City candidates look to capture, build upon momentum

Friday, October 11, 2019
Awaiting their first question Wednesday evening, at-large city council candidates (from left) Mark Hammer, Matt Cummings, Gary Lemon, Dave Murray and Harry Maginity take part in the Candidates Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, WGRE and the Banner Graphic.

Less than five minutes into a debate that stretched for two hours Wednesday evening, one candidate set the tone for what was largely a night of positive, constructive discussion of where the city of Greencastle is headed.

Vying for a second term in one of three at-large seats, Democrat Dave Murray highlighted the positivity and cooperation he hopes to continue to see at work in the city.

“I hope you will take note of who finds Greencastle’s glass half full and who finds it half empty,” Murray said. “I think it’s important to say that local elections are about people, not political parties. It’s about ideas, not innuendo.”

In the end it was these sorts of ideas that carried the night at the Candidate Forum presented by the Greencastle League of Women Voters, WGRE and the Banner Graphic.

Twelve candidates — seven Democrats and five Republicans — graced the stage at the Watson Forum inside the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media on the DePauw campus. Each one, in his or her own way, shared a perspective on how to move the city forward in the next four years.

Asked about ways to build upon downtown successes that started with the 2011 Stellar Communities grant and has continued with First Friday and a revitalized restaurant scene, the pair of newcomers to city politics vying for the Fourth Ward council seat said they are excited to expand upon these.

Republican Cody Eckert, who has served as a legislative aide at the Indiana Statehouse, said he believes he can help in this process by bringing people together.

“I think continuing that progress is key but that involves bringing all those people together,” Republican Cody Eckert said. “All the people with the good ideas, it involves getting input from them, bringing all the stakeholders involved together. I think that’s probably a skill that I can have and that’s an asset that I’ll bring to the city council.”

His Democrat opponent, Steve Snyder said the key is to turn the desirability of downtown Greencastle into housing and job opportunities.

“This (Greencastle) not just being a place where people can park their car and lay their head down,” Snyder said, “but this being a place they can live and they can enjoy what’s happening here in their city and raise their kids in a place that has all these wonderful options and services available to them.”

Some of the momentum on which Third Ward Democratic candidate Veronica Pejril hopes to build is the legacy of her predecessor Steve Fields, who is retiring from council after this year, as well as the unique skills each member brings to council.

“The gears of our civic government are well lubricated with bipartisan juice,” Pejril said. “Everybody on the council seems to have their own special superpower and I think Steve’s special superpower was that of building strong relationships of trust. In my 30-year career as an educator, that has been also my superpower. So I would be delighted to carry on that tradition.”

Looking toward the next four years, the five at-large candidates in attendance found a number of areas they hope to further build with a term in office.

Addressing a question about delays in construction on upgrades to Indianapolis Road this summer, 24-year GOP Councilman Mark Hammer turned it around to look at the positives, recalling a time when his own accounting firm was inconvenienced by another project.

“The final product is definitely worth the pain,” Hammer said. “A few years ago when Vine Street was reconstructed, they had to eliminate parking on Walnut and we were at the end of a dead end and people pulled into our lot. It was worth it. You can ask the owner of Eitel’s Flowers, she had to share that lot with us. It was hard to get to our businesses but it was worth it in the long run.”

Democrat Matt Cummings displayed a similar skill of turning a discussion around, responding to a question about downtown parking concerns by saying it’s not as bad as people like to think.

“I have never had to walk more than like two blocks,” Cummings said through stifled laughter. “Let’s just be realistic. We do not have a huge crisis of downtown parking. I do think if we can think through some ways to look at infrastructure that’s not being utilized, that’s a positive approach. Or if we can increase parking on two side of roads, those are some opportunities to look at.”

Seeking his second term on the council, Democrat Gary Lemon ended on a positive note, saying he has seen 40 years of improvement in Greencastle.

“We came to the county and the city and we thought it was a great place,” Lemon said, “but it’s much better, in my opinion. There’s been a lot of momentum.”

He also stated with confidence that one ongoing project for the city will come to fruition -- the long-awaited community center.

“I’m going to say there is going to be a ‘Y,’” Lemon said, referencing the facility to be managed by the YMCA. “We have the land acquired. We have architects’ renderings.”

While not shying away from the opposition standpoint on the evening, GOP candidate Harry Maginity also showed a desire to look forward for opportunities for cooperation between city and county.

“I think you always have to have a lot of conversation and dialogue and mutual trust,” Maginity said. “I think the county picking up the ambulance service is a real wonderful thing. I think we have to find out where our voids are and what our needs are and who’s responsible in those areas.”

And, of course, Murray took a glass-half-full approach, saying he still desired to continue the work started when wife Sue was mayor.

“I think Greencastle’s glass is more than half full and we need to let candidates who see it that way, candidates who see Greencastle’s momentum and want to continue being a part of that,” Murray said.

Also looking for a chance to build on momentum were four unopposed incumbents who took part Wednesday: Mayor Bill Dory (D), Clerk-Treasurer Linda Dunbar (R) and council members Adam Cohen (D-First Ward) and Stacie Langdon (R-Second Ward).

Further comments from all candidates, including those unopposed, will be printed in an upcoming edition of the Banner Graphic.

Candidates on the ballot but not in attendance Wednesday were at-large candidate Tyler Wade (R) and Third Ward candidate Haywood Ware (R).