The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Noblesville’s George Kristo, 80, reminisces about his  22 years as executive director of Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs. He has retired and will train his replacement, Monica Greer, when she arrives on Monday.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Noblesville’s George Kristo, 80, reminisces about his 22 years as executive director of Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs. He has retired and will train his replacement, Monica Greer, when she arrives on Monday.
George Kristo has a servant’s heart and a willingness to help others.
That’s just who he is.
Since moving from Toledo, Ohio, the Noblesville man has made an impact in Hamilton County.
Kristo, for 22 years, has been executive director of Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs, which is dedicated to preventing and reducing underage drinking and illegal drug use.
Kristo, 80, officially retired in January but has been hanging around until his replacement takes over on Monday.
Before he cleared out his desk, he sat down with me for a face-to-face interview in the quiet lower level of the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center in downtown Noblesville.
While he is mentally ready to retire, he said he would miss the people the most, and being in the office. The hardest part about retirement will be “finding somewhere to go every day,” he said.
Kristo during his career was very social and rarely stayed home. He seemed to enjoy working, even on weekends, and now helping others, more than he would ever dream.
In retirement, he plans to spend more time at Riverwalk Village, where he calls Bingo each Wednesday evening, with the help of local schoolkids and more recently a local family, and he also serves dinner to residents, busses tables, and helps less-mobile residents back to their rooms after dinner.
“What’s happened is that I enjoy physical work more now than mental work,” said Kristo, who doesn’t like to refer to his help as “volunteering.” He said, “I have free time, and I’m just doing the right thing, because those people need help.”
He has a special place in his heart for Riverwalk Village, where his late wife Linda Kristo, who lived the last two-and-one-half months of her life. She died in 2012 at age 75.
The sad part of retirement, he said, is that “she is not here.”
He credits his passion of helping people and much that he has done in life to his late wife, who he loved dearly and who encouraged him in every way. “She was so much of everything I did,” said Kristo, who feels lost without her.
The Kristos were inseparable. Everywhere she would go, he would be right by her side, and vice versa. They did everything together, and one year were named Noblesville parade marshals. At the Council’s New Year’s Eve parties, she would co-host, baking her delicious brownies that party-goers would devour.
They would go to Burger King in Noblesville several times a week, and he would sit with Linda, as the psychologist and local columnist would scribble on napkins five years of column material for local newspapers.
He laughed as he reminisced about the early days, including his early years.
George Kristo, a Cumberland, Ky., native, worked his first job at age 8, for 25 cents a day, helping pick up empty boxes at a little grocery store. Then he’d walk around town, cutting grass and cleaning houses, and he worked at gas stations and washed cars. When his school’s janitors went on strike, his school hired the youngster to sweep floors. He also volunteered at church and kept stats for his high school boys basketball team.
He met his future wife, an East Detroit, Mich., native, living in the same boarding house in Detroit, where he went to find a job. He was 20, and she was 22. When they married, 12 years later, he was working in the computer division at Blue Cross. Linda, a librarian, talked George into going 16 years without the use of an automobile resulting in their story being published in their local Sunday magazine. When Linda went back to school to study psychology and to earn her doctorate, George joined her and earned a doctorate in counseling and educational psychology.
Before moving to Noblesville, George was vice president of Blue Cross, where 400 employees reported to him at the company which required him to serve his community. Then the Mayor of Toledo invited Kristo to join a committee that would work to deter underage drinking by convincing motel operators not to rent rooms to those not of drinking age in Ohio.
In 1987, Blue Cross was laying off employees, and Kristo was one of them. He got a job with an Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) based in Indianapolis, and moved there, but was downsized again. Linda got a job in the counseling division at IUPUI. Then, at age 57, she decided to start her own practice, and they spent Sundays looking for a location. Linda Kristo’s practice would be in the Ray Adler building, the former Noblesville First Christian Church.
Kristo said his position as executive director of Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs didn’t exist before he came to town. He said a Statehouse bill was signed to increase offender fines from alcohol- and drug-related offenses in Indiana. All of the money went to the state, and if a county needed money it would apply for a grant. Then the law changed, to keep 75 percent of fines in the counties. In Hamilton County, Superior Court 1 Judge Steve Nation and representatives from each school district were among those gathering to talk about how to spend the county’s offender fines. Linda Kristo learned about the meetings and sent her husband to attend. Soon, nine board members and, in the fall of 1995, the county created a position, supervised by Judge Nation, for which Kristo would apply. He started his new career as executive director of Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs on Jan. 2, 1996.
Kristo wrote his own job description. “There was nothing on a piece of paper that could tell us what to do,” he said. “The first thing we did was to create bylaws….Then say ‘What do we really do?’ We had a board of directors...We would get together and meet, and that’s when we started the scholarship that we give away every year. Other than that, it was Linda and I that decided.”
As executive director, he organized annual anti-drug rallies, a children’s fair to draw middle-school parents and school leadership camps. He trained students in schools’ Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) clubs, formerly known as Students Against Driving Drunk. He coordinated and scheduled speakers for forums. He coordinated prescription drug take-back days. He used Council money to provide DARE shirts for elementary-school students. He approved grant requests before sending on to the state. He headed up the Council’s annual Drug Free New Year's Eve Party 1996 through 2016 and worked at booths at many local festivals. For many of these events, he partnered with other county organizations.
The position today is very-well mapped out, with the county allowed to spend its money only on prevention and education, treatment and intervention, and judicial and law enforcement, with many rules and regulations. In 2017, the Council received $160,000 from offender fines, no tax dollars, from drug-and-alcohol-type cases. Kristo’s salary comes out of that amount.
The offender fees through the years have been spent on anything from helping AA’s North Suburban Club cover rent to buying equipment for police agencies, in-car videos for smaller police departments, and funding drug-and-alcohol treatment programs.
The Council also partners with police agencies to coordinate the county’s dangerous driving blitz, four times a year, with the next blitz on St. Patrick’s Day.
At Kristo’s retirement party in January, State Rep. Kathy Richardson presented him with a resolution from the Indiana House of Representatives and shared some of the key points of his career. She cheered Kristo for the impact that he has made in the community. Besides leading the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol & Other Drugs, he has spent countless hours serving his community, including volunteering at Riverwalk Village and serving as a board member for Habitat for Humanity of Hamilton County, Noblesville Main Street, Hamilton County Mental Health Association and Youth as Resources. He is a member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and helps out there every weekend.
Richardson said, “The greatness of George lies in that fact that most people will never know about the majority of his contributions to the community because that’s the way wants it.”
After Kristo announced his retirement last year, and the position opened, about 45 people applied for his job, said Nation, who heads up the nine-member coalition.
Noblesville’s Monica Greer received the job offer and has been hired to replace Kristo at a salary of about $61,000. She is currently on the court-assisted rehabilitative efforts team for Hamilton County Department of Probation Services and is the former tobacco-free coalition coordinator and the county’s former drug court manager and the Council’s former community consultant and tobacco-free coalition coordinator.
Greer, who will officially begin her duties on Monday, said, “George has agreed to meet with me in the office to help train me, which will be wonderful.”
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Read more about Greer in an upcoming edition of The Times.