GOSHEN — Seven Democrats are on the June 2 primary ballot seeking their party’s nomination for Elkhart County Council. The three candidates with the most votes will move on to the November general election to take on Republican county council candidates.
The candidates are Zanzer R. Anderson, Elkhart; Camden Chaffee, Elkhart; Ce Cey Eldridge, Elkhart; James (Jay) H. Little, Elkhart; Susie Meeks-Wade, Bristol; Paul D. Steury, Goshen; and Oxana Werbiansky, Elkhart.
Anderson and Werbiansky did not respond to requests for answers to The Goshen News election questions. Chaffee did not provide his biographical information.
Ce Cey Eldridge is the mother of two children. She said she worked in child care for 20 years.
James (Jay) Little is a graduate of Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen. He said he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. He is currently unemployed and lives in Elkhart
Susie Meeks-Wade lives in Bristol. She has been married to Edward Wade for 21 years. They are parents of an adult son. She is employed in marketing and sales.
Paul Steury is married to Michele Fanfair Steury. They are parents of two children. Steury is a graduate of Bethany High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Goshen College and his master’s degree in outdoor resources management from Indiana University.
He worked at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute as Tremont program director and as the education coordinator at Merry Lee Environmental Learning Center. He also taught at Goshen Middle School and was the director of sustainability and purchaser at Aluminum Trailer Co. He has also sold solar panels for Solar Energy Systems. He is currently working on a curriculum for the city of Goshen, Goshen Community Schools, Goshen College, Goshen Health, the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and Everence.
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 Council?
CHAFFEE: As an undergraduate student of English literature at IU South Bend, I have developed skills that have made me an excellent critical thinker; enhanced my analysis and problem-solving abilities and provided me with a cultural and social knowledge I feel would be beneficial to Elkhart’s County Council. In addition to my academic studies, I have worked on a congressional campaign, served as a delegate to the 2018 Indiana State Democratic Convention, was mentored by the late Sen. Richard Lugar and have remained active and dedicated to using political activism as a medium to make my community a better place.
ELDRIDGE: My job qualifications was child care for 20 years. I know the responsibility, organize and ideals of what to do.
LITTLE: I have had a lot of sales experiences with people. I know how to build consensus between people. I have coached, led, and taught many different groups of people, whether it was children or adults.
MEEKS-WADE: I have a bachelor’s degree in human services and a background in finance. I volunteer with many community organizations and have experience in grant writing. I serve as a trustee on my church board and I understand how budgets work.
STEURY: I am a notable candidate and will be an invaluable addition to the Elkhart County Council because of my ecological wisdom; my ability to listen and then act; my observation skills; my love of research; my network throughout the state; my pedagogical skills; my experience at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Goshen Middle School, Aluminum Trailer Co., and Solar Energy Systems; my master’s in outdoor resources management from Indiana University; that I am a continuously thinking regular person; my expectation of respect for all things; and I’m a Democrat, a needed element on the Elkhart County Council.
Have you been satisfied with the way county government has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Please explain what you would change or why no changes are needed.
CHAFFEE: I think that our county government has done a fair job of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic; however, I believe that not enough has been done to address the economic crisis that has devastated hundreds of families and small, independently-owned businesses across the county. If elected, I would propose the implementation of assistance programs to help relieve local, independent businesses of the financial hardships caused by this pandemic. This, coupled with federal and state initiatives, would help boost local economies and put us back on track to regaining what the pandemic has taken from us.
ELDRIDGE: I will leave it as emergency only as Mayor Rod Robinson of Elkhart said.
LITTLE: Yes. I believe the county has done the best it could.
MEEKS-WADE: The mayors of both Elkhart and Goshen had a plan of action for their cities to reduce the spread of COVID-19 almost immediately while county government seemed unprepared. The county needs to be proactive in times like this. When the county made a statement that schools shouldn’t close, it showed that they planned to continue to operate as normal and take a reactive approach if needed. It’s not just about keeping children safe, but keeping our entire community safe.
STEURY: Quoting County Commissioner Suzanne Weirick, “As leaders from around the county, we felt it imperative to show our unity in addressing this issue. While there are clearly plans in motion to deal with the virus when it arrives, we ask that you all work together to ensure the health and well-being of our community is impacted as minimally as possible.”
I would have appreciated more definition of what was considered essential and promote the stay-at-home order to increase social distancing. The numbers are still rising, so all of Elkhart County must stay safe.
Do you favor combining the courthouses in Goshen and Elkhart into one facility? If so, how would the county pay for the project?
CHAFFEE: At this time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel as though our county government’s highest priority should be helping those who have been affected by the economic downfall caused by this health crisis. Additionally, while it may be argued that it would be more cost efficient to operate one facility, I believe that the cost of funding this project, even with the possibility of obtaining grants, would greatly outweigh the financial benefits of centralizing the courts. I think the best way to tackle the problems presented by multiple facilities is to utilize the space available in the county jail, and add a courtroom there. However, my views are subject to change as I gain more information on this proposal.
LITTLE: There should be a central location for the county courts as Goshen is the county seat and therefore central to all residents of the county. With that said, I believe it puts some burden on the poor of Elkhart County, especially those living in the city of Elkhart. Finance it with municipal debt amongst multiple options.
ELDRDIGE: I do not agree.
MEEKS-WADE: There is an economic factor involved in consolidating the courts for both Goshen and Elkhart. Court services, businesses and restaurants in both cities could be negatively impacted and that is not what our local economy needs at this time. County Council is going to have to figure out how to pay for a facility that is estimated at $85 million. If Indiana became progressive and legalized cannabis for instance, that would bring the state and county new tax revenue to pay for things like this.
STEURY: The courts have worked well with a court in Goshen and one in Elkhart. I would rather not move it currently with the COVID-19 crisis. I like the courts in both cities to reduce travel for ecological reasons.
But the current courts buildings no longer can meet the security standards established by the Indiana Supreme Court.
This new facility intelligently must be a green state-of-the-art facility targeting energy efficiency, energy production, healthy indoor air quality, native landscaping, easy access to the Trolley and sustainable design — so we can mentor other Indiana counties to do the same.
Please tell the voters what initiatives you would undertake as a member of the Elkhart County Council.
CHAFFEE: As a member of the Elkhart County Council, I would push for local business assistance, better infrastructure and more aid given to health care facilities drastically affected by COVID-19. I would also promote bipartisanship, and make myself completely accessible and available to the people of Elkhart County.
ELDRIDGE: I would do whatever it takes to get the job done. I am committed.
LITTLE: Get the bike path between Middlebury and Bristol through Bonnyeville Mill County Park started. Look at the county’s checkbook and foster a greater diversity of spending so that county monies don’t favor certain firms over others.
MEEKS-WADE: We need to be talking about attracting diverse industry to Elkhart County. We are the RV capital and that is fantastic, but we also have a highly concentrated manufacturing cluster that makes up about half of our total employment. More diverse economies have lower unemployment rates and a quicker recovery time if they do fall into a recession. Economic diversification is about avoiding reliance on a single industry. By building a diverse, balanced economy we can ensure opportunities exist for current and future generations that can perhaps supply sustainable energy, innovation and better wages.
STEURY: All my votes as a council member will be based on respect, inclusivity, sustainability, regeneration, resiliency and adaptability.
My personal mission will be to promote triple bottom line thought on all decisions. I want every result to have the inhabitants of Elkhart County, Elkhart County ecosystem services and prudent investment in mind.
I will also advance quality of place development — creating a better Elkhart County with all the features that make our county more desirable, competitive, and economically vibrant, but also making sure climate change and present and future health of Elkhart County are at the forefront.