Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce offered area residents the opportunity to meet and hear candidates in the primary election Tuesday evening.
Among the 14 candidates present were primary candidates running for local offices, opposed and unopposed.
Candidates attending on a local level were: Torrey Bauer, Mark Caruso and Tyler Haines, Republican candidates for Kosciusko County Superior Court 2 judge; David Cates, Steve Harris and Chad Miner, Republican candidates for Kosciusko County Superior Court 1 judge; Bob Conley and Jon Fussle, Republican candidates for county commissioner Southern District; Michelle Puckett, Republican county auditor candidate; Joetta Mitchell, Republican county recorder candidate; and Aaron Rovenstine, Republican county sheriff candidate.
Candidates were introduced in alphabetical order
Superior Court 1
Cates, who stated he knew many in the room and one of the “toughest things I’ve got to do is talk about myself to people I know … if I go to Syracuse Cafe I don’t have to order, they know what I’m going to eat.”
He shared information many may not know. He passed the bar exam before finishing law school. He worked with the state legislature, as executive secretary with the state judicial qualification committee and judicial nominating committee – the police arm of judges – and has served as attorney for Wawasee Schools for 23 years. He is also a registered mediator.
“I would not be running for this position if I did not believe that with my varied practice … (I’m) the most experienced for the position.”
Steve Harris said that, in his practice, he has handled most matters coming before the court, ranging from juvenile, criminal to civil cases, guardianships, adoptions, divorces and state administrations. He’s also served as judge pro-tem in various courts handling initial hearings, plea agreements and sentencings.
Miner stated the courts have a good reputation, which is well deserved, and his main objective for Superior Court 1 is to “maintain the high level of integrity … court’s already known for, specifically due to the number of juvenile cases heard in Superior Court 1. Judge of that court has the unique opportunity to assist young people in getting on the right path to become productive members of society and I believe that to be a worthy objective.”
Superior Court 2
Torrey Bauer explained that, in his private practice, about half his work is criminal, the other deals with civil matters. “I think that that is very important,” he said, noting he believes that puts him in a unique position in the race.
He said his preparedness is to take steps to create more efficient process to criminal code and criminal filing, but also in “making sure to get that court opened up for civil case filing with the requirements of having balanced case loads.”
Caruso agreed with Bauer that something needs to be done to speed up the process in that court, and as a prosecutor in that court he heard daily from the bar association how they would fix it. “I’m running to see if any of those ideas would work.”
Haines said, “I’ve always stated some day I would like to be judge.” He noted his experience has been in construction, legal and business and he has a “very good grasp of what people in this community want. I’m open to reviewing every case that comes before me. I promise I will give every side a fair shot, I will hear both sides … promise to do the right thing for the county.”
Conley said the county has a major agriculture industry and it is important to take care of that and pay close attention to that industry. He spoke of how the commissioners work diligently to get along with business, not to over regulate. There “is nothing I’d rather be doing, right now, than be a commissioner to represent the people of Kosciusko County.” He stated while he lives in the southern part of the county, he represents all residents.
Fussle said that, as an airline pilot and professional flight instructor, he is used to handling stress and wants to use his teaching skills as a flight instructor to mentor in young leadership.
Mitchell, who has worked in the recorders office for a number of years, noted she has a unique perspective for the office as she has not always been in an office – she’s been a stay at home mother, factory worker, her second language has not always been computers, giving her an understanding for those who come to the office.
Puckett said public service has been very important to her family. She has worked in the auditor’s office for 15 years, as chief deputy for a number of these years. She has worked in every aspect of the office as well as with other offices on the state and local level. “I know how important it is to truly understand what is going on, not just next door but down the road in Indianapolis.”
Rovenstine shared that his family has been in law enforcement, with family members in the sheriff’s department, dating back to the 1930s. He has been in law enforcement 30 years, six years with Milford Police Department, 24 years on the sheriff’s department, holding the office of sheriff for eight years with his last campaign in 2002.