WARSAW — The city of Warsaw will be having an election of its city officials Tuesday, Nov. 3.
While the offices of mayor, clerk-treasurer and common council district 3, 4 and 5 seats are uncontested, there is a contested race for the two City Common Council At-Large seats.
Three individuals are vying for the two seats open: Incumbent Cindy A. Dobbins, Republican; and newcomers Jack Wilhite, Republican, and David Baumgartner, Democrat. Who will the city residents elect to fill those two seats? The outcome will not be known until Tuesday evening.
To give residents an opportunity to know a little about the candidates and their views Ink Free News asked each individual to provide a brief biography of themselves as well as respond to two questions. Here are the candidates, questions and responses.
This will mark the end of Dobbin’s first term as an at-large representative on the board. She has served on the Warsaw Traffic Commission for four years and Warsaw Community Development Corporation’s Board of Directors for the past two years. Last year she was a member of the Walk-n-Wander Warsaw committee, instrumental in bringing the Seward Johnson sculptures to Warsaw. Other auxiliary committees include the First Friday Committee and a citizen committee to study curbside recycling and trash pick up.
Dobbins, Republican, is owner and operator of Buffalo Street Emporium and The Next Chapter Bookstore, downtown Warsaw. “That gives me an understanding of the issues that small business owners face. I also have experience in the public sector from spending 30 years in various management positions as Multi-Township Emergency Medical Service and five years as the executive director of Warsaw Community Development Corporation.
Jack Wilhite, Republican, has lived in the Warsaw area for 51 years and employed by Zimmer-Biomet for 37 years. He is a member of First Christian Church holding various leadership positions; has been a Cub Master, assistant Scout Master, and Little League coach. He has served the Republican Party and community as a Precinct Committee chairman, state redistricting commission, 3rd District GOP Finance Committee and currently on the Warsaw Board of Zoning Appeals. He is a lifetime NRA member and member of the Othoworx Committee for Workforce Development. He is the father of four, grandfather to three and husband to Theresa Rugs Wilhite for the past 40 years.
Dave Baumgartner, Democrat, graduated from Purdue University in 1978 where he majored in US History/Social Studies at Purdue university, with a minor in drama and communications. He received his master’s degree from IUPU Fort Wayne. has coached and taught for 36 years in public schools, with 29 of those years at Warsaw Community Schools, teaching both middle school and high school levels. He served on numerous school committees, was prom sponsor for three years and was selected for the “Going the Extra Mile Award,” from WCHS and started the school’s radio and television program. He has been active in Community Theater for the past two out of three productions, has a mobile DJ Service and is sales manager for WIOE Oldies 101.1 and Z93.9 radio stations. He currently serves on Warsaw Plan Commission.
Response To Questions
“Budgets are tight, yet the city continues to grow, requiring expansion of services. What should the priority be of the common council to meet the expanding services being required?
Dobbins — “We must make sure that the tax base remains proportionate to infrastructure needs without causing undue hardship to the taxpayers. While it is important to promote job growth and encourage young people to stay in our community, we can’t overlook our retirees and other community members that are least able to bear the burden of higher taxes.
“Abatements can stimulate employment and investment in the community, but they also delay the influx of tax revenue. We need to be cautious about the number of abatements that we grant, and also make sure that recipients are living up to their projections.
“In the years to come I believe collaboration within our city departments, as well as joint ventures with neighboring communities can help to alleviate some of the budget crunch. Various city departments have already stepped forward to assist each other with projects so that more tasks can be accomplished ‘in house’ with existing equipment and labor.
“Over the next few years the city will implement new equipment and procedures that should result in cost savings in trash pick-up and recycling. The addition of a full-time city engineer has also been instrumental in regulating costs for services that had previously been outsourced.”
Wilhite — “Some of my friends might use the argument that Warsaw’s tax rate is among the lowest in the state and that we could certainly afford to raise marginally those taxes to pay for required services. I do not look at taxes as merely a source of income. I respect a citizen’s money and property for which they sacrificed their life’s labor to earn. I will not approach this subject without first reverently taking into consideration those sacrifices. Raising taxes is a last resort.
“First, I believe every expenditure should be scrutinized … Police and fire protection, trash pick up, street maintenance, water and sewage provisions, are obvious fundamental necessities … Those outside the city who benefit from city services should pay their fair share.
