With goals ranging from increasing services for the homeless to boosting communication with citizens, Richmond’s mayoral candidates are already sharing plans for what they’d do if elected in 2023.
So far, Republicans David Carpenter and Ron Oler have filed to run for mayor, and Richmond’s two-term incumbent Dave Snow, a Democrat, said Sunday he’s filing this week. The deadline is noon Feb. 3.
Meanwhile, a clerk candidate has filed along with five additional residents wanting to be on Richmond Common Council. One current member says he won’t run again.
Here are remarks from the three mayoral hopefuls to date and a look at who’s filed so far for council.
As someone who grew up in Richmond and Wayne County, the Northeastern High School graduate said he’s been privileged to see the city in its true beauty, but “in recent years I have seen the city that we love take a turn in a direction that I cannot continue to allow without intervention.”
Richmond voters have chosen Oler for three at-large terms on common council. He said he knows the obstacles the city is experiencing, and the community has remained on its feet and resilient “despite having every reason to falter” like a prizefighter reeling from multiple blows.
“The time has come for our city to stop being a punching bag and fight our way back into a position that even the Richmond of old would be proud of,” Oler said.
Oler said one way he plans to help is re-engaging with small- and medium-sized businesses, especially those in the downtown and Historic Depot District, and respecting their wishes.
Noting the second phase of the city’s bike and pedestrian paths on the Loop are to be finished this year, Oler said if elected he would give them time through his first term to see if the paths work when finished, and if they don’t work, to decide next steps.
He also said that the Depot area will be impacted by construction in 2023 and 2024 while the Ninth Street overpass is being replaced, and that the city needs to be supportive of nearby businesses and make sure their access is not blocked by construction equipment.
During his time on council, Oler has served on various city commissions and committees such as economic development, finance and tax abatements.
Oler said he understands the city’s budget well and that it needs to be balanced without relying on pandemic relief funds in the future. He said he appreciates Richmond Fire Department’s work to be the most financially solvent fire department in the state.
Oler shared additional priorities including bringing up the staffing level for Richmond Police Department, addressing housing blight, crime and the drug epidemic. Oler said addiction is a social and economic issue as well as a criminal issue.
Oler said addressing blight increases property values and is incredibly important to the city’s future. To pay for that, he said he would pursue more federal and state grants in addition to working with developers for single-family affordable housing.
One of the ways Oler says he plans to put the city on the offensive include ending the brain drain of homegrown talent to other cities. He also said he would use local universities to offer staff training and consulting to keep those dollars local.
Oler’s work experience ranges from more than two decades in higher education to broadcast engineering and project management for the construction industry. He currently teaches online courses through Indiana University East.
He has an associate degree in electronics technology from Ivy Tech Community College, a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s in management, both from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a doctorate in leadership and administration from Indiana State.
Oler also said he aims to restore open communication with citizens and be accessible and accountable, such as responding to emails quickly.
He also would offer “Welcome Wednesdays” as often as necessary at the beginning of his term, likely weekly from 7-9 a.m., offering coffee and conversation with constituents. Sessions would change to monthly or quarterly if attendance drops off.
“I was planning on running for mayor much later in life, but with the society of Richmond getting worse and worse, I felt now is the time to run,” said Carpenter, 37, who notes he’s the same age as Snow was during his first campaign.
Carpenter said he plans to travel the city, knocking on every door before the election, to get as many voters’ thoughts as possible.
“The best way to know what the public wants is by outright asking them,” Carpenter said. “When you’re mayor, you need to not just meet with some people, you need to talk with everyone.”
Carpenter already is known for visiting with area residents and bringing joy while dressed as Batman. Recently the engine on his limousine went out and the vehicle had to be scrapped. His goal is to return as Batman once he obtains another vehicle, in addition to campaigning.
Carpenter said some potential voters might not take him as seriously as other candidates because of his Batman appearances, but he wants them to know “the role of mayor comes first above all.”
One of Carpenter’s main concerns is finding permanent solutions to help the homeless, since local shelters can get crowded. When Richmond didn’t appear to offer a warming station as negative temperatures loomed just before Christmas, Carpenter advocated on social media for the city to open the former Elder-Beerman store that it owns. City officials opened a portion of Richmond Municipal Building instead.
In addition to online advocacy, Carpenter said he went out overnight with another volunteer and picked up eight people during the -40 windchills and delivered them to shelter.
Carpenter said he likes “finding realistic solutions to everyday problems that occur,” because problems can become more complex down the line.
