Voters have choice in each of four district council races
On Election Day, voters will choose their district representative to serve on the Harrison County Council, which oversees the county’s fiscal health.
Two incumbents are not seeking reelection so the council is assured of having at least two new members in January. Democrat Alvin Brown and Republican Kenneth Saulman are retiring.
Currently, Republicans are in the majority on the council, by 4 to 3, so that could change if Democrats pick up one District seat, and there are choices on each ballot.
Voters elect only the representative who lives in their district, and the ballots will offer just those choices. Three at-large council members, who are elected countywide, will be up for election in 2008.
The seven-member council has exclusive power to authorize borrowing money for the county, but the total indebtedness may not exceed two percent of the assessed valuation in the county, less mortgage exemptions.
The council can adopt or rescind a County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT) and/or a County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) by passing an ordinance prior to April 1 of any year. The ordinance requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
The CAGIT rate imposed in Harrison County is 75 cents per $100 for residents and 25 cents per $100 for non-residents who work here and whose home county has not adopted an income tax.
The rate for CEDIT, adopted 10 years ago, is 25 cents per $100, which brings the total income tax to $1 per $100.
Proceeds of CAGIT are distributed to local units of government in the same manner and proportion as property tax revenues, after a major portion is used to reduce property taxes.
CEDIT revenue must be used for economic development, capital projects or for the retirement of bonds.
The council meets the second and fourth Monday nights of the month in the Commissioners/Council Room of the Harrison County Court House. Budget sessions are held in the fall. Each council member will earn about $11,200 this year. Council members are also eligible for health insurance paid for by the county.
Two newcomers vie for First District seat
Voters in the First District Council race have two newcomers to county politics to select from ‘ Democrat Leslie Robertson of Depauw, a former North Harrison school board member, and novice William (Bill) Watts Jr. of Bradford, a Republican.
Incumbent First District Councilman Alvin Brown, D-Palmyra, is not seeking reelection.
If elected, Robertson, 48, would be the second woman on the seven-member council board. Republican Rhonda Rhoads of Corydon is an at-large representative up for reelection in 2008.
As newcomers, neither Robertson, 48, nor Watts, 51, carry political baggage or have countywide voting records to defend. Each said they are committed to improving life in Harrison County.
Robertson has a history of community involvement, including serving on the boards of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, 4Community ‘ Partners for a Drug-Free Harrison County (methamphetamine coalition), YMCA of Harrison County, Harrison County Swim and Dive Team, Metro United Way Advisory Board for Harrison County and the Harrison County Hospital Foundation.
She also served two four-year terms on the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees.
‘I have shown my commitment to making our community a better place to live and raise our families,’ she said.
Watts said he has always been interested in politics. ‘I feel like I can contribute to the county,’ he said, adding with a chuckle: ‘I don’t intend to run for governor.’
He sees the council’s job as allocating funds and setting budgets for county government agencies. ‘Spending riverboat money wisely’ is also a responsibility in Harrison County, he said.
In addition, Robertson said council members should act professionally and remain open-minded and respectful. ‘It is important for any elected official to keep in touch with his or her constituents and to listen to their concerns regarding county issues,’ she said.
Robertson has little complaint about the way riverboat revenue has been spent in Harrison County. ‘They have funded some projects that I don’t think are part of government’s function, but it’s also easy to criticize when you’re sitting on the other side of the table.’
She believes it is important to spend money that will ultimately save taxpayer dollars, like the alternative school for students with behavioral problems. Without the alternative school, she said, expensive out-of-county placements become necessary.
She believes investments should continue in road improvements and upkeep, sewers and other infrastructure improvements to help economic development.
Watts believes more industry is needed in the First District (in northern Harrison County) and once clean-up is complete at the old Wennings property, neighbors should have input into that redevelopment. ‘They should put a lot of stock in the opinions of Central Barren residents,’ he said.
Whether officials should encourage Vincennes University to locate in Harrison County, said Watts, is ‘a no-brainer.’
He recommends a trip to Jasper to see the Vincennes campus there. ‘I can’t imagine anybody being against it,’ he said.
He also said county officials should consider putting more riverboat money into school property tax reduction to lessen the burden on taxpayers. ‘I’ve just now started campaigning,’ Watts said last week, ‘but those are the two things I’ve heard ‘ property taxes, property taxes.’
In general, though, most people seem happy, he said.
‘I think the county is moving in the right direction,’ he said.
Watts is a 1974 North Harrison High School graduate and holds a 1979 bachelor’s degree in marketing and advertising from Indiana University. Although he has a Greenville address, Watts and the family live near Bradford where he farms about 250 acres of crops. He recently sold his dairy herd with plans to raise beef cattle instead.
He and his wife of 21 years, the former Sally Kelley, have three daughters, Emily, 17, a senior at North Harrison High School; Katie, 15, a sophomore at NHHS; and Rachel, 12, a sixth grader at North Harrison Middle School.
Robertson is a 1976 graduate of Corydon Central High School and holds a 1994 bachelor’s degree in political science from Indiana University.
