Fishers voters made their second forward-thinking choice in as many years on May 6 when they picked Town Manager Scott Fadness in the primary election to run as the Republican nominee for mayor.
In a 2012 referendum, Fishers residents decided to morph from a town into a city effective Jan. 1, 2015. The primary to choose who will run to become the new city’s first mayor was a clear signal that not only do the residents want a different kind of community, they also chose the obvious leader to carry out that vision. (Fadness has yet to draw general election opposition in the heavily Republican suburb.)
As a result, the fast-growing community is on a trajectory to continue edging into an era of building its economy and creating an identity more distinctive than simply oceans of new rooftops and chain restaurants.
Fadness’ main opponent, former Town Council President Walt Kelly, in effect advocated for a continuation of traditional suburban development, an approach that does little to create a sense of place.
Now the 32-year-old Fadness, a member of IBJ’s 2013 Forty Under 40 class, should keep doing the things he has advocated since being named town manager in 2011. Keep talking about his vision of the future. Keep persuading residents that Fishers can be more than an outpost of Indianapolis.
Bringing along residents who oppose a new kind of Fishers will be more important than many think. Despite an overwhelming fundraising advantage fueled by the local GOP establishment, Fadness didn’t win by a wide margin. He collected 4,274 votes to Kelly’s 3,881. The other four candidates collected a total of 1,056.
The close race might reflect that both men had effective campaign organizations. In addition, some residents might have thought Fadness too young to take over a city of 81,000 when the 66-year-old Kelly was available.
But the race between Fadness and Kelly was mostly a referendum on Fishers’ future, and Fadness would do well to convince the substantial minority who voted for one of the other candidates that his vision is best for them, too.
Fadness should make the most of opportunities to generate tax revenue from Fishers’ Interstate 69 exits and continue his makeover of the downtown into a vibrant, walkable magnet for white-collar businesses and college-educated residents.
If Fadness turns Fishers into a destination for dining and culture in addition to a place where people retreat after work and raise their families, the elusive but crucial identity will follow.
If Fadness succeeds, the state’s newest city will benefit, and so will all of the other communities in the Indianapolis area.•
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