By MATT KOESTERS
CLARK COUNTY —
The Clark County Council is guaranteed to get an infusion of fresh blood in 2013.
All three of the council’s at-large seats are up for grabs, and with Perry Smith falling in the Democratic Party primary and Chuck Moore declining to run for another term, Democrat Kevin Vissing is the only incumbent with a shot to return for another term.
Including Vissing, six candidates — three Democrats and three Republicans — are in the hunt for the three seats, and the top three vote-getters will join the council’s four district representatives to set the legislative agenda for the county.
Voters Nov. 6 can vote for up to three of the following candidates:
THE INCUMBENT — KEVIN VISSING
Vissing, 56, is running for re-election after wrapping up his first term on the county council, and also serves on the county extension board and the Clark County Solid Waste District board.
Vissing has worked for Vectren Energy since 1985.
“I work for a heavily regulated utility company, and I deal with regulations every day,” Vissing said.
Vissing touts the values instilled in him growing up on a dairy farm in rural Clark County.
“I just enjoy making things go, making things work properly,” Vissing said. “I just feel like my qualifications are just good common sense.”
Vissing sees the county’s lack of funds as its top challenge, and worries that it might hamper economic development in the county.
“Clark County is growing leaps and bounds, and we’re getting ready to really grow with the [Interstate] 265 interchange as well as River Ridge,” Vissing said. “Our county’s really not prepared for that because of a lack of funding. Most counties our size have probably $20 million in their county-general budget, and we have about $14.5 million.
“It’s going to be very difficult to run the county government on that.”
THE CHALLENGERS — RON BROGAN
A first-time political candidate, Republican Ron Brogan brings an extensive background in accounting and finance to the race.
Brogan, 66, a retired Naval Reserve captain, has also worked in the banking and real-estate industries. He is a graduate of Hanover College and earned his MBA at Indiana University.
“I had the time, and I thought now is a critical time in our history,” Brogan said. “I believe I have the qualifications — otherwise I wouldn’t put my name in the hat — and I’m very concerned about our community. I think I can contribute.”
Brogan’s goal is to work toward a balanced Clark County budget. He points to current County Councilman Brian Lenfert as the standard after which he’d model himself.
“In fact, he’s been my mentor,” Brogan said. “I don’t know him that well, but I do know him, and he’s about 35 years younger. Of the council meetings I’ve attended, he’s well-informed and certainly is as well-informed as anybody that’s been there for a period of time.”
Though a Republican, Brogan does not consider himself partisan, and says he is willing to work across the political aisle.
“I think I can work with all of them, and I certainly don’t see any personal problems working with the council,” Brogan said. “I can learn from them.”
Brogan sees the county’s budget as its biggest challenge.
“It was approved [two weeks ago], but there’s just so many areas — unforeseen items — expenses — that I’m not sure at this point how we’re going to manage,” Brogan said. “But that’s the challenge, and I think you need the best people on the council for creative ideas and making the difficult decisions.”
Khuri, 53, was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary with 3,106 votes, 751 more than the next top candidate for county council, despite having never run for office.
Khuri, an office manager, also is co-founder of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots. Khuri said her frustration with county government inspired her to run for office.
“I’ve been going to the meetings for almost three years now, and I just felt like I could be the one that will dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions than some of those that are sitting on there right now,” Khuri said.
Khuri acknowledges that she does not possess the education of some of her fellow candidates, but said her personality will help her succeed as a council member.
“I don’t have an MBA or anything like that, but I’m tenacious, I’m inquisitive, I’m not afraid to ask tough questions,” Khuri said. “I don’t base my decisions on politics or anything else. I base them on what’s best for the county and what’s good for the taxpayers.”
Khuri said she expects to work well with the majority of the council if elected, but says she offers something a “little different” from her would-be peers.
“I’m more the type of person that will ask the questions of department heads that come wanting extra appropriations,” Khuri said. “I work well with people, as far as that goes. But I don’t know — I’m more outspoken. Some prefer to stay in the background and just vote yeah or nay on issues. I’m more the type of person that will dig in and research.”
At 24, Lynch is the youngest candidate for county council in this year’s election.
A single father, part-time Indiana University Southeast student and machine technician at Accent Marketing, Lynch is running on the Republican ticket as a first-time candidate. Lynch said he is studying economics and human-resources management, and feels his communication skills will make him a good addition to the council.
“I’m running because I feel like the county is kind of going in the wrong direction financially, and I want to ensure that we can get the county back to a stable financial situation that I know and we all know that it can be,” Lynch said.
Lynch opposes tax increases, and wants to work with county department heads to find opportunities for savings.
“We’ve got to be able to prioritize what we need and kind of get away from what we want within the county, and focus on what we need, and try to be able to balance the budget to where we’re not going on like they may have in the past,” Lynch said. “Right now, the biggest problem that we have is the budget, and my goal is to work with the department heads to find a solution so that we don’t ever have to get to the point of having to raise taxes.”
Lynch feels that his youth and lack of political experience is a plus for the taxpayers.
“I look at it as being an absolute pro,” Lynch said. “The reason for that is I haven’t been around politics. I haven’t been around local or anything as far as politics goes. I don’t have any ties with anybody to benefit anybody else but the taxpayers.”
Popp, 52, a county council member from 1997-2001, was the top vote-getter in the Democratic Party primary.
Popp has experience working in the financial sector.
“I’ve previously served on the county council, so I’m very familiar with the different departments, the funding, the revenue sources,” Popp said. “Also, I’m in the financial sector now. I actually work as a mortgage broker, and I have also worked for other companies where I’ve been in charge of multimillion-dollar budgets.
“I certainly understand how to find the different areas, prioritizing the needs of the different areas based on the needs of the company. Of course, this would not be a company, this would be the county as the entity.”
Popp said she recognizes the county’s finances are its top problem, and she said fixing the problem comes down to establishing spending priorities.
“The challenge of the county council is how to best allocate those funds, with efficiency of course,” Popp said.
Popp’s first term in office was during an economic upswing. She says she sees another one on the horizon for Clark County.
“I think Clark County is a hotbed for economic growth right now with our posturing in the state, with the new [east-end] bridge. We’ve got River Ridge. We’ve got an airport,” Popp said. “I just think we’re in great position for an economic turnaround.”
Ross, 46, a Charlestown resident and Democrat, is a rental-property owner and has served as controller for Independent Piping for 20 years. Ross says she’s running because she’s alarmed by the financial situation in Clark County government, and says the county is spending money it doesn’t have.
“If I don’t have money to pay for something, I can’t just go out there and buy something or tell somebody I’m going to give them this money,” Ross said. “We live on budgets in today’s economy. You’ve just got to learn how to stick with those budgets and quit giving money to things that are unnecessary that the county doesn’t need.”
If elected, Ross promises to be able to work across the aisle with Republicans and with the commissioners.
“It’s kind of like a marriage,” Ross said. “There’s give and take in every relationship. Whether you’re in county council or you’re a commissioner, you’ve got to work together because we’re not going to solve anything if we keep arguing with everyone.”
Independent Piping is partially owned by Commissioner Les Young, who is running for re-election this year. Additionally, Ross’ husband, Jim, is the Clark County highway superintendent. When Ross was asked about her family’s relationship with Young, she said she would be an independent voice in the county council, and that her family’s income is not solely dependent upon Young.
“I’m willing to work with anyone, and it has nothing to do with Les Young, [Commissioner] Ed Meyer or my husband,” Ross said. “This is me. This election is about me, not them.”