By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — Kimberly Cates, who lost her county council at-large seat in the 2020 election, is returning to the Kosciusko County Council. This time serving as the District 1 County Councilwoman.
Cates was elected by 12 of the 13 District 1 Republican Precinct Committeemen Monday evening, June 7, to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Doug Heinisch on May 18. Cates was immediately sworn in after the meeting and will be meeting with Michelle Puckett, county auditor, Tuesday morning in preparation for Thursday’s council meeting.
“Thank you very much I will continue to fight for the county, District 1. I’m blessed to be active on the council,” stated Cates.
“I don’t think Kosciusko County will lose,” said County Republican Chairman Mike Ragan. “The county is going to be served well regardless who is selected.”
Cates was one of four people seeking the nomination to fill the vacancy. Her opponents included Bill Dixon, Frank Rhoades and Don McCune.
Each candidate was allowed to have a person introduce him or her. Cates chose Randy Girod. Rhoades chose Dave Wolkins and McCune chose Joy Goshert. Dixon opted not to have someone introduce him.
The candidates were introduced in the order that they had filed.
Girod spoke of Cate’s extensive business experience of over 30 years and her Republican party volunteerism. “What I think distinguishes Kimberly the most is her enthusiasm for government and the fact she is the only candidate who has the background in budget making … Kimberly has the passion, background, experience, time and energy to serve as an effective councilwoman.”
Cates noted her familiarity with the county’s budget and “I believe small government with local control is the best way.” She noted her experience in local government was vast and differed from the private sector. Having served on the Turkey Creek Township Advisory Board and president of the Fire Territory Board, Cates noted her attendance at all state budget meetings to learn from the state board of accounts.
Following her appointment to the council to fill the vacancy left by the death of Bob Sanders, she wanted to learn the role. “I immediately started meeting with our auditor, along with SueAnn (Mitchell) and Joni (Truex) before each monthly meeting to review the agendas, ask questions and understand the internal accounting process and how they work together.”
“I will be there, I will be involved and ask questions. I will be a team player,” she concluded.
Wolkins, who has known Rhoades for 43 years, described him as a hard working farmer and businessman, who never missed making a payroll. He spoke of Rhoades trips to Indianapolis to talk with Wolkins and provided input. “He has the right attitude and conservative.”
Rhoades stated his family has been a part of the county for seven generations and his roots go deeper than he originally realized. He spoke of how his customers are friends and he has met a lot of good people throughout the county. Rhoades stated his son has taken over the leadership of the company, allowing him more availability. “I’m in touch with the community and feel that connection. I want to serve … I understand how state government works,”
He stated Sanders had helped him understand the political side of the county council. He noted “I don’t have an ax to grind. My experience, knowledge of the community, my knowledge and experience will add aide … help be there add and to learn to continue the conservative leadership.”
Dixon, who arrived approximately 15 minutes late to the event, arrived in time to make his presentation to the Precinct Committeemen. He focused on the seat he was seeking was that of a district, not an at-large seat. “My first and last responsibility is representing the district.” He noted equitability in the county has been good for the most part.
The remainder of his speech focused on equal benefits across the county and how every 10 or 20 years the balance is thrown off. He also promised to give 50 hours a week to the position. “Every minute I have, every ounce of energy, I’ll play defense and protect the taxpayers and residents of the district.”
Goshert, who has known McCune for a number of years, noted he knows the county well and has lived in the county his entire adult life. She provided some of his background and positions on the sheriff’s department before retiring in 2019. “He is honest, a straight shooter and asks the hard questions that need to be asked.”
McCune, who felt humbled to be among the other candidates, stated he was mentored on how to be fiscally responsible and how to make big things happen with funds available. He spoke of the need for people to bring solutions when asking for money. “I’d like to work with all the departments,” he said regarding funding.
He also noted his goal is to make sure things are equitable now and in the future and for the county to not live year to year on funds but to build and take care of the itself. He admitted he is straight forward when asked questions and noted the council is on the same team. He stated a question should be asked what “are we getting for our money. It’s the council’s job to see what taxpayers get out of it.”