The two candidates for New Haven mayor have the daunting task of taking over the job currently held by Terry McDonald for the last 20 years. McDonald decided not to run this year.
We asked the candidates three questions by questionnaire, plus gave them the opportunity to make a brief statement.
Q: Terry McDonald has been New Haven mayor for 20 years. He was elected five times, so New Haven residents must have found a lot to like about him. Has that shaped your campaign, your platform, or your style of leadership? Will you build on his legacy, or work on your own?
Republican Steve McMichael: Mayor McDonald has been a friend and mentor for many years. While we have not always agreed on every issue, which is apparent to anyone who has regularly attended City Council meetings, we respect each other and know that each has the best interest of New Haven in mind with every decision made. New Haven is definitely better off because of Mayor McDonald’s years of service, and I am honored to have his support and endorsement to be his successor. While I have my own vision for the future of our great community, I will build on the strong foundation that Terry and his administration has laid.
Democrat Darren Peterson: As our second Democratic mayor, Terry McDonald’s vision was to make improvements and bring growth to New Haven. He revitalized the downtown business area, upgraded our stormwater removal system, connected us to the Rivergreenway, and made improvements to some parks. Initially, Terry had an open-door policy with citizens who had concerns or questions. He was approachable and willing to meet with people. Many of my desires and my personality align with his first few terms in office. I enjoy building relationships with people. To have that ability one must be open to communicate and more importantly listen. I believe that the best leaders are great listeners.
What is the single biggest problem New Haven faces, and how will you deal with it?
McMichael: Our biggest issue is water/sewer utility rates. If elected I will convene a stakeholder panel to identify and research where we are, how we got here and what the options look like moving forward. The stakeholder group will consist of residents, business owners, nonprofit and other community leaders, along with at least one New Haven Utility Department employee. Another large issue is Public Safety, in making sure that we are properly staffed and funded for the future.
Peterson: While speaking with neighbors in the community most commonly I hear concerns about the cost of water and sewer service. I have also heard concerns about other city services. My goal is to form a task force of citizens in our community that will help to tackle this challenge head-on and come up with the best solution. I believe as a community we can help each other to solve problems. ... Additionally, I am open to thinking outside the box and examining other cities’ options concerning operations and water availability. Finally, I am open to sitting down with the next Fort Wayne mayor and working on an agreement that better serves our city.
What are your goals for New Haven? What will make it a better city?
McMichael: New Haven is in a unique position. Small-town charm that is extremely family friendly, where neighbors know neighbors, adjacent to a larger city with many desired amenities. My goal is to provide an environment where additional hotels, restaurants, shopping, recreation and professional services are made available for our residents, along with continuing the success of our industrial development, all in a responsible and sustainable way that does not erode our small-town charm. Responsible government policies that provide incentives to these businesses to locate along our Indiana 930 corridor. Working together with residents, we can Build a Better New Haven for today and tomorrow.
Peterson: My goals for New Haven are these: I want to improve the Indiana 930 corridor by bringing in new businesses. We have an opportunity for a bustling community, and businesses want to come here. Finding ways to encourage businesses to invest in our downtown area and ways to support small businesses so they can remain once they are here is a priority.
I will work to examine infrastructure and improve decisions. Infrastructure affects our traffic capabilities for commerce in and around our city. Things like the dispersion of neighborhood improvements will also be scrutinized. Crumbling streets in our additions do not attract new homeowners. Our sidewalk system needs to be expanded to create more areas, and we need to create access from addition to addition. This will allow more connectivity for our citizens on foot, bicycles, etc., which improves the health of young and old and reduces vehicular traffic. It will also allow better access to our schools, parks, stores, and eateries. I am committed to adding additional officers to our police force and finding solutions to retain our existing officers. I will examine the efficiency of our city offices, and finally, I very much want to revitalize our parks to match community needs. New Haven is a wonderful city with bright community members who have great ideas. I believe that they want to have a say in how their community is run, and I will be sure that they have access to me; the door will always be open.
McMichael: I believe my experience as City Council president, board leadership positions, small-business owner, community leader and volunteer will serve New Haven well if I am elected mayor. Government is not a business, but sound business principles do translate well to government service.
My wife, Judy, and I were married over 30 years ago at New Haven’s Emanuel Lutheran. Our children, now adults, still live in New Haven as do my mother and mother-in-law. We recently built our forever dream home and are fully invested and committed to the New Haven community!
Peterson: Having served in the Army, as a police officer for 25 years, and spending the last seven years as a school resource officer, have given me great insight into building relationships. Working with our youth, their parents and great school staff has changed and enriched my life. The unknown day-to-day ebbs and flows of the job cause you to be a great problem solver, a mentor, a friend, and a leader. You must use active listening, communication, empathy, and a caring attitude to build trust and bond with those around you. I have learned over these many years of service to our community that planning, organization, and communication are the cornerstones of success. There is no room for self-promotion or profit when such important tasks are at hand. These are the same principles and tools I want all city employees to utilize as we grow as a team together.