2023 Newsmaker: Finkam wins Carmel mayoral election to succeed Brainard

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Sue Finkam, Carmel mayor-elect (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Carmel is preparing to welcome its first new mayor in 28 years.

Sue Finkam, a three-term member of the Carmel City Council, won the campaign to succeed Republican Mayor Jim Brainard, who reshaped the Hamilton County city over his seven terms in office.

Finkam, a Republican, defeated Democrat Miles Nelson on Nov. 7 by a 57% to 42% margin. It was a race in which Democrats hoped to gain leadership of a city that has long been a Republican stronghold.

Finkam, a Carmel resident for 16 years, grew up in the small northern Michigan town of Roscommon. She defeated Republicans Kevin “Woody” Rider and Fred Glynn in the primary election in May. She represented the city’s Northeast District on the City Council and served as council president from 2017 to 2021.

“I believe that my skills and experience match up really nicely with where [Brainard] has left off,” Finkam told IBJ in September. “He’s given us tremendous momentum from which we can jump in the future.”

Finkam has worked 30 years in marketing and human resources administration. She is principal of Carmel-based marketing and public relations firm FireStarter LLC.

Over nearly three decades, Brainard transformed Carmel from a sleepy suburb of 30,000 people into a regional powerhouse with more than 100,000 residents, more than 150 corporate headquarters, 148 roundabouts (and counting), and high-profile developments such as the Arts & Design District, City Center and Midtown.

Finkam is now charged with maintaining Carmel’s infrastructure, managing the city’s debt, increasing its housing supply and preserving its identity as a desirable place to live and do business.

“The ultimate role of a mayor is to be a great steward of the resources that they’re blessed with from the community,” Finkam said.•

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