By Leah Sander
WINONA LAKE — Austin Reynolds is the newest member of the Winona Lake Town Council.
Reynolds, 27, was chosen by a GOP caucus vote on Friday, Sept. 17, at Winona Lake Town Hall to serve Ward 1 on the council. Reynolds wasn’t physically present for the vote, having a family commitment already scheduled.
He fills the position of the late Jim Zachary who passed away at age 39 on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at Kosciusko Community Hospital. Members of Zachary’s family were present to watch the caucus proceedings.
Kosciusko County GOP Chairman Mike Ragan started the caucus by remembering Zachary.
“Before I get started … it’s very difficult for me,” he said. “Jim was a friend of mine and his dad and daughter and brother are here. Dan Zachary (Jim’s father), I’ve known since he was a teenager and so we kind of go way back. His daughter Haley and brother Mike are here as well, so we’re grateful that you’re here and we’re very sorry that we are having to do this. … Thank you for being here.”
Reynolds will serve the rest of Zachary’s term, which runs through the end of 2023. He faced one other challenger in the caucus Friday, David Phelps.
Four Kosciusko County GOP precinct committeemen voted in the caucus. The exact tally of votes was not revealed to the press.
The voting situation was somewhat “unique,” as Kosciusko County GOP Secretary Austin Rovenstine explained before the caucus.
“Jim was actually the precinct committeeman for (one of the precincts), which has a vote in this caucus,” he said. “And under the Indiana Code, if a precinct committeeman also holds the office that is being filled, then automatically the vice committeeman becomes a voting member of the caucus … So we do have Bruce Shaffner voting here today in Jim’s place.”
Before the vote Friday, both candidates were allowed three minutes to speak. As Reynolds was unable to make it to the event, he had Al Disbro speak in his place.
Disbro read a statement from Reynolds:
“I hope you sincerely know how thankful I am for this opportunity and how excited I am for the opportunity to learn, to grow and to help the town and the community of Winona Lake by serving on the council,” it read in part.
“I intend to bring a new perspective and ideas to the council,” Reynolds also said in it. “One such idea I have involves beautifying the Argonne Road entrance to Winona Lake by partnering with local artists and tradespeople. If voted in to fill the vacancy, i will be a strong team member on the council in helping to make informed decisions that will affect constituents in my district. I will champion for other young people to get involved at the local level.”
“I have great resources to help me understand fiscal policy at the local level and will work to develop a strong understanding of budgets and where our money is being spent, so that I might make informed decisions on issues of financial concern,” he continued in it. “I will be intent to listen to the constituents in my district and to consider all points of view in order to have sound decision making. … I am eager to learn, to serve and to listen. I’ve always hoped to be involved with the inner workings of the town. I view this as the first step in a lifelong journey of serving this town. Winona Lake is special, it is rich in history and charm and I’m so thankful that I have the chance to continue to watch it grow and assist in its continued development and success.”