MILFORD — There are no “races” to speak of in the upcoming primary election for Milford Town Clerk, Milford Town Council, Van Buren Township Trustee and Van Buren Township Advisory Board. None of the offices will be contested.
Additionally, most of those running are either incumbents or have served previously in some capacity.
The lone exception is Patricia Gall, Republican, who is seeking the Milford Clerk/Treasurer position held by Joellen Free. Another outlier of sorts is Vickie Marquart, a candidate for the advisory board. Marquart is the sole Democrat in this primary, though she was appointed to the board when Bill Troup stepped down.
An exception to this block of incumbents is the absence of Dan Cochran, Republican, whose seat on the Milford Town Council will be taken by Free.
In recent council meetings, Cochran has expressed his belief in term limits and his desire to see greater community involvement in local politics. After two terms on the council he chose not to run in the hope of opening the door to “new blood.”
MILFORD TOWN CLERK
Gall, Republican, is a lifelong Milford resident who has been a regular participant in town council meetings as a Milford Fest chairperson. She is also a member of Milford Lions, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Milford School Parent Teacher Association.
Among the clerk’s responsibilities are handling accounts payable and receivable and payroll. “In my working life I’ve done all those things,” Gall stated.
She is currently an accountant for Lesea Broadcasting in South Bend, and previously managed accounts payable and payroll at Chore-Time Brock in Milford. Gall also managed accounts payable and receivable at Zimmer Biomet. “I have the proper skills to do a good job,” she said.
About her predecessor, Gall commented, “Joellen has done a good job. I have some big shoes to fill.”
Among the challenges facing the town, Gall mentioned the possible extension of the sewer line to Camp Alexander Mack and the need to “stay under budget and function efficiently.”
“I care a lot about Milford and I want to see it do well,” said Gall. “I plan on using the skills I have to make the town a better place.”
MILFORD TOWN COUNCIL
After seven years overseeing the town’s finances, Milford Clerk Free, Republican, looks forward to becoming a voting member of the Milford Town Council. “My knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the town will be an asset to the council,” Free noted.
A member of Milford Kiwanis and elder of the First Mennonite Church of Nappanee, Free spearheaded the effort to bring new playground equipment to Waubee Lake Park, obtaining funding through a matching grant from the K21 Foundation.
As a council member, Free hopes to “find solutions to the utilities’ financial issues.” Much of the utilities’ problems, Free asserted, stem from 10 years ago, when past councils failed to raise rates to keep up with labor and the prices of chemicals and equipment.
“It’s a constant battle,” she said. “We need to find ways to bring in new revenue.” These include increasing the customer base. Free hopes one day Milford’s utilities will be self-sustaining, and run like a private business.
Robert C. Cockburn
Robert Cockburn, Republican, is a longtime employee of Wawasee schools and is a congregant of Milford’s Apostolic Christian Church. Serving on the Milford Town Council since 2005 has imparted a sense of perspective.
“I have learned that many issues with which we deal cannot be settled in a few minutes or a few days or a few months,” he said. “I am open to other people’s ideas, and do not take it personally when they don’t agree with mine.”
“Financial issues,” Cockburn commented, are a “common occurrence.” And school safety, he said, “is always on my mind.”
Cockburn has also been a consistent advocate for “improving the appearance of the town.” He believes the best way to do so is “by working with our property owners and ensuring that our town employees have what they need to carry out their duties.”
Current Milford Town Council President Ruch, Republican, is the longest serving member of the council, having served since 1994. He has been a volunteer fireman since 1979, and was a member of the Multi-Township ambulance service board of directors. Ruch is the owner of Ruch Service Inc., in Milford and attends New Salem Church of the Brethren.
Ruch characterized his approach to government as “commonsense … conservative on spending.”
As for issues facing Milford in the near future, Ruch said “keeping the town safe” is paramount. He also believes the council should do what it can to “allow the town to have controlled growth.”
“I will do my best to serve the town,” Ruch stated.
VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE
Rebecca L. Alles
As Van Buren Township Trustee since 2013, Republican Rebecca Alles manages taxpayer dollars funneled to the township. These funds go mainly to fire protection, emergency medical services, cemetery maintenance and township assistance for residents in need. Alles also works closely with the town of Milford as it shares fire and EMS responsibilities.
“I enjoy what I do, the connection with the town and the people,” Alles stated. She also lends a “compassionate attitude to those seeking assistance.”
Perhaps the most important development during her tenure so far was the selling of Multi-Township EMS to Lutheran Hospital. Alles played a part in renegotiating the contract with Lutheran, and starting in 2019, Milford and Van Buren Township will not pay for the service.
Alles is also concerned about the state legislature’s attempts to bring townships under the control of counties, doing away with trustees and their advisory boards. She believes, along with the Indiana Township Association, township trustees provide “needed local governance and services” that would be lost otherwise.
TOWNSHIP ADVISORY BOARD
Republican candidate for Van Buren Township Advisory Board, Unruh of Milford is one of three incumbents seeking reelection next fall. He is a department manager at Warsaw Masonry and cites his desire to serve the community as his main reason for running.
As an advisor to Alles, Unruh believes the board should be “making sure we are funding and supporting the efforts of our local volunteer fire department.”
Additionally, Unruh stated every effort should be made “to have the best coverage for ambulance service.”
Democrat Vickie Marquart is a Milford resident and employee at Chore-Time Brock. She was appointed to the board when Bill Troup stepped down, but did not win election at the end of the term.
“I’ve lived in Milford my whole life,” she said. “Being able to be on the board is a way to help the community.”
“We have that option to voice our opinion on issues facing the trustee,” Marquart commented. “It’s nice to know if she’s helping someone in a pinch.”
Shane M. Bucher
Republican Shane Bucher is a lifelong resident of Van Buren Township who has served 20 years on the Milford Fire Department and oversees the Milford Youth League. “I bring a closeness to the community,” he said of his contribution to the board.
“I feel that I have given a new perspective to the township board since being appointed to fill the position three years ago,” Bucher stated. “The primary issue facing the township is continuing to be financially responsible with the budget, but provide the fire department with the best equipment that will insure men will come home safe after every call. Over the past year, the township has been able to purchase two new fire trucks without causing a tax burden to the people in Van Buren Township.”
As of press time, Robert Beer, Republican incumbent for Van Buren Advisory Board, was unavailable for comment.