Elkhart County commissioner race

GOSHEN — A former county sheriff who defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary will face off in the District 2 county commissioner race against a Goshen veteran who is active in local organizations.

Brad Rogers, 59, of Goshen, served two terms as sheriff and then remained with the sheriff’s department to oversee the operation of the jail. He has worked at the department since 1987. He and his wife, Susie, are parents of three grown children.

Rogers defeated fellow Republican Mike Yoder in the primary.

Donald Brown, 41, earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Indiana Tech. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, saying he joined the service in response to the 9/11 attacks. He is an Elkhart native and coaches youth basketball. He is vice president of the Elkhart County NAACP and vice chair of the Goshen Community Relations Commission. He owns Superstar Showcase Entertainment.

QUESTIONS

What are your qualifications as well as life and work experiences that will help you perform your duties as a member of the Elkhart County Commissioners?

BROWN: I believe my experience serving as a financial specialist in the United States Army will assist me in performing as an Elkhart County commissioner. I also am very active on community boards and participating in cultural community discussions and events. I’m connected to people of different cultures/backgrounds. This is Elkhart County today, so we need more people in office to represent what Elkhart County is. I’m connected to the youth as well. I coach youth sports, volunteer at Tolson and always strive to understand their point of view. I’ve grown up in Elkhart County.

ROGERS: I have served Elkhart County in the Sheriff’s Office for over 33 years and since 2003 I have served in Sheriff’s Office command positions. As your elected sheriff (2011-2018) I managed one of the largest offices in Elkhart County government with over 200 employees. I have in-depth knowledge of county operations and I know how to get results. My experience as an employee, department head, and elected official has fully prepared me to serve you as your county commissioner. My philosophy of “serving you” is evident in my history as a public servant and will continue as a commissioner.

Now that we are several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, are you satisfied with the county health department’s response to the emergency and what changes, if any, are needed to continue to manage the virus outbreak locally?

ROGERS: Our local first responders and many of the health department and emergency management employees have been responsive, helpful and prudent. I am not satisfied with the mixed messages and lack of an overall communication strategy from the county commissioners and the health officer regarding school openings, the wearing of face coverings and general restrictions on public or private meetings. I will work to improve these communications and ensure we have a clear message for the public to be informed while ensuring the county government is not overreaching regarding personal rights.

BROWN: How the decision was made if schools should be open or not concerns me. Would have liked to have seen a better response by the director of health. Communicating with numerous businesses and the school corporations or do a survey with Elkhart County residents. This would have been of value to all of the voices in our county.

With the pandemic recession continuing and its negative impact on government revenues, can the county afford to construct a new courthouse complex that may cost up to $86 million?

BROWN: The county can afford to construct a new courthouse complex. I am all for low cost and quality. I do not know how much cost the pandemic recession has been. But that was a state emergency, that became a county emergency. I believe strongly in working with our state and federal government on the issue of the pandemic.

ROGERS: This has concerned me since the economic turmoil hit us this year. We have less money coming in and county government should be very cautious not to overextend on this major project. However, the current commissioners and council say that the county is sitting better than before the recession of 2008. Borrowing money through bonds and loans for this project may be at its best rate compared to waiting a year or more. The county is moving forward rapidly with plans for this and most of these decisions may be made before any elected candidate can take office in January.

County government has installed some dark fiber high-speed internet cables and is now leasing business access to those cables. Should the county extend this network countywide to homes, as well as rural areas?

ROGERS: This project makes sense when the county is taking this network into areas that local companies cannot afford to do so and thereby providing internet access to those who would not otherwise have it. The county should lease and use private companies to manage this, which will reimburse the county for their expense. If local companies are already in an area with fiber, the county should not be installing over these lines and should not compete with these local companies.

BROWN: I believe we should do a district survey to know what the residents would like. And how could such a project be financed? I would first try to seek grants from the state, local foundations and businesses for the community funding.

Please tell the voters what initiatives you would undertake in 2021 as a member of the Elkhart County Commissioners.

BROWN: Another important issue facing local governments is how to dispose of waste.

We are one of the fastest growing manufacturing counties in the state. We need more areas to build manufacturing plants. We have a housing shortage and Elkhart has large areas that need redevelopment.

As a disabled veteran I would work to enhance the quality of life in Elkhart County by improving accessibility for those in need as well as infrastructures, cash flow, budgeting, taxes, empowerment for local business and supporting farmers. I see a need for an increase in the number of farmers producing food for local markets and the wider use of local food and land use policies, which could benefit the smaller farms.

ROGERS: I would initiate a communications strategy for the commissioner’s office and county department heads to provide a unified, transparent and clear message to the public during a crisis. This strategy will strive to provide good and reliable information to the public, through a variety of media venues, so you can make informed decisions on what you should do to prepare or protect you and your family. I will remember the proper role of government is not to say what businesses are essential and non-essential nor to force decisions onto the public regarding their personal health.

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