A Sept. 26 column, “Experience matters,” concluded with the question; “Why would we trade this accomplished leader for a neophyte?”
I agree with the headline because experience does matter. I was also pleased by the final question proposed as it raises a conversation voters should be engaging in. The author's implied answer to this question and understanding of what type of experience best serves our community are both points where I must disagree.
Experience does matter, and both candidates for mayor bring a wealth of experience with them. Mayor Tom Henry is running for his 40th year in elected office. There is no doubt that Henry, with his four decades of government experience, is committed to the interworking of bureaucracy. I commend his commitment to our city, but I believe that after 40 years it is time for a fresh perspective. No healthy organization keeps the same leadership in place for 40 years and thrives. The same is true for government.
Tim Smith is hardly a neophyte. Tim and his family know and love our community – it is their home – and this is why he is running to make our city the safest, smartest, and most prosperous city in the Midwest.
In his professional life, Tim has served on the leadership team at MedPro Group. At MedPro, Tim leads a team of more than 350 people who together ensure the company's 250,000 clients receive the service they deserve. Tim is responsible for implementing major technology overhauls and the writing and signing of multimillion-dollar contracts.
All of this experience is applicable to the mayor's office.
Recent events have shown us that our city should expect more when it comes to the negotiation and enforcement of contracts. Tim has served as a member of the Northeast Indiana Partnership's Job Attraction Committee. In this role, Tim has demonstrated a willingness and understanding of the work necessary to attract new, high-paying jobs to our region. This is one of the most glaring examples of where our city can and should be expecting more.
Elections are an opportunity for citizens to examine the state of their city and have a conversation about what sort of experience the leader of their city should have. This demands an honest conversation about the state of the city.
Under the visionary leadership of Mayor Graham Richard and Mayor Henry's commitment to fulfilling that vision, downtown Fort Wayne has come a long way. We are all thankful to have a more vibrant downtown, but now is the time to leverage this asset for the benefit of our entire community.
Under Henry's leadership, job growth in Fort Wayne has been one-tenth that of the national average (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008-18). Wages for residents of the Summit City remain below the state and national averages (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Meanwhile, the property tax rate has increased by 56%, and a new city wheel tax was levied (2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, City of Fort Wayne). Citizens are earning less and paying more in taxes. Despite all the tax increases, Fort Wayne's long-term debt has increased 230% under Henry's administration (2017 financial report).
Tim Smith has promised to repeal the wheel tax and implement zero-based budgeting to restore fiscal discipline to our city. Tom Henry has claimed that zero-based budgeting simply cannot be done because that is not the way the government has always done it.
This brings me back to the opening question. What type of experience matters? I argue Tim's 25 years of business experience and community involvement provide him with a unique portfolio of experiences that will provide a fresh perspective to lead our city.
In response to the question “Why would we trade this accomplished leader for a neophyte?,” I ask, can we afford another four years of Tom Henry and simply doing things the way we always have?
Darren Vogt is a local business owner and former member of the Allen County Council.