For instance, he described distributing free toilet paper when it was in short supply during the pandemic’s early days, giving it away in hopes of changing the hearts and minds of those charging high prices. Carpenter said he believes he started making a difference that helped spread across the country.
Carpenter said he’s helped with other philanthropy efforts such as food drives, and would continue those efforts and create new projects as mayor. He’s proud of a detailed airplane model that he made and donated to the nearby Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum.
Realizing mayors must address emergencies on a moment’s notice, he said he would work beyond a 40-hour week and not charge the city for his extra time.
Carpenter grew up in Richmond and moved away for a year or two, but chose to come back. He left Richmond High School at 16 to enter the workforce, but at 28, decided to complete his high school equivalency through Richmond Adult Education.
He said he’s come up with a unique design for what he believes could be the world’s warmest coat, and now plans to make a prototype before developing the business. If he’s successful in building “a company earning billions,” Carpenter said he would like to pay for all Richmond residents’ taxes for a year, and possibly their utilities if the company had enough money, to help them catch up on finances and allow them to prosper.
Snow told Western Wayne News on Sunday that he is filing paperwork this week to seek a third term.
“I wholeheartedly believe that Richmond is America’s next great city,” said Snow as he noted his pride in calling the area home. The Richmond High School graduate said he “can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Snow mentioned there are exciting future projects that he wants to share news about, but can’t quite yet do so while details are being finalized.
During his first two terms, Snow acknowledges the city has faced some difficulties, including a “once-in-a-lifetime challenge” of the pandemic, and he appreciates the community’s outpouring of support.
“The way that I see this community come together is so humbling and so inspiring to me,” Snow said, such as the warming station opening over Christmas weekend in Richmond Municipal Building.
Snow said those displays of community support help make him even more energized to focus on upcoming community improvements.
“I want this momentum to continue,” Snow said, describing a “tremendous” team of city government professionals that has been built and great investments in city departments.
Snow also is proud of infrastructure improvements. He recalled the opening of pet food manufacturer Blue Buffalo in 2019 at Midwest Industrial Park, and a recent land purchase expanding the industrial park, along with a future sewer project there that could bring in high-dollar investment.
Snow said there are “once-in-a-generation” economic investment prospects available to pursue, and “Richmond is in a position to start capturing investment from around the country and we’re going to secure it.”
While Snow realizes residents can be frustrated with ongoing construction, he believes it’s necessary for future growth, and is pleased the state alone has invested $40 million in the city during his administration.
Snow said during the 2015 campaign, one major issue was cleanup of the former Reid Hospital site that “seemed unsolvable,” but now it’s been so long since the work was done that it’s forgotten.
“We’ve made sweeping changes that have brought us an ability to look forward,” he said.
During his second campaign in 2019, Snow said the bicycle paths in the downtown and Depot District areas were a heavily debated topic.
If voters wanted development along The Loop to stop, he said they would have voted for someone else then, so he knows the projects are worthwhile because they kept him in office to continue them.
Snow asserts that “it was that work that led to a very exciting announcement” on the horizon, and everyone will soon see its value.
As residents look at mayoral candidates, Snow said they should look for someone who gets things done during difficult situations and serves as the city’s cheerleader.
Snow said he offered common-sense leadership during the pandemic to help keep residents healthy and the city functioning, never making decisions along party lines.
Saying he has “represented us with respect and dignity,” Snow believes residents can confidently vote for him since he has “navigated the tough times with resilience.”
Council filings update
Candidates for clerk, some of Richmond’s three at-large and six district common council seats have filed as well.
Incumbent Clerk Karen Chasteen, a Democrat, has filed.
Incumbent Jane Bumbalough and political newcomer Jerry Purcell filed as Republicans to seek at-large council seats.
Incumbent councilors Gary Turner, a Republican, filed again to serve westside District 6, and Democrat Jeff Locke filed for northside District 5.
Republican councilor Larry Parker filed for eastside District 4. Parker currently is serving in an at-large role, but was encouraged to file for District 4 by its current member, Jeff Cappa, also a Republican.
Cappa told Western Wayne News that it has been an honor to serve on council, but he will not be seeking re-election.
“As the newly appointed chief of the Reid Health Police Department, my responsibilities with that position have increased,” Cappa said. “I wish to focus on my new role as chief and the responsibilities of being in that leadership role. I will continue serving in my role as a precinct committee member for our local party.”