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Wells County Council
James Van Winkle
Age : 68
Occupation: Optometrist
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: Serving sixth non-consecutive term on county council
Tony Garton
Age: 65
Occupation: Retired school teacher
Political affiliation: Democrat
Political experience: Currently on county council
Vicki Andrews
Age: 56
Occupation: Treasurer of Southern Wells Community Schools
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: First election
Michael Mossburg
Age: 47
Occupation: Self-employed agricultural research
Political affiliation: Republican
Political experience: Previously ran for commissioner
Election 2012

Budget gets top billing in 4-way Wells race

Van Winkle

Four candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking three at-large seats to serve on the Wells County Council next year.

The candidates are three Republicans and a sole Democrat, and if elected they will be paid $6,624 annually over the next four years.

Republican James Van Winkle and Democrat Tony Garton are current County Council members running for re-election; spoke of keeping the county financial strong.

“The main priority of mine is to always keep a balanced budget,” said the 68-year-old Van Winkle, an optometrist.

Van Winkle is finishing his sixth non-consecutive term, having served a total of 25 years as a councilman.

He said he’s financially conservative and wants to continue because he enjoys the work and likes working with people who have opposite views, he said.

Garton, a retired teacher and a sports official, said he wants to represent the people of the county and touted the current council’s ability to give employees a 2 percent raise in the past year as a sign the county is on the right path. “Two years ago, we had to borrow from the rainy day fund just to make budget.”

Vicki Andrews, a 56-year-old corporation treasurer for Southern Wells Community Schools, is running as a financial conservative who said she wants to bring her experience with budgets to the council.

Previously, she worked in the county clerk’s and treasurer’s offices, she said.

“I’d like to find ways to move money around to take care of some things, like roads or bridges,” she said. “I’m going to work with the department heads, find their needs and maybe find some ways to shift money or cut from somewhere.”

Michael Mossburg, a 47-year-old self-employed agricultural researcher, is the most outspoken of the candidates.

If elected, he would like to possibly propose a derelict tax on owners of commercial real estate who let their property sit unused for years upon years, taking up valuable space that could bring in new business. This could pave the way for getting businesses to come to Wells County and Bluffton, he said.

“If you look at it, commercial real estate that sits empty for years becomes a drag on the economy,” Mossburg said. “I want to get active to do something with them.”

Mossburg would also like to curb what he thinks is excessive policing in the area.

While not anti-law enforcement, Mossburg said he thinks police officers in the area are pulling people over looking for drunken drivers, but then issuing tickets for small infractions like not having a license plate light or failing to signal a lane change.

These tickets add up for people already struggling in a hard economy.

“That’s not an appropriate use of the police force,” Mossburg said. “There’s safety, and then there’s excessive policing.”