Former Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries is back in politics.
Fries won an at-large seat on Allen County Council Nov. 28 night during the county Republican Party’s caucus at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. It took four ballots from the 182 of the eligible 263 voters who attended, he said. Nine candidates were on the slate.
Kyle Kerley, chair of the Legacy Fund Joint Funding Committee, will join Fries as another county council at-large member after he too made the cut. Each candidate had to earn 50 percent of the votes plus one.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Director of Business Development Adam Welch came in second to both Fries and Kerley in separate rounds of voting.
Kerley will take office Jan. 1, after current at-large councilman Eric Tippmann leaves the seat. Tippmann won the post of Perry Township trustee in November’s general election and can’t hold both offices, said Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine.
Fries expected to be sworn in Nov. 29 or 30 and immediately take over the seat vacated by Justin Busch. Busch replaced fellow Fort Wayne resident David Long, who retired from his State Senate District 16 seat.
Because of a term limit, Fries retired in 2015 after 32 years with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, the last eight as sheriff. He lost the 2014 Republican primary for the District 15 State Senate seat to Liz Brown of Fort Wayne. Brown eventually went on to win the seat over Democrat Jack E. Morris.
Fries said he has contemplated a return to politics for the last couple of years.
“I like being involved in things,” he said.
The rural Allen County resident sees his years in law enforcement as a benefit for taxpayers. Over 70 percent of the county’s 2018 budget goes to law enforcement, which operates the Allen County Jail and the Juvenile Justice Center.
“The vast majority of the county budget is law enforcement, and that’s true for every county in Indiana,” he said. “…I understand how things work and why they work.”
The law enforcement budget covers everything from the time a call for service is made through the prosecution and incarceration of offenders, he said.
Raised among eight children on his father’s schoolteacher salary, Fries was raised to be frugal, and that’s how he’ll approach the job.
And while Sheriff David Gladieux is Fries’ former deputy chief, the new councilman says he won’t play favorites.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to see tax dollars wasted,” Fries said.
Shine sees Fries and Kerley both as excellent choices.
“We couldn’t ask for two better individuals,” Shine said.
Fries has the experience of overseeing the sheriff’s department budget and coming before county council numerous times, and Kerley is working on Legacy, which is handling millions of dollars from the Fort Wayne Community Trust and the City Light Lease Settlement between the City of Fort Wayne and Indiana Michigan Power, Shine said.
The anticipated high attendance at the caucus prompted the party to hold the event at the Grand Wayne instead of party headquarters, he said.
“It was the first time in my career … that two caucuses were held back to back in the same governing body,” said Shine, in his 26th year as party chairman.
He expects the remaining seven candidates – Welch, David Barrett, Bryan Bohnke, Lindsay Hannah, Brian Motley, Scott Myers, and Brad Mills – “are going to be superstars in our party.”