By MATT KOESTERS
CLARK COUNTY —
As Clark County’s government continues to struggle with a tight budget, two of the county’s commissioners face election challenges.
In District 1, Democratic incumbent Ed Meyer is challenged by a political newcomer in Republican Rick Stephenson. In District 2, Democratic incumbent Les Young squares off against former county council member and Republican Jack Coffman.
MEYER VS. STEPHENSON
In addition to being a three-term commissioner, Meyer also served four years on the county council. Meyer, a school teacher employed by Greater Clark County Schools, is running on a platform that puts his experience first.
“Experience is number one,” Meyer said. “I have had college courses on budgets and financing, and combining that with working through 16 county budgets have given me the insight and knowledge of what needs to be accomplished.”
Stephenson, his opponent, is running for political office for the first time after retiring from the Army Reserve at the rank of sergeant-major. Stephenson is certified in several military occupational specialties, including financial auditor, internal review auditor, personnel specialist, accounting specialist and computer systems analyst.
“I’m running for commissioner because my love of public service with the federal government and with the Army Reserve,” Stephenson said. “After I retired, I just decided to continue on. Also, the state of affairs within Clark County is one of the other reasons. I have a financial background in budgeting, and I feel that Clark County has more of a spending problem than an actual revenue problem. So that will be one of my emphases when I get into office.”
Meyer says he has worked with the State Board of Accounts, taking credit for a clean audit performed on the county by the auditing agency in 2011. He said he also worked with the SBA to minimize the county’s budget problems, which he blames on the decisions of the 2007 county council.
“We are not where we should be yet, but it is my goal to achieve a realistically funded budget by the year 2014,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he recognizes that the county’s budget is its top challenge, and says he helped make experts available to the county council as they struggled with budget decisions.
“With this said, I am constantly working closely with One Southern Indiana and the Reuse Authority of River Ridge to promote more business and industry,” Meyer said, “not only to bring in good-paying jobs, but also help support the tax base to lessen the burden on homeowners. I am also striving to develop infrastructure to make other parts of our county attractive to business and industry.”
Stephenson lists the budget as Clark County’s biggest problem, but he said the current commissioners are a part of another problem with county government.
“The present administration, and I’m talking about most of them, feel that the individuals and the citizens of the county work for them, when actually the opposite is true,” Stephenson said. “Our politicians have lost touch with the residents of Clark County. We need to be out in the county. We need to be seen in the county. We need to know what issues are affecting all portions of the county.”
Stephenson said he would do a better job of working with the county council on issues facing the county.
“We’ve got a great bunch of people on the council now,” Stephenson said. “We just need to sit back and have everybody check their egos at the door and understand that the more we get done, the better job we do. It’s not about Democrats, and it’s not about Republicans. It’s about the council and the commissioners. If we all work together and we accomplish great things, then they don’t have to worry about being re-elected. The people will want us to stay on and work together.”
YOUNG VS. COFFMAN
Young is part-owner of Independent Piping, and is running for his second term as commissioner. Young touts his 27 years of business experience, and says he’s running for re-election because he wants to see through the projects that began under his watch.
“There’s several road projects that are just getting started,” Young said, “one that has not been awarded yet, some other ones that are still on the books and need to be done that have not yet went through the process. I want to stay on so I can see those jobs through and make sure that the county continues to grow.”
Coffman served on the county council from 2007-2010, serving two terms as council vice-president and a year as president. Coffman operated Coffman’s Chimney Sweep for 30 years before becoming an associate broker for Schuler Bauer Real Estate Services.
“I’m running for commissioner because I’ve had many Clark County residents — they want to see some respect, integrity and transparency restored to the commissioners’ office,” Coffman said. “And because of my previous experience on the county council, I’ve been asked by many people to run, and that’s the reason I’m running. I love this county, and I just want to see it get back on track and bring back some respect to the office.”
Coffman said he believes that because of his former role as a county council member, he will have better luck getting the commissioners and the council to work together better.
Working with the county council is something that could improve, Young conceded, but said the election of Barbara Hollis to the post of council president helped this year.
“I think that they felt a lot more comfortable, and they seem to work with us better,” Young said. “It’s always a little bit of a — you need to be able to respect each one’s territory and not step on people’s toes is what it is, what it comes down to. Let them do their job and we’ll do our job.”
Coffman and Young are familiar with one another. Young called Coffman “a nice guy,” while Coffman complimented Young’s work ethic.
“I think Les is a hard worker and everything, but at the same time I think I can have a better relationship with the county council than what he did,” Coffman said. “That’s my hope there. Nothing against Les personally. I just think I can bring a better spirit of cooperation to county government, and I’m talking about county government as a whole.”
Both men named the county’s budget as its top challenge, but Coffman believes that’s a symptom of a larger issue on the horizon, as the construction of new bridges between Kentucky and Indiana will call for improvements to the county’s infrastructure.
“We have to be prepared to develop our infrastructure for that and for the economic growth that’s going to mushroom from that,” Coffman said. Coffman went on to say that identifying funds from the state and federal government will be the key to developing the county, and as a self-employed man, he’ll have the time to identify opportunities for funding.
Young said the solution to the budget issue is prioritizing the county’s needs.
“My solution is to make sure that we spend all of our money wisely and spend it — as you get it, spend it on projects and things that need to be done first,” Young said.