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Candidates
Allen County Council At large
Robert Armstrong
Age: 52
Occupation: Allen County Solid Waste District, heavy machine operator
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: Allen County Council, 4 years; Wayne Township Trustee, 12 years; FWCS School Board, 4 years
Bill Brown
Age: 61
Occupation: CEO, Summit City Electric
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: Allen County commissioner, 2007-2010
Roy Buskirk
Age: 68
Occupation: Owner, Roy Buskirk Real Estate, Ossian
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: Allen County Council, 2002-2012
Gina Burgess
Age: 39
Political experience: None
Occupation: Office manager and paralegal; owner of Model T Bicycle Rentals
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Associate’s degree, paralegal, Ivy Tech
Dennis “Denny” Sprunger
Age: 58
Political experience: Ran for state Senate District 13 in 1988; lost to Bob Meeks
Occupation: Teacher, Southwest Allen County Schools
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Master’s degree, elementary education, Ball State University, 1982; bachelor’s degree, elementary education, Goshen College, 1977
Sharon Tucker
Age: 40
Political experience: None
Occupation: Office manager, 1st Source Insurance
Political affiliation: Democrat
Education: Working on a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management at Indiana Tech
Election 2012

Spending, jobs drive county council races

Brown
Sprunger
Burgess
Armstrong
Buskirk
Tucker

– Three Democrats and three Republicans will vie for three at large Allen County Council seats in the Nov. 6 election.

Candidates include two incumbents, a former county commissioner, a longtime educator, a businesswoman and a local activist.

The four-year term pays $15,475 annually, plus insurance benefits.

Robert Armstrong

Balancing the county budget to ensure smart spending and less spending of taxpayers’ dollars should be the top priority of a council member, Armstrong said.

“I would work with the other council men and women to ensure that we cut un-needed spending,” he said.

An operator of heavy equipment for the Allen County Solid Waste District, Armstrong was elected to the council four years ago.

Armstrong said that experience, plus 16 years working with budgets as the Wayne Township trustee and as a Fort Wayne Community Schools board member, qualifies him to be a fiscally responsible councilman.

Roy Buskirk

Buskirk said the county’s main concern is jobs, and he is working on a project that he said will attract new businesses and jobs.

That’s why he says he is excited about the work of the Joint Oversight Permitting Board, a combined venture of the county and Fort Wayne intended to streamline the permit process for developers and builders, making it much easier for them to choose Allen County for future growth, he said.

Buskirk chairs the group, which is about halfway through the project – and one of the reasons he is running for re-election.

“I would like to see it through to completion,” he said.

The improved process would attract new development and jobs, Buskirk said.

The process is meant to enhance what he calls “an already good reputation for working with developers and contractors,” he said.

More development and jobs would result in the county realizing more in local option income tax revenue and would move the county to look at areas other than property taxes for increasing revenue, Buskirk said.

Buskirk was an Army sergeant in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 and has an associate degree in business administration and finance from International Business College.

Bill Brown

Brown proposes to keep taxes low yet provide quality infrastructure, by supporting community and economic development.

“The only effective way we grow revenue is by increasing assessed value and incomes, Brown said.

His knowledge would be helpful in developing a county budget, he said, and his communication skills could be a key component in building relationships. “In trying to create the best outcomes for the county, so much depends on relationships,” he said.

Brown served one term as Allen County commissioner from 2007 to 2010.

He said that experience plus his role on several nonprofit and local economic development boards and his extensive business background would enable him to be an effective councilman.

Brown, a master and journeyman electrician, attended the University of Saint Francis and IPFW, where he studied electrical engineering. He started Summit City Electric Co. in 1978.

He is also the owner of a real estate and property company, Appleseed Enterprises LLC, and is a business coach.

Gina Burgess

A top issue is how county government has to continue to operate with variable revenue, while at the same time operating with increasing costs and finding ways not to pass the buck to the taxpaying public, Burgess said.

The only way to handle that challenge is with specific budget cuts, starting with a hard look at the individual habits of the different departments, she said.

People are frustrated with the way things are being done and don’t understand where their tax dollars are going, Burgess said.

“I’m hoping to bring about more transparency, accessibility and accountability in local government” if elected, she said.

Burgess became known last fall as an advocate for a man who won the primary election for Fort Wayne City Council but was later removed as a candidate when it was discovered he was registered to vote in Green Bay, Wis., where he had voted in a primary.

Dennis Sprunger

Sprunger, a 30-year educator, agrees with other candidates that the county’s No. 1 priority is job creation and retention.

“The actions of our state government have created new challenges for our county, and I would advocate state legislators to support and legislate for county services and departments,” he said.

Sprunger said he would encourage and work to enhance the partnership between new and existing employers and county government. “This partnership is an investment by our county in abatements. I will work to track our abatement investment and show the positive return on our abatement investments. I will advocate the Indiana state legislature for Allen County to modify laws that drain our county dollars needlessly,” Sprunger said.

He cited a law requiring the Allen County Sheriff’s Department to pay for pre-existing conditions of inmates.

“This is draining our county dollars, Sprunger said. “We must work to improve the resources available through state dollars.”

Sprunger is the past president of East Noble School Corp. Association and past president of Southwest Allen County Teachers Association.

Sharon Tucker

Reduced revenue will continue to be the largest challenge faced by the county council, Tucker said.

“The focus should be on forward thinking, with ideas and suggestions for departments to modify their future budgets,” she said.

While campaigning this summer, Tucker said she learned that people are looking for representation.

“The status quo of leadership has become comfortable and fails to represent the very people who have elected them into office,” Tucker said. “Looking over the voting history of the current council, most items passed with a 7-0 or 6-1 vote, with little to no deliberations.”

Tucker finds it interesting how many candidates refer to themselves as being fiscally conservative.

“There is a large difference between seeking the best option with available funds versus having no funds to utilize and calling yourself a fiscal conservative,” she said.

Starting as an unknown candidate, Tucker managed to outraise her opponents.

“We worked hard to raise money,” she said. “Realizing that we needed to raise name awareness, we searched ways to get the best ‘bang for our buck.’

“It’s this common sense approach to budgeting I plan to bring to the council table.”

vsade@jg.net

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