Local, State, & Congressional Candidates Take Center Stage: Insights from the Recent Political Forum

WTRE and Greensburg Daily News proudly hosted the 2024 Primary at Wolf Theatre on April 13, 2024 at 9:00 am. 

Tim Peck, Democratic Candidate for  U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana’s 9th District was the only U.S. House of Representatives to attend the forum so instead of questions he was allowed five minutes to speak. Tim Peck spoke about living on a farm in Clark County with his child and wife. He is a physician who has worked in Emergency Medicine. Mr. Peck said, “We have many problems in Indiana and District 9 that we must solve.” Tim stated that he will  work for all Hoosiers and not just one side of the aisle. He did state that he was a lifelong Independent and just recently moved to the Democratic Party as a fiscally conservative Democrat.. Tim said he has a passion for uniting all Hoosiers. As Tim ended his speech he spoke about when he was in an exam room with someone with a broken bone he never thought about if the person was a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or an Independent. He helped all when they were in his Emergency Room and he will represent all when he is elected the same way. 

Alex Zimmerman, Republican Incumbent Candidate for Indiana State House of Representatives District 67. Alex was the only candidate to attend the forum representing District 67. Alex spoke about what he has accomplished while in the state house. Alex was caucused on July 17, 2023, upon Randy Frye’s retirement for District 67. Alex stated that he is proud to bring common sense to the state house. He said that he continues to fight for rural Indiana while he is at the state house. He is an attorney. Alex wants to work to make the government work better for everyone, one of the examples given was cutting red tape. Alex also would like to push broadband and other communication. A concern of his is ensuring that public safety servants can communicate when out on an emergency call when they are in the county. He said they should consider offering incentives to build communication towers to do this. He said that he would also like to get to the bottom of the one million dollar FSSA budget shortfall. 

Edward Comstock II, Republican candidate for Indiana State House of Representatives District 73. Edward is a 21-year veteran. He wants to work to cut taxes, specifically the gasoline & diesel tax. He spoke about how these inflated taxes are causing everything to cost more. Edward said that he is great at listening to issues and working to create ways to solve them. During the forum, Edward stated that he felt school boards should handle creating rules and guidelines rather than the state legislation. He went further to state that he feels that parents should have the right to be a part of their children’s education. When speaking about mental health issues that concern District 73, he said that every 22 of his brothers and sisters (Veterans) commit suicide and agrees that we must do something about mental health. He said that he is a big supporter of possibly the Township Trustee and the County Commissioners being more active in Mental Health. Edward said that he would love to get to a point of no property taxes. He said when the lottery was voted in back in 1988 it was supposed to go to the schools and he can’t find where those funds are going to the schools. He said that if we limit bonds at schools we will see our taxes decrease. 

Jennifer Meltzer, Republican Incumbent candidate for Indiana State House of Representatives District 73. Mrs. Meltzer has been an attorney for 15 years, worked as a Deputy Attorney General, and is a wife, and is a mother. Jennifer said that at times it is a constant fight while in session at the state house that Indiana is not only Marian County. She fights for everyone in her district to be represented. Jennifer said that if a school board is not being transparent and doing what they should be doing then the state should step in. She is also on the PTO at her child’s school and works with the schools. Jennifer stated that she has written 7 bills with 6 of them being heard and approved. Jennifer spoke about proudly supporting legislation that created 988, which is a phone number for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis to get guidance on what to do. She co-authored a bill that had to do with competency evaluations in courts. If someone needs help then they can get help quicker this way. She stated that she is looking forward to getting more done if re-elected. Jennifer wanted to also state that many bills that get passed are bi-partisan bills. Jennier is for reducing property taxes however stated that there must be a balance not to take away from those services that are locally funded by those property taxes. 

Hollie Payton, Democratic candidate for Indiana State House of Representatives District 73. Hollie states that she is a voice for all. She said she is not a lawyer, a doctor, or even a seasoned politician. She is just who she is and wants to work for everyone. Hollie believes in checks and balances instead of supermajorities. She agrees that school boards should be in charge of the schools as those elected to the school boards are elected or appointed by the community the school is located. She states that she is tired of hearing and voting for the party instead of the person. Hollie stated that she focuses highly on Disability Rights as she has a son with Autism and he is amazing. She said that to make progress with mental health we must first remove the stigma that is attached to it. She added that mental health concerns do not all stem from Fentanyl and drug use. Hollie believes we should work to reduce property taxes but we must be careful how far not to interrupt services. She added that we need to also be careful what tax abatements we approve as well. 

