedicate 35 years of my life to teaching the youth of my community — absolute privilege,” he said.


Grose started his teaching career in Elkhart County and then took a job at the high school in Warsaw where he settled into a dual role —  teacher and 24 years on city council.

Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert (L) talks Thursday with Mayor-Elect Jeff Grose who retired Friday as a teacher. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.

He said teachers are like lamposts, providing a light and momentary guidance for a short time in a person’s journey.

He’s taught and influenced thousands of young people — a long list that includes Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert and Kosciusko County Sheriff Jim Smith, to name a few.

“Teaching government and politics, that’s where I really hit the mark in this community,” Grose said. “It’s just been neat to see how I’ve been able to hook ‘em and get them to be interested in serving and giving back publicly.”

In the span of a few minutes, while Grose is talking to a visitor near the trophy case, Ryan Hoffert, a student (and son of Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert), walks past and acknowledges Grose.

And shortly afterward, the elder Hoffert, sees the teacher and can’t resist a conversation, knowing it’s the 56-year-old’s second-to-last-day as an educator.

Hoffert is quick to point out the impact Grose had on him as a student.

“There’s no way I would have gone to college, there’s no way I would have wanted to come back to Warsaw, There’s no way that I would have had a love for running, cross country …  the love of history and politics — Jeff Grose is the reason I am here.”

A long transition 

Teaching government, Grose said, led him to become involved in his church and to serve as a coach and as a city councilman.

Talk the talk and walk the walk, so to speak.

He’s represented District 1 for 24 years. As a councilman, he’s served on the city board of works. He also helped establish and oversee the city’s deer reduction task force for 17 years.

Grose seemed to be an easy choice for Republicans when Thallemer announced that he would retire after three terms in office. Grose announced his intentions to run soon after and never faced a challenger.

The lack of competition likely had a lot to do with Grose’s longstanding presence in the city.

As more than one person observed, one would be hard-pressed to find a more popular person in the community who is more aptly prepared for the task at hand.

Given his competitive spirit, the lack of competition in the primary and general elections this year left Grose with a bit of an empty feeling since it was a chance for his students to watch somebody they know run for office.

But that void also allowed Grose to begin plotting a plan on what he would do as mayor before the November election arrived.

He said Mayor Thallemer has been exceedingly helpful in assisting with the transition.

He was recently one of some 50 new Indiana mayors who attended “mayor’s school” which orients newcomers for elected office. Compared to others in the seminar, he said he felt fortunate to have had a lengthy background on city council as he prepares for the job.

Grose said one of his adult children texted him at 5:30 a.m. Thursday, checking to see how he was doing.

He admitted to being a bit excited and nervous but also ready for a change.

“It’s just another opportunity to be at the table and be a part of making this a very desirable place to live,” he said.

“I think I’m ready to pick the ball up and run with it.”