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Commissioner’s comments a ‘breach of public trust’

In a recent meeting, Commissioners Charlie Crawford and Jim Heitkemper, Carrie Herthel, county health administrator, Dr. Andrew Morton, health officer, and Chris Byrd, county attorney, met via a teleconference to discuss Circle K’s handling of the state’s mandated mask regulation.

My letter is not about mask mandates but concerns an unsolicited comment Mr. Heitkemper made during that conference call. He said, “Circle K has a tremendous amount of business because they aren’t foreign owned, and that’s the way it ought to be. People want to go there because of that.”

Mr. Heitkemper made his observation known with another statement just prior to that by saying, “Five times the amount of people go to Circle K, and I’ll come out and say it is because it is one of the only gas stations not foreign owned.”

First of all, Mr. Heitkemper, I don’t go to any business because they are not foreign owned, but because they provide goods or services I need or want. Circle K has 79-cent Polar Pop drinks. I go there for the value.

I go to the gas station south on (S.R.) 135 near Harrison-Heth Road because I like their chicken tenders, and I drive to the Palmyra Marathon station because of the chicken livers and other prepared items from the deli. If I want Chinese food, I go to the Chinese restaurant. If I want Italian food, I go to Tavolo Italian Bistro.

I could go on and on, but my point is I have never researched who owned any of these businesses as a qualifying reason for my going there.

The larger point to be made is your comment was made by you as current commissioner of Harrison County during a public meeting.

I feel your statements send a very wrong message, not only to potential businesses wanting to locate here, but to the citizens as well. I consider your position on foreign-owned businesses as divisive, calloused, shallow and containing the stench of xenophobia.

As a private citizen, you can hold any position you want, but, because of your position as an elected official, I hold you, and any other elected official, to a higher standard when it comes to public comments. I feel you have failed to meet the threshold of this important office and consider your comments a breach of the public trust.

Richard Gettelfinger | Corydon, Ind.

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