Andrew David Brunni, Republican candidate for Decatur County Council At-Large. Andrew grew up in Decatur County, and went on to graduate from Purdue University and then to Indiana Wesleyan where he focused on non-profit work and education. He has a background in marketing and currently is co-owner of Doughnut Central. Andrew said, “I have a problem with the tax increases Decatur County has seen and I believe we can do better for the taxpayers.” Andrew stated that he does not support the food & beverage tax. He spoke to the idea of a 6 million dollar pool and how that is not going to increase Decatur County’s population. He said that we must do more for connectivity in the county and that we should look at private companies that could get us to the next level. His priority is to serve the taxpayers. Stop over-taxation. He said that the Council needs to bring the Food & Beverage Tax back up and then properly vote it down and stop pushing it down for later. Andrew has also signed a term limit pledge to not be on council for more than 2 terms if elected.

Janet Chadwell, Republican candidate for Decatur County County Council At-Large. Janet has served as our County Auditor 4 terms as of December 2024. She is a lifelong resident and she and her husband have raised their children in the county. Janet feels with her time as the Auditor it will provide her the opportunity to bring that knowledge to the County Council. When asked about the pool she said that she believes that we need to have the funding in place before we do the design work and go any further. She does not believe in adding any other taxes to the taxpayers. Janet states that her priorities are taking care of the staff of the county and the buildings that the county must maintain. She said that we must start looking at being proactive and making sure county property is maintained instead of waiting until something happens to fix it. Janet said to reduce taxes we must first reduce our spending because County budgets are tight. 

Rob Duckworth, Republican candidate for Decatur County Council At-Large. Rob has been an EMT, Paramedic, Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy and has been involved throughout the county in various forms. He runs his campaign on the promise of “Working better together.” Rob is in support of the food & beverage tax. He compared the cost of the food & beverage tax to when you go to Mcdonalds and select to round up for the Ronald Mcdonald House or when paying your REMC bill donating the rounded up change to Operation Roundup. He believes in promoting and ensuring that we have a strong public safety network and we must keep moving forward. Rob would like to see additional transparency with county finances so that it is readily available to the community instead of having to go into the courthouse and request them. Rob’s priority is to take care of people. 

Ernie Gauck, Republican incumbent candidate for Decatur County Council At- Large. Ernie is a Purdue graduate and is always willing to listen and to maintain efficiency. Ernie said that he is in favor of replacing the pool, however, he is not in favor of spending 6 million dollars. He said that we must figure out what we want before we talk about money. He is against the food & beverage tax.Ernie said we need a functional pool but that we do not need a resort pool. Ernie believes that we need good infrastructure and great public safety and we must put value to what’s important to help more Decatur County forward. He said that one of his priorities is to review the budget and then decide what needs to be done while at the same time being efficient with taxpayer’s money. 

Bill Metz, Republican incumbent candidate for Decatur County Council At-Large. Bill has been a lifelong resident of Decatur County. He is a farmer and understands what makes Decatur County what it is. Bill sits on several local boards offering his insight and experience. Bill believes that the pool is a necessity for Decatur County but that Council can work through Edit money and he is not a supporter of the food & beverage tax. He believes that we must prioritize what is important to us as a community and then see what we can afford using the tax dollars that we currently have available. Bill’s priority if elected is getting a pool for the community and working on building our mental health supports in the county. 

Rick Nobbe, Republican candidate for Decatur County Council At-Large. Rick was a Decatur County Commissioner for 12 years. He has worked in sales, marketing, and communications. He believes that we need a pool in the community however it needs to be a modest pool. Rick spoke about his involvement with the new jail in Decatur County and the process that they went through to ensure they were doing that as modestly and as well as possible. If elected Rick would like to see the county accrue additional money to be able to pay for projects up front instead of leaning on increasing taxes once the project is complete. He wants to make sure that Decatur County continues to be safe and secure and be a community where residents want to grow old. If elected Rick said he will take a deep dive into the county’s finances and look over the revenue and expenses to gain a more secure understanding of what we currently have and what the county’s priorities should be. He wants to be a part of the county continuing to grow. 

Tony Blodgett, Republican incumbent candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 1. Tony currently serves as District 1 Commissioner and has since he was caucused into the position in 2023. Tony is a veteran and served 10 years on active duty and 4 years on reserve. Upon returning to Decatur County Tony worked as Jail Commander and then as Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy. Tony was Jail Commander when the new jail was being decided and he helped in the design work of the jail. Tony spoke about his dedication to transparency and being readily available to the public to discuss concerns that they have. Also Tony said that he plans to continue his monthly open discussion meetings held throughout the county. He spoke about the need for important conversations to be had in the public vs. behind closed doors.  He spoke about his push for more accessible evening meetings and is proud that the Commissioners decided to do 50% of meetings in the evening. Tony believes that we must focus on growing the Decatur Counties population to lessen the tax burden on current taxpayers. Tony said we must continue to invest in our community to be attractive for others to want to relocate here. Tony said that we must focus on all of the county including Westport, New Point, Westport, St. Paul, and other incorporated and unincorporated towns. Tony is for a pool but feels that we must know where the funding is coming from. Tony said we have several projects on the table and we must know where we are funding these projects. When Solar Farms were discussed Tony stated that the government should protect freedoms however when you are affecting your neighbors or someone else’s property values and living that is when we should look harder at the situation. 