She is a former executive assistant to the president of Baptist Hospital East and assistant secretary to the board of directors. She said she resigned to become a stay-at-home mom to her daughters and to finish her college degree. She and her husband of 24 years, Larry, have two grown daughters.
Robertson can be reached at 347-3290 or [email protected]
Watts can be reached at 364-4304 or [email protected]
Nichols challenges Davis ‘ again
The Second District County Council race pits incumbent Republican Gary Davis, New Salisbury, a retired certified public accountant and council chair for six years, against Democrat William T. (Bill) Nichols of Lanesville, a mechanic, excavation contractor, cattleman and Franklin Township Farm Bureau leader. He has served four years as president of that group.
Nichols, 68, also serves on the Harrison County Lifelong Learning board, which, as the name implies, provides learning and technical training, such as welding, to adults beyond traditional college age. Next year’s budget is about $227,000, which is funded with riverboat revenue.
Nichols sees a continuing need for Lifelong Learning in Harrison County and was displeased when recent news surfaced that Vincennes University might take it over, and Harrison County would be willing to put the amount now spent on Lifelong Learning into a Vincennes program. The funding would decline over five years. (Under the latest official discussions, Lifelong Learning would co-exist with a community college not yet selected.)
‘I would like to see us get some kind of college here, but the Vincennes deal they have cooked up is not a very good deal,’ Nichols said. ‘We have a better deal with Ivy Tech (of Sellersburg) now; they come in, have a class and pay rent.’
‘I’ve got too much shoe leather in this Lifelong Learning to give it up now.’
Davis, 67, sees the matter differently, and said he regrets the issue has become politicized.
‘I haven’t heard anybody besides the Democrats saying that bringing Vincennes here is not a good deal,’ Davis said.
Davis said unlike some have implied, there has been no under-the-table negotiations, only visits initiated by Vincennes. A memorandum of understanding set out only terms the university and county might agree upon. ‘They were going to make a commitment to put time and funds into the project, along with what Harrison County might be able to provide,’ Davis said. ‘They’re interested in seeing if they can attract enough traditional college students to afford a college here.
‘I want to see a higher percentage of high school graduates pursue a college education; having a community college at their back door may help,’ Davis said.
‘If we could get Vincennes here, it would be the greatest thing since sliced bread.’
Refusing to enter into talks with Vincennes, Davis said, would be kin to telling Lucas Oil Products ‘we don’t want you to come; we want to check with STP (motor oil) first to see if they’re interested; the whole thing has gotten ridiculous,’ Davis said. ‘Instead of focusing on a great opportunity, we’re back-biting everybody; I think it may nix the whole deal.’
Nichols ran against Davis in the last district race in 2002, and lost by 68 votes, or 48.8 percent of the vote to Davis’ 56.5 percent.
Nichols said this go-around, he’s after those votes; he’s knocking on doors, attending events, whatever it takes. ‘I’m leaving no stone unturned,’ he said.
Nichols said if elected, he would work hard to represent the people of Franklin and Jackson townships. ‘If they have a problem or need funding, I’d like to talk to them,’ he said.
Davis said so far he’s heard little talk about the upcoming election or issues. ‘It’s pretty quiet,’ he said, adding that most people aren’t concerned about local politics until it hits their pocketbook. ‘They have lots of other things to worry about.’
Davis said major goals continue to be economic development, structuring a long-range fiscal plan and to get the sewer district ‘up and running.’ That, he said, goes hand in hand with economic development.
Nichols was born in Louisville, and moved to Harrison County with the family in 1945. He graduated from the old Elizabeth High School in 1956 and married the former Jane Schmitt in 1967. Their two children are deceased.
Nichols can be reached at 952-2753 or (cell) 972-2499.
Davis was born in New Salisbury and graduated from North Central High School in 1957. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University and is a graduate of Leadership Harrison County. He and the former Patricia A. Yaeger have one son who is deceased, and another son and a daughter, both grown.
Davis can be reached at 366-3354 or [email protected]
Race in Harrison Twp. features Pendleton, Fry
The race for the Third District Council seat in Harrison Township pits two newcomers to Harrison County politics, Democrat J. Gordon Pendleton and Republican Bruce Fry, both of whom reside in Corydon.
Incumbent Third District Councilman Kenneth Saulman, R-Corydon, is not seeking reelection.
Pendleton, 73, is well known as a banker and current chairman of First Capital Inc., parent company of First Harrison Bank based in Corydon. He is also president of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., and is a charter member and former president of the board of the Harrison County Community Foundation.
Fry, 53, formerly of Tyson Foods Inc. in Corydon, has resided in Harrison County nearly seven years. He currently works in Jeffersontown, Ky., east of Louisville, as human resource manager at Jones Plastic and Engineering.
Both candidates believe their business experience and people skills would be an asset on the council.
Pendleton declares Harrison County in good health, at least for now. ‘I can’t see anything life threatening on the horizon,’ he said.
He thinks Harrison Countians can look forward for the next 20 years to continued opportunities but expects the population boom to cool. That’s because high fuel prices will discourage people from moving too far from their jobs, even with the ease of interstate travel.
