The Journal Gazette
Saturday, September 25, 2021 1:00 am

County Council opening draws look

Shine: 4 hopefuls interested in Benz seat

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Four “well-known and well-respected” community members had already expressed interest in an Allen County Council seat as of Friday afternoon, just one day after Republican member Joel Benz was chosen to lead Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

Steve Shine, Allen County Republican Party chairman, shared the number Friday but declined to disclose the names of those who have contacted him, saying it's their place to announce candidacies.

“Any one of them would be a good member of the team,” he said, adding that additional well-qualified people might step forward to vie for Benz's seat before the party chooses a replacement.

Benz plans to submit his resignation letter to Shine on Oct. 4 with an effective date of Oct. 21 – following the county council meeting that day, Shine said.

Council members plan to vote on the county's 2022 budget during the Oct. 21 meeting.

“We thought it was best that he continue to serve through the county budget process,” Shine said, adding that the decision ensures consistency.

After receiving Benz's resignation letter on Oct. 4, Shine will formally contact the 57 precinct committee members for the 3rd county council district.

The caucus to select a replacement will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 30 at Allen County Republican headquarters, 135 W. Main St.

The position will be filled before county council's next meeting, Shine said.

“There will be no vacancy on council,” he added.

The last Republican caucus to fill a county council seat was about 15 months ago, following Larry Brown's resignation from the 4th District seat.

Brown resigned under pressure over remarks he made disparaging local protesters who took to the streets in reaction to the death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody.

Republican Chris Spurr, a 45-year-old Realtor, was elected on the third ballot. He defeated military veteran Emery McClendon and local attorney Apryl Elizabeth Underwood, who would have become the first Black Republican county councilwoman. McClendon is also Black. Spurr is white.

Shine backed Underwood in that contest, saying she would bring a new generation and diverse presence to the party.

Benz, who is a paramedic for Three Rivers Ambulance Authority and Parkview Hospital, on Thursday was unanimously approved by the ambulance authority's board to become the organization's next executive director.

Gary Booher, who led the ambulance authority for 32 years, retired effective Oct. 1 but has been on paid time off since Sept. 7. His exit follows concerns about the organization's staffing levels.

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