Four Hamilton County Council races are on the ballot this spring, and all but one has a contested primary, meaning several new faces could join the seven-member council in January.
District 2 county council representative Amy Massillamany is the only incumbent seeking re-election who doesn’t have a May challenger. She will advance to the General Election as the Republican candidate; Democrats have not yet fielded an opponent for that November race.
In contrast, four Republicans have tossed their hats into the ring in the May 8 primary for District 4. Incumbent councilman Paul Ayers is not seeking re-election
Only one of the four seats up for grabs has a competitive Democratic primary. There are two Democratic contenders for the District 3 primary, and two candidates on the Republican side.
The seven-member council holds the county’s purse strings, setting annual budgets (about $170 million for Hamilton County this year), appropriating additional funding throughout the year and signing off on the issuance of bonds.
County Council, District 1
In District 1, which encompasses part of Clay Township, incumbent Republican Fred Glynn is challenged by Sue Maki.
The Republican who prevails faces Democrat Jeremy Eltz in the November election.
Glynn, a Carmel resident first elected to the county council four years ago, said he’s seeking re-election because he still has goals he hopes to accomplish.
If he wins a second term, he’d like to spend the next four years implementing a new budget system—called zero-based or priority-based budgeting—in Hamilton County. Essentially, rather than starting with the budget a department had the year prior and adding on, the county would begin with a budget of $0, and department heads and council members would build a new budget every year. Doing so allows the county and department heads to evaluate each year the funding they need to run their department and eliminate unnecessary spending, Glynn said.
“We have to be more creative on how we spend our money so we can deliver the right services to the county overall,” he said.
Maki, a political newcomer who serves as the city of Carmel’s manager of environmental initiatives and education, hopes to use her experience on community boards in Hamilton County to serve residents in District 1.
She was executive director of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy for three years, past president of the Rotary Club of Carmel and has been a board member of the Hamilton County Tourism Commission.
With all that community experience, running for office seemed like the logical next step, Maki said.
“I love this community, and I’m thinking about what it’s going to be like in 25 and 50 years from now,” she said.
County Council, District 3
Incumbent Steve Schwartz, a four-term county council member, is challenged by Republican Mark Hall in the District 3 council race.
District 3 includes Noblesville, Jackson and White River townships.
Schwartz, owner of Schwartz’s Bait and Tackle in downtown Noblesvillle, said his biggest accomplishment over the past 15 years has been working alongside the people who have helped make Hamilton County the No. 1 place to live in Indiana.
He’s seeking another term to continue that momentum and see projects that started under his term get completed, including a roughly $17 million jail expansion.
His opponent has been critical of the relationship Schwartz has with members of the board of commissioners. Campaign finance reports show two of the commissioners—Christine Altman and Mark Heirbrandt—have together donated $5,000 to Schwartz’s campaign since the beginning of the year.
Hall, founder and president of Indianapolis-based Pinpoint Resources, argues Schwartz can’t hold the commissioners accountable if they’ve financially supported his re-election campaign.
But those donations, Schwartz argues, show he has a strong record of working with others to push important projects forward, he said.
Hall, a 30-year resident of Noblesville, said he’d provide a fresh prospective and new voice to the council. He’d push for more transparency and thoroughly scrutinize county expenses.
He’s a fiscal conservative who has decades of experiences running a business, which includes making and sticking to a budget, he said.
“I can sit on the sidelines, or I can try to be something different and try to help my friends and neighbors in Hamilton County,” he said.
Democrats Jeremy Hawk and Gregg Werling also seek a primary win to challenge the Republican who prevails in November.
Hawk, chief financial officer for Indiana School for the Deaf, said he’s running to give residents options.
Right now, there’s nobody in county government who represents his views or political ideology, he said.
He guesses most citizens don’t know what the county council’s responsibilities are, and he wants to change that while improving transparency, he said.
Werling, who was a teacher for 30-plus years, said he's running as a concerned citizen. He doesn't want new taxes implemented. And when existing taxes are raised, he wants county leaders to involve the public more in the process, he said.
As a teacher in Lawrence, he was president of the Lawrence Education Association and helped successfully negotiate two contracts for more than 400 teachers, he said.
That experience and others have shown him how to run meetings and work with others to accomplish consensus, he said.
County Council, District 4
Four Republicans hope to succeed Paul Ayers as the county councilman serving District 4, which represents Adams and Washington townships and part of Clay Township.
Ken Alexander, Sheldon Barnes, Christine Pauley and Rick Sharp are looking for a primary win to move onto the General Election, when the Republican winner will face Democrat William Howard II.
Alexander, vice president at Carmel-based CTI Construction, said he views serving as a county councilman as giving back to his community.
If elected, he hopes to inspire other residents to get involved in local government and to increase collaboration among the municipalities and counties, he said.
His experience in construction management would be beneficial to the county as it takes on large construction projects, he said.
Barnes, who works in information technology, said he’s running to keep taxes in Hamilton County low and to maintain the area as the best place to live in the state.
But his priorities also include helping to end the opioid epidemic, maintaining a good relationship between law enforcement and citizens and cutting down on recidivism at the county jail.
“I’m an ordinary person who can come up with a fresh new idea,” he said.
Christine Pauley, who currently serves as clerk-treasurer for the city of Carmel, said she hopes to bring the financial knowledge she’s gained in that position and from work in the private sector to serve county residents.
She understands better than any of her opponents the nuts and bolts of government finance and how financial decisions made by government boards impact taxes, she said.
“With all that experience, I’m the boots on the ground that actually does the work,” she said.
Rick Sharp, who works in sales at Sharp Laundry Consulting, has been involved in Hamilton County government for years. He’s served on the Carmel Clay Plan Commission, Carmel Redevelopment Commission and the Carmel City Council, where he was elected to president six times.
He’s running for county council because he wants to serve as a checks-and-balance system to the board of commissioners to protect taxpayers, he said.
He set 12 budgets during his time on the Carmel City Council and said he can ensure the expenditures proposed by the board of commissioners are in the best interest of Hamilton County taxpayers.