City Council President John Crawford's decision to seek the Republican nomination for mayor last May instead of reelection leaves an open seat among the three at-large posts. It also leaves a void best filled by candidates with a mix of experience, political courage and diversity.
For that reason, we recommend Republican Thomas Freistroffer and Democrats Glynn Hines and Michelle Chambers. They stand out in a field of highly qualified candidates that also includes Democrat Steve Corona and Republicans Michael Barranda and Nathan Hartman.
Freistroffer, an appraiser and real estate broker, has proven to be a thoughtful and valuable member in his first term. As council representative to the plan commission, he's demonstrated a commitment to listening to and working with the residents most affected by planning and zoning issues.
As the city and Allen County prepare to develop the community's next comprehensive plan – an update to the 2007 Plan-it Allen document – his experience and input as a member of the governing board overseeing the process would be a benefit.
Freistroffer, who has supported riverfront development, public investment in The Landing and other major projects, said he has done so because they've served as a stimulus for private development.
He cited the boutique hotel and new mixed-use developments recently announced near Headwaters and Promenade parks.
“This is why I vote for the big projects – because this will bring in the private developers, as we're seeing now,” he said.
Hines, a retired educator who served five terms as the District 6 councilman in southeast Fort Wayne, did not plan to seek reelection because of health concerns. Democrat Sharon Tucker, a member of Allen County Council, is unopposed in her bid for Hines' seat. But after a kidney transplant, the veteran councilman decided he still wanted to serve. His bid for an at-large seat offers voters the benefit of his long-time service and his attention to neighborhood interests.
“There are four (neighborhood area) partnerships, and I would look at attending more of those sessions than my predecessors,” Hines said.
He was a strong advocate for his own district in securing the first investment from the Legacy Fund, a trust account created by the lease and eventual sale of the city's electric utility.
McMillen Park Community Center is a much-treasured asset in Hines' district.
While he ultimately joined the unanimous council vote to award trash and recycling collection contracts to Red River Waste Solutions, Hines was the only council member to question how the company could provide the service at the low bid submitted. If others had not been so eager to accept a cut-rate deal, residents might have been spared the problems the new contract has presented.
As with that example, Hines hasn't hesitated to challenge the Democratic administration.
He was a harsh critic of the deal to buy the North River property from OmniSource because council members weren't permitted to see results of soil studies.
“In the 20 years I've been on council, I sort of stand back and considered what I thought about something, then 'what does the community think about it?' ” he said. “Is this something for the greater good?”
The current all-male council is assured greater diversity with Tucker's election, but the nine-member panel would begin to look even more like Fort Wayne with Chambers' election. A local business owner, she's making her second bid for an at-large seat. Four years ago, Chambers was tapped to fill the unexpired term of City Clerk Sandy Kennedy, a task she handled with professionalism.
Chambers has well-thought-out goals for the council, identifying the upcoming comprehensive plan, homelessness and mental health initiatives as areas that need attention.
“This is a part-time job with a full-time commitment,” Chambers said. “I'm more than qualified to be one of the voices at the table.”
Incumbent Michael Barranda has been a strong, intelligent voice on council.
Nathan Hartman, an actuarial pension consultant, demonstrates a passion for public service, but lacks the broad set of experiences other candidates offer.
Steve Corona, a member of the Fort Wayne Community Schools Board since 1981, has a proven record of public service, but his work as executive director of Latinos Count and other volunteer interests seem to be more valuable than what he would add as an at-large council member.
Our endorsement schedule
Oct. 3: Huntington school referendums
Oct. 4: Fort Wayne city clerk
Today: Fort Wayne Council at large
Monday: Fort Wayne Council District 1
Tuesday: Fort Wayne Council District 3
Wednesday: Fort Wayne Council District 4
Thursday: Fort Wayne Council District 5
Friday: New Haven mayor
Oct. 13: Fort Wayne mayor
*Candidates in Fort Wayne City Council Districts 2 and 6 are unopposed