WARSAW – After living near Des Moines, Iowa, most of her life and in Shanghai, China for a two-year stint, Roxanne Coffelt said transitioning to a life in Warsaw took some getting used to.
She and her family moved to Warsaw nearly 15 years ago and she recalls being struck by the lack of diversity and the one-sidedness of local politics.
That lack of political balance is the reason Coffelt threw her name in the ring for the Warsaw City Council race this year. Her name will appear on the ballot as a challenger to incumbent 3rd district Republican City Councilman Michael Klondaris.
“I don’t have anything against him. I just think voters should have two choices,” said Coffelt.
She adds, “It’s the principle of the thing. I realize its a big uphill battle.”
Coffelt, a 61-year-old certified public accountant, was born in Minnesota and spent most of her life in Iowa. Her husband, Bob, has had a long career in printing. His employer was eventually acquired by R.R. Donnelley (now known as LSC Communications), and he was sent to Shanghai to help open a plant.
Afterward, he resumed his career with Donnelly when the family moved to Warsaw in 2004. After working for another firm for many years, Roxanne Coffelt established her own CPA firm in 2017.
The former Republican switched her political affiliation from Republican to Democratic in the mid-1990s when she became involved in a residential tax abatement dispute in the town of Norwalk, outside of Des Moines. She ended up running for county supervisor but lost.
Last year, she began serving as the treasurer for the Kosciusko County Democratic Party and saw how tough it is for Democratic candidates to win.
Kosciusko County politics have leaned to the right for as long as anyone can remember and Republicans have dominated City Hall for decades. But Democrats have made a concerted effort to line up more candidates for this year’s city races.
“Warsaw has a lot of good things going for it,” Coffelt said. “I’m not real happy with the fact there are not two (competitive) political parties in this town. I didn’t realize that when we agreed to move here … It was kind of a shock that we didn’t have choices when we went to vote.”
“That was quite shocking coming from Iowa where we had two active parties,” she added.
Coffelt likes the trend seen in other states where candidates run for elected office without a party affiliation. She believes too many local voters use the straight ballot strategy without any thoughtful consideration.
“The city council election shouldn’t be based on political parties,” she said. “Why should they be?”
“If you didn’t have political parties, people would actually look at the candidates, rather than pulling a straight ticket … When you vote, it’s like a job interview. You’re hiring somebody for a job and you should look at their qualifications and you should look at their character and you should pick the best person for the job.”
One issue Coffelt said she’d like to see addressed has to do with transparency and the way city council’s agendas are prepared. Even though some topics have links, she said resolutions and ordinance proposals on the agenda need to include summaries that people can understand.
“People shouldn’t have to go on some kind of sleuthing mission to find out,” she said.
She said she doesn’t have an axe to grind, or any kind of agenda.
One of her strengths is being a good listener, she said, and interpreting a situation. For example, instead of asking if the glass is half full or half empty, the bigger issue is whether the level is rising or falling.
‘I kind of think outside of the box a little bit. Especially having lived in so many places and living in a foreign country, you’re exposed to a lot of different ideas and you don’t necessarily see things in the same way anymore,” she said.