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Harrison County Council, At-Large


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October 22, 2008
Three Democrats and two Republicans seek the three at-large seats up for grabs on the Harrison County Council this election cycle. The positions are elected countywide. The Democrats include Corydon businessman Richard Gerdon, former councilman and commissioner Steve Haggard and incumbent Chris Timberlake. The Republicans are former commissioner Jim Heitkemper and Harrison County Veterans Service Officer Marion Wallace.

Richard Gerdon

Age: 49

Address: Corydon

Spouse: Rilla Gilham Gerdon

Children: Brian Gerdon, 28, married with one child, and Kevin Gerdon, 24, married with two children

Occupation: (former to present) Manager and part owner of Nelson's Firestone in Corydon, Gerdon Auto Sales, currently asset manager at Community First Bank

School year and graduated: 1977 graduate of Corydon Central High School

Additional education:

Political affiliation: Democrat

Previous political experience: None

Duties of position sought: Budgeting and allocating funds after listening to the needs and concerns of our constituents.

Why are you seeking office? I have lived and worked in Harrison County all my life, owned a business here, raised a family here and want to be involved in seeing the county move forward. I would like to contribute something to that process.

What qualifies you for the office? I can identify with the majority of taxpayers concerning the challenges and struggles they face regarding property taxes, job opportunities, rising fuel costs, etc. My job gives me a unique perspective on the overall landscape of life in Harrison County. My job gives me opportunities to be involved in community activities. I am a good listener but, more importantly, I am a good problem solver. I believe my business experience and people skills would be an asset on the council. I won't be afraid to say no to requests based on "wants" than "needs".

What do you consider top issues in the campaign? Having the county in good financial position should we lose the riverboat revenue and seeing more riverboat revenue put toward lowering the school debt to lower property taxes.

Past councils have reached a yearly budget well over the recommended amount by their financial advisor but have supplemented the budget with funds out of the riverboat. Should this practice continue? Why or why not? Never having served on the council, it's really hard to answer that question. But, I believe that being more conservative regarding requests brought before the council could prevent the need for dipping into the riverboat funds.

This year's council debated the idea of paying all county government employees of the same title such as first deputy, second deputy, etc., the same salary. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? Yes I do because it's simple and fair.

What one major change needs to be made in the work of the county council? Why? By never serving on the council, I'm not aware of any one thing that needs change. I do know that working together as a team with the council, commissioners, elected officials and county departments will always produce the best outcome for everyone involved.

Other comments: If I have a campaign slogan, it is: "No nonsense, just good common sense." I'm asking for your vote.

Contact information for voters: 736-1139 or rgerdon@c-f-b.com

Steve Haggard

Age: 58

Address: Corydon

Spouse: Terri Haggard

Children: Dawn, Aaron, Sarah, Michael and four grandchildren

Occupation: Livestock broker, auctioneer, real estate agent

School and year graduated: Corydon Central High School, 1968

Additional education: College, two years

Political affiliation: Democrat

Previous political experience: County council, four years; county commissioner, four years; Democratic party chair, four years

Duties of position sought: Supervise and manage the county budget, listen to the proposals of the commissioners and assist in the allocation of county monies.

Why are you seeking office? I am a lifelong resident of Harrison County. My children grew up in this county, and currently I have grandchildren growing up here. I feel I have a responsibility to give back to the county and have a duty to help ensure a good, bright future for our young people.

What qualifies you for the office? My experience serving in many organizations throughout the county, along with my previous four years (one year as chairman) on the county council and four years (four years as chairman) on the county board of commissioners has given me eight years of education in running county government after being voted into office. The past eight years have given me fresh perspective regarding the social and economic changes this county has experienced and will continue to deal with in the future. It is a privilege to serve in county government, and I would appreciate the chance to utilize my experience and education in assisting the county to stay on the right track.

What do you consider top issues in the campaign? I think experience is a top issue in this campaign. As budgets tighten in the state and money dries up, it will be crucial to work hard on the county budget and make cuts where necessary, being fair to all departments. Riverboat money should be used as a last resort. Other top issues include money allocated to maintain all county roads, maintenance also covers widening and proper drainage and working closely with the commissioners to bring new industry into the county for much needed jobs.

Past councils have reached a yearly budget well over the recommended amount by their financial advisor but have supplemented the budget with funds out of the riverboat. Should this practice continue? Why or why not? When the county voted for the riverboat, everyone wanted roads blacktopped and, being a bedroom community to Louisville, this enhanced our area for people relocating. It seems that our commissioners, council and the zoning board worked harder on family dwellings than a priority on bringing in business. The fact that the cost of living for everyone, including the county employees, the expense of utilities, gas and equipment, and doing business on a day-to-day basis leaves this county no alternative but to dip into the riverboat funds and continue to do so. There will never be enough money in the county budget unless taxes are raised. Increasing taxes is one thing I'm completely against. I do believe that we need to work hard on bringing industry into this area, as this will provide good jobs and help ease the burden of taxes on property owners.