“Second, what is the benefit to the community? There are programs in place, which to the casual observer, appear unnecessary and costly or as providing favors to friends. However when you get into the weeds on most of these issues you find the real winner is the community, for example tax abatements. Those less informed would argue abatements profit only big business. I would argue abatements are a valuable carrot, enticing business to invest in our community which has given Warsaw the net benefit of having jobs that are reported to be $10,000 above the state average for similar work.
“Third, let’s face it, there is waste. I say this not to point out shortcomings of any current or past leaders, but rather to point out no system or process is perfect. There are always ways to improve … Let’s take for example the new trash-pick-up program. I support this program because it is forecast to save over $40,000. However we know any new program or process will have problems. We need to follow up with Continuous Improvement models, eliminate waste and cut costs for which our citizens will benefit.”
Baumgartner — “From the beginning of my campaign I have considered infrastructure a top issue to deal with for our city. The reason is simple, pretty much everything we do hinges on a well maintained infrastructure. Citizen safety, roads, sewage systems, drainage, you name it, they all need a solid infrastructure to operate. Once you have that, you can deal with most if not all issues.
“The life’s blood to a great infrastructure is of course tied directly to the city budget. The three major sources of funds to build infrastructure are as follows. Taxes, private enterprise and federal and state funding.
“What we must do as elected officials of the city is to seek the public opinion to get a grip on the will of the people, we must make them aware of the facts, so they can provide well informed feedback.
“Second we need to take that input and make sure all their questions are answered because it could be their tax money being spent. The next step would include private sector and state and federal funding (if applicable). And finally before decisions are made we must consider long term impact on the city and its people. Once we have taken all of this into consideration we can make well informed decisions.”
What issues do you feel the city should address in the next four years?
Dobbins — “In 2012 the mayor and city council developed a strategic plan … Many facets of the plan have been addressed, but some segments are either in progress or still in need of attention. I would like to revisit this plan in 2016 and designate priorities for the next four years.
“Personally, I am still concerned about a few issues that were important to me when I ran for office in 2011. One of those issues is code enforcement. While we have made some progress in the past four years, I still believe we can do better. A new code enforcement position has been included in the 2016 budget so I look forward to seeing that position filled.
“Our city employees are one of our most important assets, and we need to insure that we continue our efforts to provide pay and benefits that are fairly competitive with other area employers. Some adjustments have been proposed for 2016, but it will still require due diligence over the next few budget cycles so that good employees are not lost to competitors.
“Repair and maintenance of our streets continues to be an issue. Changes at the state level have negatively impacted the ability of municipalities to keep pace with much needed improvements. The future of the wheel tax in Kosciusko County is uncertain, but as funds become available I would advocate being as ambitious as possible in delineating a repair/repaving schedule.”
Wilhite — “In short, continue to attract a diversity of jobs. Programs like rebuilding infrastructure are important to attract prospective companies. Flooded areas on Market Street or traffic tied up on Parker Street drives business away which leads to prospective companies questioning our commitment to growth. We have to continually address these issues.
“Attracting manufacturing, retail business, and employment opportunities involve more than pointing out our excellent school system or beautiful parks. The way to making every citizens life better is through a more diverse job market.
“I believe my love for Warsaw and history of dedication proves my commitment. My background in manufacturing gives me a set of tools distinct and unlike others on the council. I believe the city will benefit from these qualities.”
Baumgartner — “As an elected official we have the responsibility to report and inform the people about issues and to share with them different points of view on that issue. If elected as an at large city councilman I plan on having rotating monthly town hall meetings and bring the issues before our citizens and get their input. It is the citizen input that should drive the agenda for the next four years.”
Mayor — Dr. Joe Thallemer is seeking his second term as mayor.
Clerk-Treasurer — Lynne Christiansen is seeking her second term in office.
Common Council District 1 — Jeff R. Grose is seeking his fifth term.
Common Council District 3 — Mike Klondaris is seeking his second term.
Common Council District 4 — William G. Frush is seeking his second term.
Common Council District 5 — Diane Quance is seeking her second term.
The seat for City Common Council District 2 will appear on the ballet with a notation that the candidate is deceased. Charlie Smith was seeking re-election for that seat. Due to his death on Oct. 2, a caucus will be held on Nov. 12 to fill his position for the remainder of 2015, and to fill his seat for the next four years.