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Whitley County

GOP candidates roll to wins in 3 council races

– Republicans cruised to victory Tuesday on the Whitley County Council, with voters returning two incumbents and replacing Jim Banks, who became a state senator.

In unofficial results, incumbents Bill Overdeer and Thomas Western, along with Paula Reimers, each took 22 percent of the vote in the race for three at-large seats. Democratic challengers Steven Heaston, Wes Pease and Greg Racioppi each drew 12 percent or less.

“It seemed like it might go that way,” Western said, “but you never know.”

Western, completing his second term on the council, said he wants to continue the tradition of keeping taxes low and government services aimed toward creating an environment good for business.

“We want to keep the same climate as we’ve had for last several years,” said Western, 65. “We’ve been pretty frugal and not wasted any money, and been able to have a budget every year that’s not had major cuts that hurt services.”

Overdeer, 81, echoed those thoughts, saying the council’s efforts to bring in jobs have not only led to a lower unemployment rate, but also helped assessed values increase and income tax revenues go up – enabling more flexibility in the budget.

Overdeer’s victory Tuesday will give him a seventh term on the council; he is also chairman of the redevelopment commission.

“We’ve been successful over the years in attracting industry that brings jobs to Whitley County,” Overdeer said.

Still, like most other counties, there are challenges, especially in paying for roads, as gas tax revenues have dropped across the state.

“Roads are probably the No. 1 challenge,” he said. “We’ve been using county economic development income taxes for roads, and where roads are in tax increment financing districts we’ve been using that. So we’ve been fortunate that way.”

Reimers could not be reached for comment.

Democrat Racioppi, who got 8.6 percent of the vote, said he was unable to campaign because he is a union pipefitter and has had to work near Chicago ever since he got on the ballot.

“I’m driving 232 miles a day for work,” Racioppi said. “I didn’t have time to knock on doors or anything.”

But he said he fell in love with his community and plans to run again.

“People want work, but they don’t want to compromise on stuff,” he said. “I thought I could be a go-between on things.”