Carmel forum offered opportunity for primary candidates to stand out
By Pete Smith
The Carmel-Clay Republican Club hosted a candidate forum on April 22 where 150 people gathered at Central Christian Church to learn more about the people running for office in the May 6 primary.
Of all the races, the one for Township Board is likely most confusing for Republican voters because they will need to select three of the candidates from a pool of five.
The board acts as a legislative branch of township government, and approves the actions and expenditures that are proposed by the township trustee, who functions similar to an executive.
The township, which encompasses everyone in Carmel and Home Place, receives money from local income taxes that its sets aside in a reserve fund for local parks. It also has a property tax rate that helps fund its mission in regard to poor relief and funding interlocal agreements that support Carmel’s firefighters.
At the forum, all the candidates worked to set them themselves apart based on the issues the board will face in the coming years.
Candidate Richard Leirer highlighted his desire to see more park land, noting that Carmel would need to add 83 acres of land and 19 miles of trails to meet the standard set by Indianapolis.
Leirer said he would like the township and city government to work closely together to help Carmel shine through its parks. It’s something he feels could contribute to job growth.
Leirer currently sits on the park board.
Candidate Meredith Carter relied heavily on his background as a longtime educator and his 32 years experience serving on the county council.
In reference to whether township government should be abolished – as was attempted in 2011 – Carter that’s its needed because the township is the government that’s closest to the people.
He said he would look to close budget gaps, determine where more firefighters are needed and look for ideas on how to maintain the city’s parks.
Incumbent candidate Matt Snyder took issue with that. He said there are no gaps to close, that the city has the best fire service in the state, the fastest response times in the Midwest and that the township plans to fund two new fire stations without a tax increase.
Snyder tried to position himself as a fiscal conservative and said he sees the township government as a counterweight to spending within city government.
He described it as a fragile relationship because the city has no money and the township does have reserve funds.
Incumbent candidate Paul Bolin echoed that sentiment saying, “We are their partner, not their little brother.”
He noted that the push to eliminate township government stemmed from abuses – none of which stemmed from Clay Township which only has two employees and a janitor.
Bolin said he’d continue to work to make Carmel a world-class city while holding the line on taxes needed to support the fire and parks departments.
Incumbent candidate Mary Eckard said she would continue to be fiscally conservative, but that she wanted to add an education initiative for the township’s poor relief to assist people looking for work.
She also wanted to emphasize that the township needed a solid relationship with the city of Carmel and its city council.
“We have to work together,” she said.
Paul Bolin $0
Meredith Carter $72
Richard Leirer $100
Matt Snyder $2,025
Mary Eckard $2,337
Of note: Carmel City Councilor Rick Sharp made contributions to the Snyder and Eckard campaigns
The coroner’s office performs autopsies and death investigations for the public safety departments throughout Hamilton County.
The current coroner cannot run again because of term limits.
Candidate Roger Conn, a former Carmel police chief, relied on his experience in law enforcement and his experience as a community volunteer with organizations like his church, the Boy Scouts and the Carmel Dad’s Club.
He has been endorsed by multiple Carmel politicians like Mayor Jim Brainard, former mayor Jane Reiman, Clay Township Trustee Doug Callahan and Carmel City Councilor Rick Sharp.
Candidate John Chalfin is a current employee of the coroner’s office and he highlighted his medical background during the debate.
He also said he has given up his wages in the past to help the department make budget.
Chalfin has been endorsed by the current coroner, the sheriff, Firefighters Local 4416 and Carmel Local 4444, county commissioner Mark Heirbrandt, county councilors Amy Massilamany and Steve Schwartz and Chief Steven Peachy of the Cicero Fire Department.
Both candidates said privatization of the office wouldn’t work and that coroners needed to be responsible to voters.
Roger Conn $1,640
John Chalfin $6,550
Of note: $5,350 of Chalfin’s contributions stem from loans that he made to his campaign; Conn has funded his own campaign except for a $25 contribution.
The clerk’s office manages the flood of legal paperwork and records associated with the county’s court system.
Candidate Tammy Baitz said that she has been clerk previously, she’s already familiar with the processes of the job and that she works well with all the judges.
Baitz also noted that she would explore paperless entry of records, but that sometimes she still uses a typewriter.
Candidate Rhonda Gary is a current employee of the clerk’s office who noted that she earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working there and attending night school.
Gary said she thinks she can save money and provide better customer service by working smarter. She also thinks that the clerk’s office could shrink its workforce through attrition when older workers soon begin to retire.
Tammy Baitz $20,748
Rhonda Gary $4,745
Of note: $20,000 of Baitz’s contributions stem from a loan that she made to her campaign
Judge of Superior Court 3
This court primarily oversees civil issues relating to families, such as divorce and child custody.
Carmel City Court Judge Brian Poindexter said he would make the best candidate based on his past job performance. He also said he would like to build a place for battered women in Hamilton County.
“If we can build the Palladium, we can build a women’s shelter,” he said.
He said he would support establishing a veterans court if the stakeholders said it was necessary.
Poindexter also highlighted multiple endorsements from public safety officials.
25-year incumbent candidate Bill Hughes said he has no endorsements and that he didn’t seek any.
Hughes said that elected judges are prohibited from fundraising or advocating for a women’s shelter. He also noted that the idea of a veterans court was raised in August of 2013, but that the funding request was delayed before the county council until May of 2014.
Hughes instead relied on his experience inside the courtroom as well as his life experience.
“Experience matters,” he said.
Bill Hughes $22,891
Brian Poindexter $28,641
Of note: While much of Hughes’ campaign contributions came from lawyers and law firms, $24,000 of Poindexter’s contributions came from a loan made to the campaign.
County Council 1 candidate Andrew Dollard and Recorder candidate Jennifer Hayden had no one to debate because their respective challengers didn’t show up to the forum.
And former Carmel mayor Jane Reiman honored outgoing Carmel-Clay Republican Club president Alan Potasnik with a special proclamation recognizing his service to the party.