By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Maybe Ted Heavrin should be involved with the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, D.C. With his no-nonsense style and bipartisan approach, he could probably get things kick-started in our nation’s capital.
But what may be viewed as a strength by many probably sealed his fate in last May’s primary when Heavrin, president of the Floyd County Council, finished fourth in the Democratic Party primary council At-large race and was eliminated in his attempt for a fifth term on the council.
Some of his decisions have not always sat well with voters and members of his own party. He said he knows a group of Floyd County Democrats led the charge to get him defeated this year. He said it bothers him, but he also knows it’s politics.
“I was told several people sent a letter out to not support me. I think I have always done what is best for the community, but some people turn their back on you. It’s tough,” said Heavrin, who will preside over his final council meeting tonight. “I have always considered myself a conservative Democrat. You have to vote for what is right.
“I am not bitter. When some in your party run against you or don’t support you, what are you supposed to do?”
TIME WELL SPENT
Heavrin, 71, said he is proud of his four terms on the council, and the way he conducted meetings as president. He also said it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, he believes council tried to do what is right for the taxpayers.
“We have always worked together,” he said. “They say I am hard-nosed but I don’t let meetings get out of control. I let them talk, but you have to have control [of meetings].
“One thing I know, I always put the community first. I didn’t do this for me. It’s not about me, it’s about the taxpayers.”
Heavrin, who is the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office Chief, said he also has been criticized for swaying votes or encouraging other council members to vote in favor of pay increases or other benefits for officers of the sheriff’s department. However, he said as president he never votes unless there is a tie and that he has never told anyone how to vote.
“When I am here [chief’s office], I work for the sheriff. When I am on the council, I work for the council and the taxpayers,” he said. “We would have work sessions and if they had questions I would answer them. But I never tried to persuade anyone.”
Councilwoman Dana Fendley agreed.
“Ted is an awesome leader,” said Fendley, a Republican member of the council. “We got along on most of the main issues. He never let his position as police chief come into play. He would always stay out of the vote when it came to that.
“He would give us the facts and let us make our own decisions. Ted will be missed.”
IN THE FUTURE
Heavrin said the new council “will have their hands full” with several challenges next year, including funding two murder trials and keeping the county financially solvent. He also said many residents have no idea how much it costs to operate the jail, which is busting at the seams.
“The county picks up the burden of the jail and the inmates’ medical. That all adds up,” Heavrin said. “We have to fund the trials and pay for jurors’ rooms and food. People really need to come to our meetings to know what is going on.”
The council is responsible for a yearly budget of about $14 million, and $5.6 million of that is taken up by the sheriff’s department.
“People think this is a part-time job. But it’s not a part-time job. You really need to be here to know what is going on,” Heavrin said of being on the council. “I will help support them [council] any way I can. Just because you lose doesn’t mean you give up on the community.”
Council Vice President John Schellenberger, a Republican, said Heavrin brought a lot of experience to the group.
“Ted has done a good job,” Schellenberger said. “Even though he is the police chief, when items concerning the police department came up he declined to vote. Both Ted and Larry McAllister [former council president] treated me fine and were very informative. They showed me how the council works and I am appreciative to both of them.”
Heavrin said he will continue to function as the Floyd County Police Chief as long as his health is good. He also said he may run again for an elected office — like the Floyd County Council.
Republican Lana Aebersold will take over as the senior member of the council having been elected to three terms. She said for the first time in her tenure, Republicans will have the majority on the council, and she is also excited about Schellenberger likely being the next president. However, like her peers, she said she is sad to see Heavrin leave.
“I will miss Ted. I think he has done a good job and he has been a good leader,” she said. “We [the council] have always worked together. My theory has always been to do what is best for Floyd County, and I think we have done that.”