City council, clerk-treasurer candidates participate in Q&A at GOP debate

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On March 7, members of the public had the opportunity to hear several Republican city council and clerk-treasurer candidates participate in a Q&A session at Field Brewing in Westfield.

Council candidates and clerk-treasurer candidates answered questions specific to the respective offices. One question posed to the council by Westfield Washington Trustee Danielle Carey Tolan, the event moderator, was:  “Ideally, what will Westfield look like in the next five years?”

Council member Chuck Lehman, the  District 4 incumbent, said although the city has created a wealth of jobs in the youth sports field, he believes the focus needs to turn to STEM-related jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We need to become a city that has a destination of workers of a higher level. Sports are great, but we need to develop that workforce where people come here,” he said.

Scott Frei, a council candidate for District 4, said he hopes Westfield doesn’t lose its identity five years.

“We are still unique. We don’t look like Fishers, we don’t look like Carmel, we don’t look like Noblesville,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Council member Jim Ake, an at-large incumbent, said expects taxes to decrease in the next five years. 

“What I see in five years is the school tax going down because of the economic activity we have created,” he said. “I see development down on the extension of Poplar Street, which is coming. I see the new YMCA, bright and shiny.”

At-large council candidate Troy Patton said if the city doesn’t have financial clarity, the schools will suffer.

“We have to know where we are at today to know where we are going in the future,” he said. “Our largest asset is our schools. If we have the city and the schools and they don’t work together from a financial standpoint, I can assure you the schools are going to suffer in some way.”

At-large council incumbent Cindy Spoljaric said she wants to revisit the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan within the next five years.

“I would like to see the (comprehensive) plan in its entirety reviewed again to see if we’re really still on that same path and how we can make it stronger,” she said.

Jake Gilbert, a council candidate for District 2, said he wants the city to grow in all areas but still keep the small-town feel that inititally drew people to Westfield.

“We need to make sure we develop great experiences,” he said. “We need great opportunities for families, great programs for families, great time together so we can gather and connect.”

Mike Johns, a council candidate for District 5, said he also would like to revisit the comprehensive plan.

“I think one thing we need to do is take a look back at that comprehensive plan, and I think that needs to be updated after the last 10 years,” he said. “We need to also focus and keep our schools where they are today and improve them.”

Council member Bob Horkay, the District 5 incumbent, said he expects the city to maintain its small-town feel in five years but will be as easier place for residents to get around.

“We will have a new (Ind.) 32 through the downtown area here,” he said. “We will have additional trail network connectivity, which we are a leader in already. We will have the Grand Park area full of businesses around it. We will have a much larger and successful sports-related and other service-related industries.”

Jeff Boller, a council candidate for District 5, said he foresees a bustling downtown in Westfield in the next five years.

“If you look at all the successful cities across the nation, they all have a bustling downtown, and we need that,” he said. “It’s very important to do that because if we don’t have this downtown area, we won’t be able to support ourselves.”

Carey Tolan then posed a question for the two clerk-treasurer candidates, incumbent Cindy Gossard and candidate Tammy Havard: “What is the most important function of the city clerk-treasurer?”

Havard said financial accountability and transparency were the most important functions.

“When we track data into the financial system, we need to have enough information to be able to do trending and analysis on that information,” Havard said. “Things need to be in there so that other people can make data-driven decisions off of that information.”

Gossard said she has been a good steward to the city, and that she already holds herself and her staff accountable. She also responded to Havard’s data-driven decisions comment by saying she’s not sure certain data needs to be entered.

“I believe the clerk-treasurer’s job is being a good steward for the city, which means taking care of the city,” Gossard said. “I hold myself and my staff accountable. We have implemented software to help the departments manage their budgets. I’m not sure how many post-it notes we use or how many paper clips we use. I don’t know that that data needs to be entered into the system.”

District 1 council candidate Scott Willis, District 3 council incumbent Joe Edwards and Mayor Andy Cook didn’t participate in the Q&A because their races being uncontested. Bob Beaudry, a council candidate for District 2, wasn’t present. Donald Rainwater, a Libertarian council candidate for District 4, also didn’t because the event was conducted by the GOP.

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