This year's council debated the idea of paying all county government employees of the same title, such as first deputy, second deputy, etc., the same salary. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? No. I think people should be rewarded, as in any job, on their skills and the number of years, based on the position they hold. If not, then they should not have a a title, such as "first" or "second" deputy. I believe that people should be paid according to their qualifications and job performance, emphasis on job performance.

What one major change needs to be made in the work of the county council? Why? We need to work with the commissioners to actively seek new industry and bring new jobs and more revenue into the county. Residents need local jobs. The cost of transportation outside of the county is unaffordable for a large majority of our taxpayers. Our children and our grandchildren currently have no future to build on here. They commute or physically move to further their education in order to have a decent job. Once they complete their education, they continue a costly commute or end up unable to move back to the county they grew up in because of their jobs. The young people are our future, without them our county has no future. The investment in our young people goes hand-in-hand with economic development.

Other comments: I think it is important for county officials to have an open mind and ear to what taxpayers are wanting/needing done, to be their voice and be more accessible when they call. County officials work for the county; therefore, they work for the taxpayers and should listen to their ideas with respect and consideration, while promoting a good attitude. The people of Harrison County are the untapped treasure that will help county government do a better job.

Contact information: 366-3532, at thehag1@epowerc.net (e-mail) or at www.haggardforcouncil.com

Jim Heitkemper

Age: 51

Address: Elizabeth

Spouse: Sara

Children: Seven grown children between us: Elizabeth, Michael, William, Sarah, Joy, Christina and Micah, and seven grandchildren

Occupation: Home improvement contractor and farmer

School and year graduated: Floyd Central, Class of '75 (Dad's farm was a stone's toss into Floyd County southeast of Lanesville)

Additional education: Some short courses pertaining to investing, finance and leadership

Political affiliation: Been Republican ever since we started having children

Previous political experience: Harrison County Commissioner, 2002-2006; precinct committeeman for Northeast Posey Township some 20 years

Duties of position sought: Paying the expenditures of county government, working in tandem with commissioners and all other county officials to ensure safety, security, solvency and enterprising welfare of the citizens of the county.

Why are you seeking the office? Hopefully there is still a lot more service in me that I can give to the folks of Harrison County. It's a beautiful county with so many charms that I have always admired. I hope you agree I have a fair-and-balanced disposition and drive to help lead this county into prosperity.

What qualifies you for the office? Having spent four years as commissioner is quite an experience. Those lessons learned will serve me well as I work on the council to sort the wants from the needs. All my adult life I have been a home improvement contractor and a family farmer, and I know the joys and discomforts of making a living in Harrison County and certainly can relate to those who are doing the same.

What do you consider top issues in the campaign? Jobs, economic development is a biggy, no thanks to NAFTA and free trade with China. I always hope we could do more with our over 40 miles of Ohio River. I am willing to support good ideas for long-term business ventures anywhere in the county. Today, because of the global economy we are in, the idea of working in the same job and factory for 40-plus years will have to give way to small business ventures. Anyone want to set up entrepreneur school? That is an education need for today's market! Using riverboat funds to help retire school debt and therefore give property tax relief. The council should have a better criteria as to how it permits tax abatements. Additional expenses over those already budgeted are coming in more than anyone would like. Some areas of government are chronic with this habit and should change their ways.

Past councils have reached a yearly budget well over the recommended amount by their financial advisor but have supplemented the budget with funds out of the riverboat. Should this practice continue? Why or why not? I would save all I could of riverboat money. I will spend it like I sweated for every nickel. That is exactly how I was raised. However, riverboat funds is a double-edge sword in the state's eyes, and we must remember the state makes the rules. If you bankroll too much, then you run the risk of the state wanting to reproportion the money because the county is just sitting on it and living off the interest, so to speak. During my tenure in county government, the county was able to do both. We saved money for the future and we worked on infrastructure needs, roads, bridges and equipment, sewers and more efficient modern facilities throughout the county that will last far beyond the next generation. Should the riverboat funds ever go away at least we have some things in the ground that will last. I feel that we have achieved and maintained a proper balance of saving and investing in this county that satisfies the state of Indiana. Salaries, raises and bonuses are something we should be careful with. In the event of no riverboat funds, we in county government studied that situation back in 2005 when the state was serious to reproportion casino money. Drastic changes would take place; salaries for officeholders may be cut in half. Without riverboat money, a lot of the road work we have accomplished simply would not had been done. In the past, I have worked diligently with everyone to address unsafe areas on the roads. All these improvements cost money. Should the opportunity present itself, I don't want us to be afraid to invest in a riverport or anything that would be wise for the county work force. So in answer, we should keep investing in what improves our lot and position which gives us in Harrison County the competitive edge and at the same time save some money also. We can do that.

This year's council debated the idea of paying all county government employees of the same title, such as first deputy, second deputy, etc., the same salary. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? In a perfect world, probably so. However, when you look at each office and the different needs and requirements, it doesn't take long to realize that hardly any two jobs are the same. I think most folks will agree that someone will end up being overpaid and others will be on the short end of the stick for the efforts they deliver. Someone is bound to be unhappy with that scenario. Micro-managing is not a good idea. Let the supervisors and officeholders play a large roll in setting the appropriate salary for these deputies in terms with their budget. After all, these officials have to justify said salaries to get commissioner and council approval, and, if need be, changes will be made.

