Candidates talk about issues

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

Just days before the election on November 2 candidates gathered to give the voters the opportunity to hear the issues at a town hall type meeting at the South Ripley Elementary School on Monday, October 25. The event was sponsored by the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates for both the local and state offices were in attendance to answer questions presented randomly posed by moderator Cathy May and from those in the audience.
First up was Trent Decker representing District 9 US Representative Baron Hill who was unable to attend. Decker presented some issues important to Congressman Hill such as creating jobs for Indiana, ensuring the success of small businesses and fiscal discipline such as a balanced budget.

When asked to consider what would be the issues for the next Congress, Decker explained that the creation of jobs and ensuring that Hoosier veterans receive both the financial and medical assistance needed are most important for the State.

Running for the first time was Jerry Lucas, a write in candidate for District 9 US Representative. Lucas is a nurse who also served as a combat medic and provided his services at Ground Zero after 9-11 and at Biloxi, MS, after Hurricane Katrina.

“I am here to prove that you don’t need to spend a million dollars just to run for Congress,” he said. He questioned if there are jobs available then why are there so many Hoosiers out of jobs. “If you are going to spend a million dollars then spend it on something that’s going to benefit us,” said Lucas.

He said that the common person does not have the voice of Congress anymore. “It is time for someone to say that it is about you,” he continued.

Lucas’ question was provided by Family Connections in Versailles regarding funding for programs that benefit needy families that has sustained large cuts by the State. Lucas was asked how he proposes to fund these programs.

According to Lucas, he will propose to reduce spending for support in other countries without taking funds away from the troops serving our country and taking care of our country’s needs first.

Running unopposed for the Indiana House of Representatives District 67 and also a first time candidate is Randy Frye. “As a man with a diverse background I believe that I have a unique opportunity to serve you,” said Frye.

Local candidates also had the opportunity to introduce themselves and speak on issues important to them. Juanita “Dee Dee” Kaiser explained that her goal as a member of the county council is to continue to maintain a balanced budget for the county.

County Council District 3 candidate Bill McDonald, who is a current employee of the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department, explained that if elected he would abstain from any vote regarding pay, but feels there would be no conflict of interest voting on policy matters.

Ed Armbrecht, candidate for County Council District 4, explained that there are funds available to build the proposed courthouse annex in cash. He noted that several years ago the county government took steps to keep the county in the black by cutting spending. “The county is well off financially,” said Armbrecht, “but it is due to those who worked to reduce spending five years ago.”

Sheriff Tom Grills, seeking re-election in November, was posed a question regarding the utility vehicle purchased for the sheriff’s department such as what funds were used to purchase the vehicle and was it used for more than just parades.

Grills explained that the funds to purchase the vehicle came from the commissary fund. The fund is generated by prisoners being allowed to purchase non-essential items not provided by the department. According to the sheriff, the vehicle is used for security at events such as the fair, the F.A.R.M. Club show and the Friendship shoots.

Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel, running for re-election, was asked to explain his greatest accomplishment while in office. Although he has worked with CASA and other child advocacy programs as well as serving on the Safe Passages board, he would rather look to the future.

According to Hertel, Indiana ranks number two in meth production, a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. “I want to look to the future and make a positive effect,” said Hertel.

Tim Taylor and Denise Fields are running for South Ripley School Board. Taylor, currently serving on the board, said his vision for South Ripley was to continue to provide a quality education for its students.

Fields said she would use her education to improve education to bring students to the “next level to better prepare them for higher education that will be needed for the current job market.”

Questions from the audience were varied from concerns for property tax relief, loss of funding from land line phone fees for the 9-1-1 call centers, and adequate police protection for Ripley County residents.

Jud McMillan, running for State Representative District 68, proposed to provide property tax relief by cutting programs to reduce spending. According to McMillan, he has a plan that outlines his proposal that addresses these concerns.

Bob Bischoff, who is seeking re-election to the State Representative District 68 seat, challenged by McMillan, explained that the proposed tax cap for properties was misleading. He said although homes, real estate, and businesses are capped at a certain percentage, the cost would continue to increase if assessment value increased. He noted that in order for the tax cap to become a part of the constitution, it would need to be passed in two consecutive general assemblies.

Sheriff Grills was asked how he would improve the office of sheriff if elected. He explained that one of his goals is to institute a database that would coordinate the jail, dispatch system and the case management system. He said another goal is to lobby the county council to increase deputies.

After all the audiences’ questions were answered, the event was adjourned in order for the candidates to speak one on one to the voters and further address issues important to them.

(Editor’s note) Not all of the candidates were able to participate in the event held Monday evening. Those not in attendance have been listed in the newspaper to inform voters of their choices.