April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

County voters to choose from 7 County Council candidates

By HSJ Online [email protected]

Bartholomew County voters will be making a choice on Tuesday between seven candidates for the three at-large seats on County Council.

The race includes:

  • Republicans: Bill Lentz, Matt Miller, Evelyn Strietelmeier Pence

  • Democrats: Pam Clark, Lynne Fleming and Diane Hawes.

  • Libertarian: Josh Brown.

    Because of a change in state law, voters who cast a straight-party ticket ballot will not be voting in the County Council race, said Jay Phelps, Bartholomew County clerk. In order to cast a ballot in this race, voters must pick candidates individually on their ballot, otherwise no vote will be registered in the race, Phelps said.

    County election officials said they will have notes posted at various locations in the polling locations tomorrow, outlining the importance of choosing individual candidates in this race, along with contested Town Council races such as the Hartsville races, as well as the Bartholomew Consolidated School board races.

    The County Council is the fiscal body, which makes decisions affecting budgets and tax rates in the county.

    We asked the candidates to talk about any needs they see in the Hope area.

    Josh Brown, Libertarian

    "I have to say that my familiarity with Hope is not, maybe, up to par. I have been able to visit Hope a few times. We really spend most of our time in Columbus. But from what I have been there, it seems like a fantastic community. The community spirit in Hope, seems incredibly strong -- a lot of pride in the town. They seem to really take care of it and have a real cohesive identity, which I think is really neat.

    "In fact, we have looked at moving a little bit and we have certainly talked about coming out to Hope, but it is probably a few years out. In any event, I can't say specifically how I would see the county intervening there, but if I am elected to County Council I would certainly have an open ear and love to hear from the community to see what it is they would want to bring before the council."

    Pam Clark, Democrat

    "I have had the good fortune to work over in Hope for the last two years with the community center over there. I have spent a lot of time at the Hope Town Council meetings, attending Smoke on the Square and Hope Heritage Days. Hope really is a wonderful little community and it is part of our county. So, I am not sure what has created a division between Hope and Columbus, but there certainly is one.

    "I talked with Cindy Boll, who is counsel for the Town Council in Hope and I said 'It is amazing, you go to Town Council meetings in Hope and everybody is there.' People ask questions, they are attentive, they want to know what is going on. And yet here in Bartholomew County, unless they are specifically asked almost no one attends our County Council or County Commissioner meetings and I think that is a tragedy. Because everybody wants to yell and scream when they make decisions that people don't like, but they weren't there to stand up for what they wanted when the meeting occurred.

    "I think Hope has a lot to teach Columbus and vice versa, we just need to find a way to come together."

    Lynne Fleming, Democrat

    "I know that Hope is working really hard to work on their community center. And so, they need some extra funds to build up that community center so there are programs there and it is not just a place for people to hang out, but they have programming for their children for after school. There is childcare programming there, for Hope residents to have a place to drop off and pick up their kids before and after school. And to leave them during the day while they are working. And so that is a big need there to build up that community center for Hope residents. That is one of the needs that I know needs to be addressed right away to fix that building as well as to build up the programs."

    Diane Hawes, Democrat

    "I am actually on the VIP commission and every year they have given money to the (Columbus-area) Visitors Center. For a long time, they gave a portion of the money to Hope so they could continue with their tourism and their branching out more. That did change and the funding now seems always to go more toward the Visitors Center and then the Visitors Center, of course, has money they can grant out to the Hope area.

    "That being said, I think that in the town of Hope, I know they have sources of income and they take care of a lot of their own things. And I think that is pretty much that way in all the little communities. However, they are still in the county, and there are things they need within their communities. I think allowing those communities to come to the commissioners and come to the council and ask for what they need -- if we have any money available -- I think would be a great first step.

    "I think that sitting down with their town folks, their Town Council, open it to the public and let the public come in and explain to us some things they feel like they need. I am not an expert on the Hope area. I do live up there. But that is after moving back to the area after 25 years. So, I am not familiar with everything that is needed in the Hope area at this time. But I do believe that as a commissioner or a council man that we should be open to finding out more from them and from other area towns the kinds of things that we think they we might be able to contribute."

    Bill Lentz, Republican

    "I am probably one of the few council members that actually have the ties to Hope. In the past and currently, I serve on a lot of boards in Hope. Bud Herron and I started the endowment up there. Hope is very close. We did, in the past, create when I was on the council, the EDIT tax, which Hope benefits from that up there, quite a bit. We can help with the infrastructure -- the roads and other things. We can help with the police force and things like that. But directly putting other money to Hope, we would have to create a new tax to do that. I guess we are doing the best we can, not only (with) Hope but with other small towns. We will see what develops.

    Matt Miller, Republican

    "I think Hope is an awesome town, it is a unique town. The new town manager I think is doing an awesome job. I went to several events there this summer when he had some things on the square.

    "The new police chief, Matt Tallent, is doing a phenomenal job. He has worked very hard to get on the countywide computer system for law enforcement, OSSI is what it is called. That is big. That is really important so that they can see the calls we are on, we can see the calls they are on (and) if they need assistance. If they are close to one of our calls, and we are far away, Matt as the police chief has made it more than known that 'We are willing to help out if we can help you in any way.'

    "I think as far as the sheriff's department and the Hope Police Department are going, things are going really well there. There are some improvements that are possible. I have talked to Chief Tallent here a couple of weeks ago. There are definitely some improvements that can be made. Overall I think things are going pretty well.

    "Other than that I do not know of anything they need the county's assistance for... Like I said, Hope is a unique town. They have done a really nice job of handling that town on their own. Their Town Council is efficient. You don't hear the problems out of Hope that Bartholomew County Council and Commissioners have. We can almost look to Hope as a model. When we start trying to come up with ways to do things here in the county, I kind of look at Hope as a model. Things are going really well there. People that are from Hope are extremely proud to tell you they are from Hope. I kind of look to Hope as not needing help from us but us learning from the town of Hope."

    Evelyn Strietelmeier Pence, Republican

    "The community, I just think it is a diamond that is sitting out there. So many people may not realize all the nice things it has to offer. It has a great school, they have gotten awards. The people are just great in that area. It is a farming area and I think it will be growing. I do see growth going on out there. They have a nice restaurant. In fact, you can look on the website and there is like three restaurants. I think sometimes it could be advertised more. Teams go up there to play, Their parks are heavily used. It is just a great town. I don't like to see it get too commercialized yet I would like to see them be able to bring in more money also."

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