Republican Sue Finkam wins race to succeed Brainard as Carmel’s mayor

Keywords Carmel / Elections
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Sue Finkam (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Republican Sue Finkam will be Carmel’s first new mayor in 28 years after defeating Democrat Miles Nelson in Tuesday’s election.

Finkam won nearly 57% of the vote and was preparing to take the stage to declare victory. Nelson conceded at about 8 p.m.

Finkam will take office on Jan. 1, succeeding Republican Jim Brainard, who was first elected in 1995. Brainard, who endorsed Finkam last week, announced in September 2022 that he would not seek an eighth term in office.

The race to succeed Brainard drew considerable attention to the Hamilton County suburb throughout the election. That was evident when about 950 people attended a debate between Finkam and Nelson at Carmel’s Palladium performing arts center.

Over the course of 27 years, Brainard has 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 areas such as the Arts & Design District, City Center and Midtown.

With Carmel largely built out, Finkam will steward the city through a new phase and will be charged with maintaining infrastructure, managing the city’s debt, increasing its housing supply and preserving its identity as a desirable place for people to live and do business.

Finkam, a Carmel resident for 16 years, grew up in a small northern Michigan town. She defeated Republicans Kevin “Woody” Rider and Fred Glynn in the primary election in May, while Nelson ran unopposed in the primary.

Finkam is serving her third term on the Carmel City Council, where she represents the city’s Northeast District. She was council president from 2017 to 2021. A first-term member, Nelson also serves on the city council representing the West District.

Finkam has worked 30 years in marketing and human resources administration. She is principal of Carmel-based FireStarter LLC, a marketing and public relations firm she founded in 2010.

Finkam told IBJ in September that she’s found that, overall, Carmel residents are happy with the direction the city is going.

She does not intend to make any drastic changes to what’s in place today. She’ll largely focus on keeping to the basics: paving and plowing streets, maintaining parks, supporting arts programs and keeping residents safe.

Crime prevention, development and community engagement are three major issues Finkam said she’ll focus on. Additionally, she said she cares about building on Carmel’s high quality-of-life rankings, which would entail continuing to prioritize dining options and the arts.

She would also look to invest in technology, including artificial intelligence, to help the city use data for economic development, workforce recruitment and job relocation.

Finkam plans to study how Carmel incentivizes tax-increment financing, which the city has heavily relied upon in its 21st century building boom and has been a point of contention for some Brainard detractors.

During last month’s debate, Finkam and Nelson threw verbal jabs, particularly after Nelson mentioned the Hamilton County chapter of Moms for Liberty, which apologized after it included a quote from Adolf Hitler in its newsletter in June to criticize what it sees as overreaching government control in public schools. The quote read, “He alone who owns the youth, gains the future.”

Nelson asked Finkam to join him in denouncing Moms for Liberty. She declined, drawing gasps from some in the crowd. Finkam accused Nelson of using his reference to Moms for Liberty as a way to cover for his lack of experience in city government.

Finkam won after she recorded a significant fundraising advantage against Nelson. During the election cycle, Finkam reported $915,753 in money raised, while Nelson reported $464,084, while, according to reports filed with the Hamilton County Election Office.

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7 thoughts on “Republican Sue Finkam wins race to succeed Brainard as Carmel’s mayor

    1. Gregg,

      Alexander M. is upset the truth of the modern Democrat party got revealed. You see, the adherents of the “children are property of the state” philosophy of socialism/communism were upset that they got called out by parents who care about their children and don’t want them to be indoctrinated into leftist/communism/fascism.

      It’s kind of like how the Democrat party calls their opponents “racists” yet is supportive of Hamas and other forms of bigotry. They always accuse their enemy of what they themselves are doing, it’s classic communism/socialism.

    2. Gregg and DH, IBJ is not a serious source for information. Their employees and columnists market to people like Alexander.

  1. I predict she will uncover information that will make her job impossible. She will take the blame for all of Brainard’s screw-ups. SBT will kick in automatically to pay for bond revenue shortages. It won’t be fun.

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