Today through next Sunday, we will present endorsements for contested nominations in the May 6 Republican primary election. This spring, none of the Allen County Democratic primary candidates are contested. The selections were made by our editorial board after interviews with the candidates.
Allen County sheriff David Gladieux
Having served the two terms the law allows, Sheriff Ken Fries will step down at the end of the year. His chief deputy, David Gladieux, has the inside track to replace him. In this case, that's a good thing.
Patrol, Dispatch, K-9 and SWAT duty, detective work, and the jail – the 50-year-old Gladieux has worked in every area of the sheriff's department except the warrants division.
His father was an Indiana state trooper, and "I knew at an early age I wanted to get into the field," says Gladieux, who joined the sheriff's department in 1987.
"I've invested my entire life in this department. I've paid my dues."
Nowadays, of course, just showing up doesn't make anybody a lock on getting or keeping any job, particularly one as crucial as sheriff in an era of scarce resources and a potentially overflowing jail. But three decades of experience have left Gladieux with an understanding of the department's challenges and a clear vision of its mission.
"The biggest responsibility is overseeing the jail," Gladieux says, looking ahead to a new state law that will take effect this summer that will have those convicted of lower-level felonies serve their time in county jails instead of prison. In response to the expected influx of prisoners, Gladieux would like to start a sheriff's work crew that might even allow prisoners to learn a trade.
He's also concerned about the lack of treatment options for prisoners with mental health issues: "We aren't trained to deal with these things."
Gladieux has already been a departmental cost-cutter, negotiating a new contract to save money on pharmaceuticals, and he would apply his scalpel to other areas.
But he says he would like to increase the number of county officers, and he would continue the department's efforts to work closely with city police on joint concerns, particularly homicides. "Three of those homicides were in Allen County," he continues. "Their problems are our problems. It's starting to leak out into the county."
Gladieux's challenger is another worthy and long-serving officer, Sgt. Luke NaThalang of the Indiana State Police. The 57-year-old NaThalang was born in Thailand, came to Fort Wayne at 10 and has been a state police officer for 30 years, primarily patrolling Allen County. NaThalang believes layers of management could be eliminated to put more officers on the street, and he favors more community-oriented policing, getting more involved with young people to head off the lure of gangs, drugs and violence.
"We can build all the jail cells we want; it's never going to stop," he says.
NaThalang, though, lacks the deep understanding of the department that would enable Gladieux to fine tune an already well-run operation.
Allen County assessor Stacey O'Day
"I love helping people," says Stacey O'Day. "I love doing what I'm doing." But she adds, "there are always ways that we can do our job better."
O'Day seems to have taken that philosophy to heart in running the Allen County Assessor's Office demandingly, effectively and, when necessary, aggressively.
As her second term in office nears its end, the 48-year-old O'Day has shown that an office that makes everyone else play by the numbers can do a good job with its own stats. She's reduced the office's general fund allocation by more than $300,000 and used attrition and efficiency to reduce her staff by a fourth, from 48 to 36, without hurting the office's performance. Appraisals are on time and appeals have dropped.
O'Day is respected by her peers in the Indiana County Assessors Association, who named her Indiana County Assessor of the Year in 2009 and have entrusted her to be their legislative liaison for the past six years.
O'Day also has shown she is willing to stand up for the average taxpayer when a big player wants a big break. Most notably, she battled the owner of Glenbrook Square to a settlement last year that allowed the county to keep $20 million, 90 percent of disputed taxes .
O'Day seems unfazed by her latest challenge. In July, Indiana will change from "general reassessment," which requires that properties be re-evaluated once every decade, to "cyclical reassessment," which sets up a four-year cycle for re-evaluations.
Challenger Kimberly Klerner believes those working on assessments should get out into the field and view properties firsthand. Klerner also wants to return the human touch to the assessor's office; she says she has heard from people and organizations who believe the assessor's staff is not as taxpayer-friendly as it used to be.
Klerner, 49, served in the office for 13 years and spent more than four years working on the other side of the fence, as service manager for Integrity Financial and Tax Consulting.
Though she says she left that position last year to avoid any conflict of interest during the campaign, Klerner believes her experience as a private taxpayer advocate, coupled with her experience on the governmental side, would allow her to serve both the county and its citizens well.
Allen County prosecutor Karen Richards
County prosecutor is a particularly wearing job. Every horrific crime eventually comes across your desk, the victims and their families demand attention and compassion, and hard choices have to be made. After high-profile tragedies, the community expects that perpetrators be punished. Decisions not to charge, or acquittals, do not go down so easily.
Karen Richards paid her dues as a street-smart Allen County deputy prosecutor for 21 years, trying hundreds of cases and earning a reputation as a victim's advocate as she founded the office's Sex Crimes Unit and helped create its Child Mortality Review Team and the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children.
For more than 11 years, Richards has run the prosecutor's office in Indiana's second-biggest city toughly and competently. The pressures of the job have not discouraged her from seeking a well-earned fourth term.
Richards, 59, has a familiar challenger, 58-year-old Mike Loomis, who lost to Richards in a bitter primary battle in 2002. Loomis had been a deputy prosecutor in Indianapolis before joining the Allen County prosecutor's office. He was chief deputy there for five years under the previous prosecutor, Robert Gevers II.
This time around, both candidates seem to be taking higher ground. Loomis expresses concern about the homicide rate and believes morale is low in the office. He would push to hire more prosecutors and to establish a night court to accommodate working people, empanel grand juries and get his office involved in solving deeper community problems such as unemployment that can lead to crime.
Richards takes a more focused, no-frills approach. She believes that sound professional investigation and close cooperation with the police are keys to dealing with violence and gangs, and contends that grand juries are useful only for limited types of crime, such as public corruption.
Richards understands her office and its limitations and deserves the opportunity to continue doing something she's been doing well for a long time.