Five newcomers will seek the GOP nomination for Allen County Council District 3 in Tuesday’s election.
The seat is currently held by Republican Darren Vogt, who is seeking the open state Senate District 15 seat that was vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Wyss.
A referendum on the November ballot will ask voters to decide whether to do away with the current three-commissioner board and move to a single county executive and expand the County Council from seven members to nine. Instead of four members representing districts and three at-large members, all nine would represent a district.
Travis Armstrong’s father, Robert Armstrong, is on the council, but it would not be a conflict if he is elected because the two are of different mindsets, the 22-year-old said.
I have my own voice, and I could view things differently, Armstrong said.
Armstrong’s degree in criminal justice would enable him to work effectively as a liaison with the sheriff’s department, he said.
Armstrong is in favor of the proposed move to a single county executive system of government, although he said it would be a lengthy challenge getting used to it.
Armstrong believes he is more open to change than others.
The council needs a new face, young and eager to serve the taxpayers, not the spenders, he said.
Joel Benz, a small-business owner and Three Rivers Ambulance Authority medic who just received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Saint Francis, said the council has some challenges ahead of it – but it faces even more opportunities.
With the increase in local-option income taxes and a recovering economy, the council should see a little more revenue and relief, he said.
Benz thinks his diverse experience would serve taxpayers well.
I would be very interested in finding ways to empower small businesses – the real drivers of revenue, Benz said.
Benz has some reservations about switching to one county executive, but ultimately the voters will decide, he said.
Tom Rotering said he is well-positioned to serve on the council with his background in small business and law enforcement.
A fire investigator for the Fort Wayne Fire Department, Rotering is also a sworn police officer. He owns a small fire investigation company and once owned and operated a limousine business.
About 78 percent of the county budget revolves around law enforcement and the courts, he said. I would not only be able to communicate effectively with those departments, but also ask the right questions.
On the issue of a single county commissioner and expanding the council, Rotering said he will wait to see how people vote.
He said he would like to focus efforts on business tax abatements to generate new economic development.
Gwen Sordelet has experience in working with county budgets, having worked very closely with the budget of Allen County Voter Registration, where she is chief deputy. If elected, Sordelet would quit that job to avoid a conflict, she said.
She also has an extensive business background, including helping start a tool and die business, working for Mattel Inc. for nearly 13 years, and owning and operating Get the Word Out, an advertising agency.
I like to budget. I like to find deals and save money, she said.
Sordelet said while she supports voters deciding on a single-executive county government, she was very happy with the three-commissioner system.
I’m afraid with only one executive, people won’t be heard and things will slip through the cracks, she said.
Gary Washington is a chiropractor, sworn police officer and business owner and has held three elected positions – a diverse mix that makes him the most qualified and experienced person for the job, he said.
Washington owns and operates Washington Chiropractic on the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus.
If elected, he would like to eliminate the small business inventory tax.
As a businessman, I used to hate to pay it, Washington said.
Washington worked as an officer for the Allen County Sheriff’s Reserve from 1999 to 2002, but gave up that job to go to medical school.
For now, he is against the idea of one county executive, but that could change.
All I’ve talked to are the county officials who are against it, he said. I’d like to hear the arguments for and against before making a final decision, Washington said.