Melanie Nobbe, Republican candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 1. Melanie currently serves Decatur County as a Decatur County Council member at-large since 2020. Melanie works as a restaurant manager in Shelbyville, IN. She states that she currently is a board member for the Friends of the Greensburg & Decatur County Animal Shelter which raises funds to help take the fiscal burden off of the county for the shelter. Melanie stated that she voted no on food and beverage. Melanie said that she is also not a fan of tax abatements in the county. When asked about Solar she said, “We cannot stop what people do with their property. But we can stop tax abatements for those projects.” Melanie believes in being open and honest and would like the county to have social media sites for both the county and commissioners. Melanie spoke about housing and said that Decatur County must have affordable housing. She spoke about the need to move forward with the tipping fee for Best Way to pay and she believes that the truckstop in St. Paul should pay a tipping fee due to the increased traffic in that area.

Brian Wenning, Republican candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 1. Brian is currently the City of Greensburg Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief. He has several years working within nonprofits and boards throughout Decatur County. He spoke about his time and dedication to his church. Brian states that he lives by this rule. God First, Family Second, and Work Third. Brian states that he is against solar farms and he believes we should protect precious farmland. He said that there is an ordinance section 20 that the BZA has made in the past and more then likely they will follow that. Brian said that BZA will have the call to approve or not. What he is focused on if voted into office is where to use that additional tax revenue that will come from the Solar project(s). Brian said that he plans to prioritize what is important and look at the county as a whole and not just focus on the city of Greensburg. He would like to see county finances be more readily available to the public. 

Nic Asher, Republican candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 3. Nic said that he is a lifelong resident of Decatur County. He and his father started Asher Trucking with just a few trucks to now have tractor-trailers. He is a proud farmer. Throughout his life, he has had and continues to build upon his assets of integrity, hard work ethic, responsibility, and the ability to work together. He said that he doesn’t believe that solar should be put on valuable farmland. He then asked the audience if anyone thinks solar is farming. He said that he believes that farming is crops and animals as it has been for decades. Nic wants to create an attractive place for people to want to move to. He said that overall roads are good in Decatur County but that we need to address the berm concerns of having such large drop-offs on the side of the county roads. Nic believes in transparency and maintaining open lines of communication. He ended by saying that he will work for you.

Deanna Burkart, Republican candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 3. Deanna has been serving on the Decatur County Council since 2019. Deanna spoke about her earlier years stating that she had moved 30 times before she graduated school. However, Decatur County is her home and has continued to be her home. She spoke about working three jobs to get through college and her ability to be adaptable while working and going to college. Deanna spoke about her work in environmental consulting, sales, and as the Director of the Arts Council in Greensburg. She is a proud farmer. She said she is proud to live here. When asked about the solar project she said that she doesn’t believe solar should take valuable farmland. She said valuable farmland is worth more than turning it into solar farms. Deanna said that if elected she would be able to offer the ability to not only be in contact and work with local government but maintain working relationships at the state level. Deanna said that she values the views and opinions of all that she serves. Deanna did say that something she would do was get the Commissioners to create a new Comprehensive Plan. Our current Comprehensive Plan is from 2014-2015. Deanna asked those in attendance and on the radio to think about our own homes and how much has changed since 2014. She said that is why we need to update the plan.

Mark Koors, Republican incumbent candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 3. Mark has been a Decatur County Commissioner since 2016. He has been the Commissioner President since 2020. Mark has lived in Decatur County for 60 of his 65 years. Mark states that he is a firm believer in property rights. He said that every Friday he travels to Indianapolis to their office headquarters and he passes several solar projects over carports and other uses that are not utilizing good farm ground. He doesn’t believe farm ground should be used for solar. He said he believes we need to focus on adding homes to lower tax burdens on individuals. He also sits on the EDC board and works collaboratively to bring in new business to the county. Mark also spoke about while being a commissioner he has been a part of the jail and the highway garage coming in under budget. He also spoke about how the county general has grown approximately 8 million dollars since he was elected in 2016. Mark states that he is available for anyone to contact him at any time. He said he truly believes that he works for the people. 

Gabriel Nobbe, Republican candidate for Decatur County Commissioner District 3. Gabriel is a father and a husband. He currently resides in Decatur County and is proud of this community. He does not believe in putting a solar project on farmland. He states the Board of Zoning Appeals will make the final decision on the solar project(s). He believes in creating a plan for how to forecast finances and expenses for the future so planning can be done. He believes that mental health has become an important part of the country and down to our county. He believes that the county must work harder to work towards a solution. Gabriel said that he is running for all residents. He believes in putting everything open to the public to ensure transparency. He would like to see all meetings become evening meetings so that they are more accessible for those who work. 

*All candidates running in the 2024 Primary Election were invited to attend. The insights above represent all candidates who participated in the Political Forum.*

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