Today’s movement toward land preservation will likely grow rather than decrease in popularity as land becomes more scarce. ‘I don’t know a lot about it,’ said Pendleton, ‘but I think anytime you can preserve something it’s probably good.’
But Pendleton would need to be convinced before putting any county money into such a program, which is expected to initially use state grant money to purchase rights to land development. ‘I don’t know if I would favor the county paying for it, though,’ he said.
Pendleton said he expects few if any funding crises in the next 20 years, due to the influx of riverboat revenue and the amount of county revenue being invested in an endowment with the Harrison County Community Foundation. He said that investment should continue to return from $400,000 to $500,000 a year which could be used to help fund county services, and the Foundation itself, now worth more than $60 million, can be expected to allocate about $500,000 a year for scholarships and another $500,000 or so for special projects and services.
Fry said he decided to toss his hat in the ring when he realized the Republican side of the ballot was blank. ‘I thought it ought to be at least a choice,’ he said. ‘With my background and interest in the community, I thought I had something to offer.’
He believes Harrison County should continue to aggressively improve and enhance its infrastructure to draw industry.
Fry said, ‘We need to bring jobs back, and I think to do that, we need to provide the infrastructure,’ necessary to attract industry, such as sewage treatment, good roads, etc.
In the years he has lived here, Fry said Harrison County has changed and will likely continue to do so. ‘We need to do things that will facilitate change and we need to direct the change,’ Fry said. ‘Do I have all the answers? No, I don’t, but I think there are good people on the council and the commission that I could work with to help determine what that direction would be.’
The community needs to think about what it wants Harrison County to look like in the next five to 15 years, in terms of agriculture, employment, industry, Fry said. ‘We need to be thinking about how we use the land and what we do with our resources.
‘We need to be thinking about that today and do the things we can to shape that,’ Fry said.
Fry is a native of Great Lakes, Ill. He holds a 1985 bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas.
He and his wife of 27 years, Schatzi, have two children: Thrista, 14, an eighth grader at Corydon Central Junior High School, and Daniel, 12, a seventh grader at CCJHS.
Fry can be reached at 267-7533 or by e-mail, [email protected]
Pendleton has served on the South Harrison Community School board, the Indiana Dept. of Education board, has served as president of the Corydon Rotary Club, taught school (bookkeeping, typing, driver’s education), and coached basketball, cross country and track at Corydon Central from 1958 to 1961.
He and his wife of 43 years, the former Christine Neff, have three grown children and eight grandchildren.
Pendleton can be reached at 738-2707.
Hubler, Sherman seek nod in southern district
Political newcomer Matt Hubler of Elizabeth is challenging long-term Councilman Ralph Sherman of Laconia.
Hubler, a Democrat, is making his first bid for public office. Sherman, a Republican, is seeking his fourth four-year term representing the Fourth District, in southern Harrison County. Neither was challenged in the May Primary.
Hubler, 35, was born and reared in Harrison County. He has no particular complaint about the current council’s work.
‘I’m not one to speak negatives,’ he said of his campaign. ‘I have nothing against the man.’
But, he added: ‘I think people are ready for a change in the Fourth District.
‘When people are in a position too long, they get stagnant,’ Hubler said. ‘Someone new brings different ideas.’
Sherman, 67, was first elected 12 years ago. He is most proud of his involvement in starting Harrison County Lifelong Learning, an adult or non-traditional learning center in Corydon established in 2001 with riverboat revenue. He still serves on the nine-member board.
He also supports Vincennes University’s proposal to establish a community college here, because he thinks a community college should take over the role of Lifelong Learning.
And he doesn’t think it’s the council’s job to establish services or to recommend funding; that’s the commissioners’ role, he said.
‘You might feel we need this, but you really don’t have no say,’ Sherman said. ‘We’re supposed to appropriate the money; not make requests for it.’
In that vein, Sherman, who has long been involved with 4-H, said he would support funding for an Extension Service building ‘if the commissioners asked for a new building.’ (The Extension Service oversees the 4-H programs.)
He is comfortable with the manner in which riverboat revenue has been used.
‘I think the schools and the roads get the majority of the riverboat money,’ Sherman said. ‘We’ve helped fire departments, towns, water companies, township trustees ‘ we’ve tried to pass it around as best we could ‘ the library, ambulance stations in the north and south, building renovations … ‘
Hubler said, ‘We need to research more closely some of the requests for funds that are being granted, as to the beneficial results for all the citizens in the county.’
He added: ‘People need to be more involved in county government; I am ready to listen to the suggestions of county residents.’
Hubler is a truck driver for Deer Country Equipment in Corydon. He is a 1989 graduate of Providence High School in Clarksville.
He and his wife of 17 years, the former Stephanie Kirtley of Floyds Knobs, have two daughters. Paula, 16, a junior at Providence High School, and Sher’rie, 9, a fourth grader at St. John’s Lutheran School at Lanesville.
Hubler can be reached at 969-3973.
Sherman was born in Mauckport. He now lives in Laconia and is a lifelong farmer. He is a 1957 graduate of Laconia High School.
Sherman and his wife of 49 years, the former Barbara Beanblossom, have four grown children and eight grandchildren.
He can be reached at 737-2886.