Local, state candidates meet with public at Farm Bureau forum

Friday, October 20, 2006

Assistant Editor

Several state and local candidates took advantage of an opportunity presented by Putnam County Farm Bureau Thursday as they appeared at a "Meet the Candidates" forum at the Putnam County Fairgrounds.

And the real fireworks exploded when the two candidates for Putnam County Sheriff took to the podium.

Challenger Tom Helmer (D) accused incumbent Mark Frisbie (R) Thursday of running a poor administration.

"He has proven that he is not fiscally responsible," Helmer said during his five minutes at the podium. "I will not mislead the public. It's time for a change."

Helmer, who served as sheriff from 1999-2002, said Thursday that Frisbie has spent more than $2 million more than Helmer since Frisbie took office.

He also challenged remarks Frisbie has made in the past regarding the methamphetamine epidemic the county has faced in recent years and how he has spent funds to clean up the jail, among other items.

Frisbie took to the podium following Helmer and said he intended to run a "clean" campaign.

"Obviously my opposition doesn't want to run a clean campaign," Frisbie told the audience.

Frisbie told the audience Thursday that the county is top in the state regarding cleaning up methamphetamine use.

"We have made great strides in dealing with (methamphetamine)," Frisbie said.

Several other candidates met with citizens Thursday at the event.

Indiana House District 44 challenger Richard Thompson (D) was the first candidate to speak to those at Thursday's event.

The Parke County resident told the audience he hoped to serve the district well.

"I would like to serve you," Thompson said. "I've been walking door-to-door and I've been hearing a lot of issues.

"It's been really interesting. I've met a lot of interesting people in Putnam County."

When taking the podium, incumbent Amos Thomas (R), who replaced his son Andy when he resigned in July, talked about how he wanted to investigate new sources of income for local government. Thomas said he would be interested in pursuing possible county sales taxes and income taxes to lesson the burden of property taxes.

"If I'm elected," I will do what you want me to do," Thomas said.

Challenging county prosecutor candidate James Ensley (D) said he wanted to bring accountability and accessibility to the position if elected.

Ensley said he would consider bringing the office closer to the community by establishing office hours throughout the county towns.

Incumbent Tim Bookwalter (R) told the audience Thursday that "experience in this race is the key."

Bookwalter told the audience his administration has battled the methamphetamine epidemic to the best of its ability and has taken on 1,300 child support cases.

"I've charged 80 people so far," he said. "It works."

County Commissioner candidates Russ Evans (D) and Jim Baird (R) also met with the audience Thursday.

Evans jokingly told the audience he had recently stocked up on Pepto Bismol for the next few weeks, but expressed his desire to continue improving county roads and bridges before hitting his time limit.

Baird also expressed an interest in roads and bridges and county land use before exceeding his time limit.

County Council incumbents Keith Berry and Darrel Thomas, both Republicans, also met with local citizens Thursday. Both talked about ways to reduce property taxes.

"I'm always looking for ways to reduce property taxes, and there are ways out there," Berry said.

Berry said he was willing to investigate implementing a possible food and beverage tax to help reduce property taxes.

Thomas echoed Berry's sentiments and added he was interested in a possible local sales tax as well.

"I think we're doing a pretty good job," Thomas said.

County Recorder candidates Carol Fagin (D), and Jeanette Summitt (R) also met with citizens Thursday as did Greencastle Township Trustee candidates Doris Miller (D), and Thelma Bumgardner (R).

The evening event, sponsored by Putnam County Farm Bureau, has been a regular staple in election years for many years.

"We had some excellent candidates," Mann said.

Mann added the purpose of the meet-and-greet session is for citizens to hear candidates' views in order for the public to make the best decisions come election day.

The next public debate for the candidates will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the Watson Forum of DePauw University's Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.

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