No City Council district has seen as much activity and improvement in recent years as Fort Wayne's Fifth District, represented by Geoff Paddock. Its voters can be proud of the role their council representative has played in advocating for the district's older, established neighborhoods and should reelect him for a third term.
At the same time, Fifth District voters should be pleased to know Republican challenger Taylor Vanover is among the up-and-comers poised to lead Fort Wayne in the future.
Neighborhoods have emerged as a primary focus in the district contests, and needs are great in many of the neighborhoods Paddock represents. But the clamor for improvements is a sign of how the district, which encompasses much of downtown and neighborhoods to its west, south and near-north sides, has been reinvigorated – in many examples with his help. Younger residents are moving into the '07 and other older neighborhoods and they are eager for change.
Their council representative has responded. It was Paddock who four years ago brought together citizens concerned for the fate of the abandoned General Electric campus. The group's enthusiasm for preserving and reusing the closed factory buildings drew the attention of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and led to the purchase of the property and the public/private partnership between the city and RTM Ventures.
There's still work to be done on the Electric Works package, but a growing list of tenants is on board. The project has spurred major investment in the adjacent neighborhood and historic West Central.
“If this isn't transformative, I don't know what is,” Paddock said of Electric Works investment. “Of all the things we could possibly spend $10 million for, this is certainly No. 1 on that transformative pyramid.”
He noted the 6-3 vote to dedicate Legacy Fund money took much persuasion.
“(Republican) John Crawford and I were partners on that in a bipartisan basis,” Paddock said. “It's something I'm proud to have played a role in and it is a main motivation for me in seeking a third term.”
He also championed development of Promenade Park and the Clyde Theatre in Quimby Village, also part of his sprawling district, and another spark of neighborhood redevelopment.
Paddock, executive director of Headwaters Park Alliance, acknowledged that not all neighborhood leaders are satisfied with the pace of improvements, but he notes some struggling neighborhoods don't have organized associations advocating for them. He has organized walks with neighborhood leaders and city department heads to identify needs.
“Not everything gets done as quickly as you would like,” Paddock conceded.
Vanover, a resident of the Oakdale neighborhood, said needed improvements were why he decided to run. He saw problems while walking and biking near his home.
“I started getting involved and I didn't know who my councilman is,” Vanover said. “He never showed up to any of the meetings.”
Vanover, an undergraduate at Indiana Tech who also works for his family's business in Wells County, said he would like for neighborhood leaders and business owners to have input in city budget plans. He said he will “go out to talk to people and bring them to neighborhood events” to propose new ideas.
But Vanover's immediate goal of studying law at Ohio Northern University – a 160-mile round trip from Fort Wayne – would seem to conflict with his ambitious platform. He likely underestimates the demands on his time.
Vanover also shares many of the same views as the incumbent. He said he would have supported adoption of the local income tax and he supports the city's partnership with Fort Wayne United in addressing crime in southeast Fort Wayne. He said he's “not opposed to anything” in terms of downtown development.
Vanover's enthusiasm makes us hopeful for Fort Wayne's future, and we hope to see his name on ballots in the years ahead. But the pace of progress in District 5 can't be discounted. Geoff Paddock has earned a third term.