New Haven voters are fortunate to have two mayoral candidates who each hold a genuine desire to serve the community and its residents. Republican Steve McMichael and Democrat Darren Peterson both have demonstrated their commitment to the city through public service. But McMichael's record makes him better qualified to succeed Mayor Terry McDonald.
McMichael, a city councilman and former Adams Township Advisory Board member, has an impressive collection of titles. He is chair of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, vice chair of the Paulding-Putnam Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and a founding member of the New Haven Community Foundation. He has served on numerous community panels, as well as the New Haven Redevelopment Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.
The Republican candidate's council experience, in particular, is a strength. In New Haven and other Indiana cities in its size classification, the mayor is the presiding officer of the council.
“The average citizen has no way of knowing just how complicated municipal government is – 'Common sense says the road needs to be fixed – you've got money in the parks department not being used – fix the road',” McMichael said. “The reality is – that's not possible. I think being on council has prepared me well for understanding the rules regarding what the city can and can't do.”
Getting a handle on the city's sewage and water rates ranks as his top priority.
“That's a situation where everybody wants low water rates, low utility rates,” he said. “But the fact is there are multiple challenges there – everything from buying our water from Fort Wayne and returning our wastewater to Fort Wayne, and mandates from (the Indiana Department of Environmental Management) to infrastructure that needs to be repaired. I intend to set up a stakeholders' group – residents, businesses, nonprofits – to sit down and analyze where we're at and how we got here and what the options moving forward look like.”
McMichael, owner and managing broker of Re/Max Imagine Real Estate, said he wants to hire a part-time community engagement director to oversee communication with residents and to act as a liaison to nonprofit groups and event coordinators. He also wants to tap volunteers to head up city efforts involving veterans' services, senior services and neighborhoods.
“I have put a lot of thought into these things, and I have been involved in a lot of these things,” McMichael said. “We need to continue to work hard to make New Haven a great place to live, work, play and do business.”
Peterson, a member of the New Haven Police Department assigned as a school resource officer at New Haven High School, also shows a deep affection for the city and its residents. He filed to fill the vacant Democratic candidate for mayor position after the primary election.
Water and sewage rates also top Peterson's list of concerns. He questions the disparity in rates between New Haven and Fort Wayne.
“I understand we've got to pay to have water taken out (to New Haven) and I understand it's going to be higher, but I would like to discuss that with (Fort Wayne officials),” Peterson said.
He attributes the city's challenge in hiring police officers to the department's pay scale. He would like to take a look at salaries citywide, suggesting the practice of across-the-board raises could be suspended to steer money to police salaries.
“The money's there. I'm just saying to move it around fairly,” Peterson said.
Many of the Democratic candidate's proposals revolve around youth activities, including Little League and efforts to make high school activities affordable for all students. He would like to add attractions to New Haven parks that might draw out-of-town visitors.
Peterson admits he faces a learning curve if he's elected mayor.
“But I know when I walk in there on Day 1, I'm ready to work,” he said.
McMichael, however, is uniquely qualified from the start, with skills and experience to build on the improvements in economic development, infrastructure and quality of life his predecessor championed for the past 20 years. We recommend Steve McMichael.
Oct. 3: Huntington school referendums
Oct. 4: Fort Wayne city clerk
Oct. 6: Fort Wayne Council at large
Oct. 7: Fort Wayne Council District 1
Oct. 8: Fort Wayne Council District 3
Oct. 9: Fort Wayne Council District 4
Oct. 10: Fort Wayne Council District 5
Today: New Haven mayor
Sunday: Fort Wayne mayor
*Candidates in Districts 2 and 6 are unopposed
Find endorsements online at journalgazette.net/Opinion/Endorsements