Seven candidates are running for Zionsville Town Council seats and two are running for mayor in the May 2 primary elections. All nine candidates attended a March 21 forum at Hoosier Village in Zionsville. The candidates met with voters and answered questions read by moderator Megn Laferriere, wellness director at Hoosier Village.
The Hoosier Village Candidate Forum was hosted by “Elders for a Stronger Democracy, a nonpartisan group that educates and encourages town residents on candidates and elections.
The following statements from each candidate during the forum summarizes their reasons for seeking office.
As a 30-year resident of Zionsville, Republican John Stehr said his experience as a former TV news broadcaster for 42 years will help prepare him if elected as mayor of Zionsville. The next mayor would lead an organization as complex as nine government departments and be responsible for a $46.7 million budget.
“My job was to build relationships with people in our community, including mayors, federal and state lawmakers, business leaders, and heads of nonprofits,” Stehr said. “So, here is what leadership comes down to for me. It means helping a group of people be successful through inspiration and coaching them to be their best. The first to take the blame and the last to take the credit. Harry Truman said something in the 1940s, and Ronald Regan repeated it in the 1980s, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” I don’t care who gets the credit, I want to see Zionsville prosper.
Elected three times to serve on the Zionsville Community Schools Board ,, Republican Jane Burgess said she is committed to getting Zionsville’s financial house back in order if elected as mayor. Burgess said with her experience serving on the school board, she would bring listening, collaboration and problem-solving skills to the mayor’s office. And as a fiduciary for the town’s largest economic engine and employer with a budget of $96 million and nearly 1.300 employees, Burgess believes her previous role on the school board will help her with economic development for Zionsville.
“I felt compelled to run for mayor because of the pattern of financial mismanagement by the current Mayor (Emily) Styron,” Burgess said. “I will use these skills to address the challenges and opportunities for our unique and beautiful town.”
Town Council At-Large (two seats on the ballot)
Running unopposed, Republican candidate Joe Stein was the former president of the Zionsville School Board for two years, serving eight years on the board. Stein said he supports growth.
“Our downtown is paramount, and we have to keep that beautiful area, but as we expand — growth is already here — it’s important we have a balance of growth with commercial and residential development,” he said.
Republican candidate Evan Norris, an attorney, said one of his priorities, if elected, is to ensure that Zionsville’s property values remain what they are today during the recession the town faces. He also supports a balanced budget for the town.
“I want to make sure we have enough reserves to prepare us for things that may be coming down the road that we didn’t expect,” Norris said.
Amanda Rubeck, running as a Democrat, serves on the Redevelopment Commission for the town and has been in the financial industry for over 20 years. Rubeck said she developed a “passion” for municipal finance.
“I believe Zionsville is in a critical redevelopment and growth phase, and the town will benefit from someone like myself with municipal finance experience,” Rubeck said.
Political newcomer and former Zionsville Fire Department paramedic, Republican Kendrick Davis, said he is running for the District 3 seat to continue to serve the town in a different capacity. “We are facing some major zoning issues in our rural Perry Town District,” Davis said. “Recently, I had one farmer come to me and tell me that he had to donate 5 acres of his farmland for sidewalks, just so his son could build a home on his land. The urban zoning laws that were copied and pasted in Perry Township need to be adjusted for our rural distinct,” he said.
Running unopposed, Democrat Monisha Mitchell said she supports and will advocate for “mindful” development in the areas around District 3.
“If there is going to be additional development for land zoned for special use, this creates an opportunity to go before the town council and determine how the land is used,” Mitchell said.
Mitchel also said that a study for electric cars would benefit the town’s carbon plan.
Incumbent Republican Craig said the town needs more experience on the council now than ever. Melton said that in the last 3 1/2 years, he has learned a lot about what the council does, and he believes there is financial value to having experienced people on the council moving forward.
“This is my biggest reason for continuing to run, knowing the value I can bring to the table,” Melton said.
Republican Kyle Campbell, a political newcomer, said he is running for town council to be the “voice” for the constituents of Zionsville. He believes the constituents are essential to the town because they elect the councilors.
“The communication with the people of Zionsville has broken down,” Campbell said. “If I am elected, I will work for you,” he said.
Campbell also said that new business should not be mixed with the residential areas of District 3 and said he would work hard to “keep the residential areas the residential areas.”