GOING OVER RULES ... Moderator Stacy Noetzel lays out the ground rules for Thursday night's Candidates Night sponsored by the Decatur Rotary. (Photo by J Swygart)
Eighteen candidates seeking 10 county and political offices participated Thursday evening in a Candidates' Night event hosted by the Decatur Rotary Club. The event, which allowed each of the candidates four minutes to talk about themselves and their candidacies, was broadcast live countywide over WZBD radio.
Speaking during the event were countywide candidates for coroner, recorder, auditor, treasurer, circuit court judge, two seats on the board of county commissioners and three at-large seats on the Adams County Council.
Also on hand were the two candidates seeking election to represent the 79th House of Representatives district that includes Adams County, along with portions of Allen and Wells counties.
Incumbent Republican Matt Lehman is seeking re-election to the House seat after having been first elected in 2008. Prior to that time he spent several years as a member of the Adams County Council, including six years as the president of that group.
Lehman said the state must remain fiscally vigilant and must "continue to live within our means during this still weak economy." The Republican candidate said that while government "cannot create jobs, it can create an environment to create jobs — and I think Indiana has done that; I think we've put a lot of tools in the toolbox." Among those tools, Lehman said, is the Right To Work legislation adopted earlier this year.
The incumbent said he would like to see the return of education funding as a priority in Indianapolis, and said he also will "continue to fight to protect the unborn."
Democrat Mike Snyder is making his first bid at elected office as a candidate for the 79th House seat. He is a 35-year employee of Bunge Corp. who for the past 15 years has served as president of the United Steelworkers Local 15173 union there.
Snyder said the state's current 7.8 percent unemployment rate is "unacceptable." He bemoaned the passage of the Right To Work bill, saying the legislation "lowers the standard of living for everyone."
"We need to continue economic development efforts with incentives and abatements, but we also need living wage jobs," said Sndyer.
Snyder also said he opposed the idea of blanket educational reforms being handed down from Indianapolis, claiming "one standard does not fit all schools and communities."
• Candidates for judge of the Adams County Circuit Court on hand for Thursday's event were Democrat Frederick Schurger and Republican Chad Kukelhan.
Schurger has served for the past 13 years on the bench in the circuit court. He cited among his accomplishments the roles he has played in establishing the county Community Corrections and out-of-school suspension programs.
Schurger said it is possible that Indiana will turn over the responsibility of incarcerating Class D felons to each of the state's 92 counties. Should that happen, Schurger said he has the experience to help Adams County "be on the cutting edge of that change."
Kukelhan, a lawyer in Decatur who has also practiced in Marion County, said his youthfulness would be an asset to the court.
"I am privileged to be in a position to run for judge, and I feel I have the training, experience, energy and ability to lead the court into the future," he said. "I feel my age puts me in a unique position to lead the circuit court."
• Six candidates — Republicans Tony Mellencamp, Dennis Bluhm and Randy Colclasure and Democrats Judy Affolder, John Minch and Dennis Hain — are seeking three at-large berths on the Adams County Council this November.
Bluhm, who is seeking is second term, said the last four years "have been financially challenging," but noted that he has been pleased to see all county employees and government officials working together on county challenges.
Colclasure has served 12 years on the council and said he believes the panel "has been very responsible with your tax dollars."
Mellencamp is seeking his first term on the council and is a current South Adams school board member. He said his experience as a business owner and school board member have prepared him for the job. "We are one big community that needs to work together," he said.
Affolder served as county assessor for 12 years and is also a former French Township clerk. She said her priority is to "be a conservative watchdog of the county's assets," and added that decisions regarding the consolidation of government services "should be made by local officials, not by Big Brother in Indianapolis."
Hain, the owner of Decatur Computer Repair, is making his first bid for elected office. He said his business experience will be beneficial to the county. "I know how to budget the 'needs' from the 'wants'," Hains said.
Minch is a two-term former mayor of Berne who said his goal is "to keep Adams County number one: first in education, first in business, first in industry and first in our quality of life."
• County coroner candidates in November's general election are Republican Leslie Cook and Democrat Kristopher Burkhart.
Cook, former coroner and currently the county's deputy coroner, said her certification in forensic nursing and her passion for the position "lead me to believe I am the best candidate to be your coroner."
Burkhart, who resides in Monroe, is a registered paramedic and a 15-year member of the Monroe Fire Department. "With my experience in public safety, I've developed many relationships that will serve me well. The coroner's position is a working position, and I will work hard for the citizens of Adams County," he said.
• Democrat Marcy Koons, a candidate for the position of county recorder, currently works as an administrative assistant in the county probation department. She said her main focus as recorder is to continue to work to digitalize county records now in storage and to preserve those records for the public.
Republican recorder candidate Deb Stimpson said her organizational skills and "strong work ethic" make her the ideal candidate for the position. "I feel I am a qualified candidate and would serve the county well," she said.
• Running unopposed in the November general election and speaking during Thursday's event were GOP county commissioners Doug Bauman and Kim Fruechte, Republican county auditor candidate Mary Beery and Republican county treasurer candidate Tom Krueckeberg.