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Longtime county commissioner faces re-election challenge in May primary

May 4, 2018

Longtime Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman faces a challenger who promises to make county commissioner his only job if he's elected in her re-election bid for the District 1 seat.

Altman, a Republican who has served in the position since first being elected in 2002, said she believes the current commission members work well together and have made a positive impact on Hamilton County. She hopes to continue building on their work if elected to another term.

No Democrats filed to run in the primary.

Christine AltmanChristine Altman

Altman, 63, an attorney at Altman Poindexter & Wyatt LLC in Carmel, is challenged by Matt Milam, an Orchard Park resident who served as longtime president of Concerned Citizens for Home Place, an organization founded in 2004 to contest Carmel’s plan to annex the small community in Clay Township.

He also served as a Republican precinct committeeman for 10 years and held a seat on the Carmel-Clay Fire Board as secretary.

Milam, 52, who works in freight transportation, told IBJ that if he’s elected, serving as county commissioner would become his only job. The current annual salary for the position is $57,500.

District 1 represents southwest Hamilton County, including Carmel. County commissioners oversee the county’s day-to-day operations, including supervising and maintaining county property, receiving bids and authorizing contracts, recommending to the county council the amount of salary to be paid to each county officer, and overseeing hiring of deputies and employees.

matt MilamMatt Milam

Milam said he’s running for public office for the first time to try and make a difference in his community and to improve transparency among county boards.

He argues the board’s 1:30 p.m. Monday meetings should be moved to the evening because residents can’t easily attend hearings that happen during work hours. With the board meeting during the work day, the public doesn’t have the chance to weigh in on important proposals and issues, Milam said.

He also takes issue with the board of commissioners’ practice of routinely holding executive sessions—which are closed to the public—ahead of their regular meetings.

Government boards are allowed to meet privately to discuss certain topics, including collective bargaining, initiation of litigation or litigation that is either pending or threatened, the implementation of security systems or the purchase or lease of property.  

“They go into executive session virtually every time they meet,” Milam said. “Every meeting is a little excessive.”

Two areas in which he believes he can help make a difference are mass transit and reducing crime.

Milam said he’d be willing to help launch more mass-transit options in Hamilton County, but whether its trains or buses, he said the system shouldn’t be funded solely by an increase in income taxes.

He’ll also seek to help reduce the number of inmates in the Hamilton County Jail by helping to prevent people from winding up there in the first place.

One suggestion he has is allowing reserve deputies to take home patrol cars when they aren’t working. Having the vehicles out on the streets and parked in driveways will deter crime, Milam said.

Altman is seeking a fifth term and said her longtime involvement in county government will be helpful as Hamilton County’s population continues to grow. Projections show by 2050, the county will grow to more than 500,000 residents.

She said she's proud of the work the county has done over the past 15 years. She said top accomplishments during her tenure include improvements to 146th Streetwhich continue today as leaders work toward expanding the road from Boone County to Spring Mill Road—and a partnership to bring Ivy Tech Community College to Hamilton County in 2014.

Those accomplishments involved partnerships between the county, cities, states and school system, and more collaboration will be needed to keep moving Hamilton County forward, she said.

She admits the board of commissioners and the county council don’t always agree on projects or the best way to solve issues facing the county, but she it’s difficult for people to truly complain about in-fighting, considering the high quality of life and low tax rates Hamilton County boasts,

Altman said her work as an attorney, which focuses on business, probate, real estate and commercial law and involvement in the community, make her a good representative.

She was appointed chair of the Indiana Commission for Women by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor and maintains a role in the organization today.

“I do know the community, and I’m certainly invested in the community,” she said. “I have been for the past 40 years. It’s not a new thing for me.”

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