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April 29, 2012

ELECTION 2012: Political veterans seek Floyd council spots

All three incumbents seek re-election for at-large seats

NEW ALBANY — Eight candidates — four Democrats and four Republicans — have the same goal heading into the May 8 primary election. That’s to fill one of the three Floyd County Council at-large seats this year.

Voters will have to decide May 8 the slate of candidates who will move on to run in November’s general election. Three candidates, from each party, will advance following the primary. All three al-large incumbents, Democrats Ted Heavrin, Carol Shope and Brad Striegel, are running for re-election. A fourth Democrat, Larry Clemons, hopes to unseat one of the three May 8.

On the Republican side, Steve Burks, Billy Stewart, Jim Wathen and Cam Wright will square off for the right to move on. All but one of the eight candidates have either held political office, are currently sitting on the council or have unsuccessfully ran in previous elections. Wright, 21, is the only political newcomer.

DEMOCRATS

All three at-large members hope voters give them another opportunity to sit on the county council. Heavrin, who is a 16-year council veteran, said experience is “very important” when it comes to working with budgets during difficult economic times.

“The next four years I think are going to take someone with experience, someone who has worked with the budgets,” said Heavrin, who is also the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department chief. “You have got to be able to work together. I think we work well with the office holders and each other. We don’t play politics. We do what is best for the residents of Floyd County.”  

Shope is seeking a third term on the council. She said there is still a lot to accomplish, which is why she is seeking re-election.

“I think if we handle our money right, we will be OK,” she said. “It’s been tough for everyone. I am an optimist and always in favor of quality-of-life issues.”

Striegel said he feels good about the council’s accomplishments over the past four years.

“I feel like I have helped improve the quality of life in the community, but much more work needs to be done,” he said. “I think we have done a pretty good job, but there is always room for improvement.”

State property tax caps, as well as funding the upcoming third David Camm murder trial, continue to pose budget challenges for the council. However, Heavrin said Floyd County is in better financial shape than other counties, including Clark, due to the current council doing its job.

“Our budget is not great, but we have been able to keep our heads above water,” he said. “You know a lot of times fresh eyes don’t know what they are looking at. You have got to have some kind of knowledge and experience. Experience is what I am running on. I am dedicated to the people in this county.”

Striegel said the council needs to continue to find ways to increase revenue.

“There is a big challenge on our hands. We have to look at creative ways to boost revenue or you have to cut services or raise taxes. Those are your three options. The county is growing, which is good, but that requires more resources ... police, fire and road repairs, which are challenges with our budget issues. Funds are drying up as years go on. They say we won’t feel the full effects of the property tax caps until 2013, so we are not there yet.”

Larry Clemons, who is no newcomer to politics, is looking to unseat one of the three incumbents in the primary. He said he will always be accessible to the voters. Clemons was unable to be reached for this article, but did respond to a News and Tribune candidate questionnaire.

“It’s time for someone to speak up for the taxpayers and the residents of all of Floyd County,” Clemons said in the political questionnaire. “All of our decisions and votes should be made with everybody’s concerns, not for a few people.  

“I know how to balance a budget. I know what it means to the people and for their family and household budgets when our local governments continually overspend.”

Clemons said taxes and infrastructure are the most important issues facing the council.

“I will be a hands-on councilman,” he said. “I will see where and how our tax dollars are spent, and make sure the tax money is spent wisely and where it is supposed to be used.”

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