What one major change needs to be made in the work of the county council? Why? You just asked for one. I mentioned an improved criteria for tax abatements. Such abatements has a few farmers in the county fuming and wondering if they could get an abatement for a new combine. But, really, I would like to see a sensible brotherhood of government that does not indulge in this senseless, terrible civil war of Democrats vs. Republicans and therefore sick bickering takes place and nothing gets done. The federal scene is sad and it has a tendency to haunt state and county government and poison otherwise good people. Seems like in the past, working together with everyone in this county, we got a lot of good things done regardless of who got the credit. That is a good feeling, too. I wish you all peace and prosperity.

Other comments: We must govern and teach ourselves to be good stewards of all God has given us and, most important, we should share that knowledge with a goodwill-attitude toward our neighbors. Service to one another gives two ways: It helps those in need and it is great for the giver's heart.

Contact information for voters: 969-2123, hstat956@hotmail.com

Chris Timberlake

Age: 45

Address: Crandall

Spouse: Julie Bliss Timberlake

Children: Ben, 3

Occupation: Web design/pagination for O'Bannon Publishing Co. in Corydon

School and year graduated: Corydon Central High School, 1982

Additional education: Bachelor's degree, telecommunications, University of Kentucky, 1986

Political affiliation: Democrat

Previous political experience: Completing four-year term on Harrison County Council.

Duties of position sought: The council is the fiscal arm of county government, responsible for its annual budget, and it also meets twice each month to consider any other requests that may be sent to the council from the board of commissioners.

Why are you seeking the office? I enjoy the work and my involvement in the county government process.

What qualifies you for the office? I'm in my fourth year on the job and would like to apply that experience to another four-year term.

What do you consider the top issues in the campaign The No. 1 issue for the council is always going to be its management of the budget — county general and riverboat — and to that end I will continue to approach my work on the council with a level head, a good ear and a fair mind, voting in a manner that's best for the county.

Past councils have reached a yearly budget well over the recommended amount by their financial advisor but have supplemented the budget with funds out of the riverboat. Should this practice continue? Why or why not? As long as the riverboat supplement doesn't spiral out of control, I don't have a problem with it because it helps keep taxes in check, and I think we're mindful of that through each budget process. Meanwhile, the county endowment continues to receive 75 percent of Horseshoe's monthly deposit at the Harrison County Community Foundation, which will help us years — hopefully many years — down the road. Riverboat funds have allowed the county to take care of today's needs while planning for the future and doing so without raising taxes. For that, we should be very grateful.

This year's council debated the idea of paying all county government employees of the same title, such as first deputy, second deputy, etc., the same salary. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? No. The duties are different among the various offices, so I think you have to weigh those responsibility differences when determining salary rates.

What one major change needs to be made in the work of the county council? Why? Additional spending in the county general budget is always troublesome, but I think we're getting better about trying to control that as much as possible.

Other comments: My priority will always be to give fair, thoughtful consideration to the requests sent to the council from the board of commissioners and to apply those same principles to our annual budget deliberations. I ask for your vote and thank you for your consideration of my candidacy for re-election.

Contact information for voters: 366-4151

Marion E. Wallace

Age: 56

Address: New Salisbury

Spouse: Jean

Children: None

Occupation: Veteran's Service Officer for Harrison County, May 2003-present

School and year graduated: Graduate of Troy State University with a degree in resource management, 1992

Additional education:

Political affiliation: Republican

Previous political experience: None

Duties of position sought: The financial powers of the counties are placed with the county council, which serves as a check on the board of commissioners.

Why are you seeking office? My education and experience as well as background will be a major contribution to Harrison County.

What qualifies you for the office? I have attended the majority of meetings during the past five years which has given me a much deeper insight into county government matters.

What do you consider top issues in the campaign? To see a more efficient county government and to take a deeper consideration of our county finances.

Past councils have reached a yearly budget well over the recommended amount by their financial advisor but have supplemented the budget with funds out of the riverboat. Should this practice continue? Why or why not? Yes, I believe the riverboat is here, not just for education, fire departments, economic development and the many other departments supported by county government. Although I believe we should not rely heavily on riverboat money, it should be used to help support a better functioning county government, which helps all citizens of Harrison County. My belief is riverboat money should be used to help the majority, not the minority.

This year's council debated the idea of paying all county government employees of the same title, such as first deputy, second deputy, etc., the same salary. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not? Yes, there should be a ranking structure: three to five levels for first and second deputies, etc., which would give office heads and council a way to reward these positions of greater responsibility and work load.

What one major change needs to be made in the work of the county council? Why? To keep the county as the major emphasis as a whole rather than to dwell on less significant interests.

Other comments: I have worked hard and put in hundreds of volunteer hours to reach this point, and I believe I am ready to serve Harrison County now. A new direction is needed to secure a better future.

Contact information for voters: www.marwal@live.com

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