Suburban Issues and Local Government and Fishers and Hamilton County and Elections and Regional News and Government & Economic Development and Government

Election key step in town's change into city

May 4, 2014

An Indianapolis suburb will begin the transition from the town to city this Tuesday, as voters in Fishers vote in its first municipal primary election.

Over the past 25 years, the formerly close-knit farming community has metamorphosed into a cluster of growth sprawled across more than 33 miles. Despite a handful of local industries and office buildings, most of the community's 81,000 residents work elsewhere, chiefly in the state capital to the south.

Some people feel that living there is enough. But others want to follow the path of Carmel to the west, which has transformed from a bedroom community for Indianapolis into a self-contained city in its own right, though it still remains a suburb.

"Fishers has kind of an identity crisis," Greg Purvis told The Indianapolis Star. Purvis led the push to reorganize the town as a city.

"Is this a bedroom community? Do you want commercial development? What kind of commercial development? There is this struggle to identify ourselves as who we are and who we want to be. And that's kind of an unanswered question right now," Purvis said.

Most residents didn't live in Fishers 10 years ago, so this election won't necessarily be predictable based on its predecessors. Besides its first-ever mayor, Fishers will also elect seven members for the new city council and a city clerk.

Tuesday's ballot for city offices contains few Democrats, and all of the mayoral candidates are Republicans. The new municipal government will take over on Jan. 1.

"Is it going to lose the feel that most people moved there for? Yes," added, Mike Kraus, a physician. "It clearly is. You can argue that it's good or bad."

His wife, Molly Kraus, says Fishers used to have a "small-town feel."

"It was safe. It was quiet. It wasn't a bustling city," said Molly Kraus, a businesswoman who moved from Indianapolis in 1993.

Change has already cost part of the town's past. The town council voted in February to demolish the local train station but maintain its platform to make way for a 120-unit mixed-use apartment building.

Molly Kraus' petition to stop the train station demolition received only 534 signatures from residents. She believes the movement to save the railroad station didn't get enough publicity.

Morton Marcus, a retired business professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the town has to sustain itself economically before it can become a real city.

"Fishers has to have a diversified economy," said Marcus, former director of the Indiana Business Research Center. "There's no community in Indiana or anywhere else that can support itself without having a mix of commerce — some industrial uses, some commercial uses. They're very important. You can't just do it with rooftops.

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