News and Tribune

October 31, 2012

Challengers face incumbents in race for Floyd County Council

Six candidates vying for three at-large spots

By CHRIS MORRIS
chris.morris@newsandtribune.com

FLOYD COUNTY — The face of the Floyd County Council could change following the Nov. 6 election. Two incumbents running for re-election face challengers and the council president, Ted Heavrin, was defeated in the May primary and will be leaving the council Jan. 1.

Currently, the council is made up of four Democrats and three Republicans. On Election Day Nov. 6, voters will choose three of six at-large candidates.

Incumbents Carol Shope and Brad Striegel seek another term and will be joined on the ticket by fellow Democrat Larry Clemons along with Republican challengers Steve Burks, Billy Stewart and Jim Wathen. Voters can vote for three of the six at-large candidates.

DEMOCRATS

Shope, 69, is seeking a third term on the council while Striegel is completing his first term. Clemons finished third in the Democratic primary ahead of incumbent Heavrin, and will also be on the ticket.

Shope said she wants a third term to finish some unfinished business.

“I believe there is still a lot that needs to be accomplished,” she said. “I have a good sense of direction and vision where we should be headed.”

Shope said working with the city and funding a third Camm trial are at the top of the list.

“We don’t have a choice, but I am not happy about it,” she said of another Camm trial. “I would like to see 911 dispatchers brought together to save money. There is just too much division between the city and county. Floyd County is just not big enough for us not to get along.”

Striegel, 34, said the “greatest challenge facing Floyd County is the budget.” He said he would like to see the county grow, which would help bring in more tax dollars.

“I would like to see the county attract new businesses,” he said. “I want to meet with business leaders to see what can we do to attract businesses to Floyd County.”

Striegel also said he wants to work better with the city.

“It doesn’t look like we will be able to mend fences concerning the parks, but I know the county will do what we can to keep parks open and not compromise services,” he said. “I hope some good comes out of this. Maybe we can restructure some things.”

Shope, a former school teacher and business owner, said she wants to focus on quality-of-life issues.

“I have been encouraged to run again by several groups. I like politics,” she said. “We desperately need more businesses in the county. I’m proud of downtown [New Albany] but the fringe area is growing.”

Striegel said the upcoming capital murder cases definitely “put a burden on the budget.”

“The budget shortfall has been an issue for several years. I want to make sure quality of life is not affected by those murder cases,” he said. “I’m tired of [David] Camm being an excuse for not getting behind important issues.”

Calls made to Clemons seeking comment were not returned.



REPUBLICANS

“I think people in this county are ready to make a change, from the top down,” said Stewart, 52, a Republican and former president of the Georgetown Town Council. “I think we will do well if people vote for the person and not the party. If people vote party lines, we probably lose. It would be nice to pick up two of those seats.”

Currently, all three At-large council members are Democrats. Wathen, 64, who lost in a recount to Larry McAllister for a council seat eight years ago, hopes to get the nod this time.

“I hope folks give me their support this time around,” he said. “I only have to be in the top three this time around. I have learned in Floyd County to win as a Republican, you have to have some Democrats vote for you. Hope I get enough of them.”

Wathen said he thinks it’s time for some new faces on the council.

“I think the council could use some new blood and some new thinking from time to time,” he said. “I’m not saying they have bad leadership. I just think they need some new ideas.”

Wathen, who worked in financial services for more than 30 years, said he wants to know more about the county’s budget process. He also said he wants a strong parks department.

“You have got to have enough people on the council who believe in the parks. You have got to focus on quality-of-life issues in order to attract people and businesses to your area,” he said.

Stewart said from attending county council meetings in the past there is too much rubber-stamping and not enough questions asked.

“There is no questioning on spending ... no priorities at all. They just rubber-stamp everything without asking questions,” he said.

He points to the Floyd County Garage and how the council approved unnecessary spending to replace items following a fire at the facility a few years ago.

He also said the county and city must find a way to work together.

“Splitting the parks department was not a good thing to do,” he said. “What about the employees? Will there have to be layoffs? We can’t keep playing political games and must look for ways to provide better services and save taxpayers money.”

Burks, 52, lead pastor at New Albany First Assembly of God Church, said more questions need to be asked when it comes to spending money.

“Spend less than we make and ask the question ‘is it a wise thing to spend money on or a good thing,’” he said in his election questionnaire. “My answer is we spend it on wise things.”

He also county government needs to become more transparent through “innovation and technology.”

“While it may sound simple, people have become cynical when it comes to politics even on the local level,” he said. “I think we must earn trust again.”

Burks did not return a call seeking comment for this preview.