Democrat Scott Brown is looking to secure a fifth term to his District 3 seat on the city council, but a retired police officer and a member of the newly-formed local Libertarian Party are each looking to unseat him.
Republican John Stangle and Libertarian Shane Lemler
For Republican John Stangle, this will be his second attempt at a city office, while Libertarian Shane Lemler has thrown his hat in the ring for the very first time.
Stangle, who retired from the Vincennes Police Department last summer after 34 years, made an unsuccessful bid for the District 3 seat eight years ago. Shortly after, state lawmakers approved legislation that prohibits a city employee from running for an elected position.
“So since I retired, I wanted to try again,” he said.
Stangle, who also drives a school bus for the Vincennes Community School Corp., said one of the primary reasons he’s running for office is because of what he sees when he’s picking up and dropping off children. He says there isn’t enough “good, affordable housing” for middle- to low-income families, an argument made by many over the last few years.
His primary platform, he said, is in bolstering development efforts — both residential and commercial — and continuing ongoing efforts to clean up the city.
“We need to spruce up our neighborhoods,” he said. “We need more nice roads, curbs and sidewalks. We need to offer a nice appearance.
“I believe if (the city) does its part, other people will begin to invest in our neighborhoods themselves.”
Stangle, too, said he supports the city doing anything it can — from tax incentives to a tax abatement — to attract industry, all in an effort, he said, to increase incomes.
“I just want to do what I can to improve the city and the lives of the people who live here,” he said. “I want to see it continue to grow and improve.”
Lemler, who served just over five years as a U.S. Marine, including three tours of duty in Iraq, moved to Vincennes in 2011. A Tippecanoe native, he will graduate in December from Vincennes University with a degree in business and general studies and plans to then pursue a degree from VU in business management.
He’s become a fixture at city and county council meetings over the last couple of years, and he’s gone door-to-door, he said, looking to recruit people into the Libertarian Party.
He’s spoken with many residents eager for change, he said.
His goal, if elected, would be in making sure residents have more say in how their tax dollars are spent. He was, for instance, adamantly opposed to the city and county partnering to pay for a $2.4 million transformation of the Pantheon Theatre downtown into a shared workspace and small business incubator.
Such big financial decisions, he argues, should be left to the voters, specifically in a referendum.
“Moving forward, because I know the Pantheon is said and done, that amount of money, voters should have a say in that,” he said. “(Expenditures of that amount) should be brought to the public ballot.”
Lemler, too, said he would strive to eliminate unnecessary ordinances; there are too many, he said, that are simply “pointless” and meant to govern just a few.
He says he would also be an advocate for his district and push to see more streets in District 3 repaved. Many of those residents, he alleges, get “passed over” in terms of infrastructure upkeep and repair.
Brown, however, argues that the city is poised for the kind of growth and opportunity the likes of which he hasn’t seen in his 16 years on the council. That momentum, he said, is why he’s decided to try for a fifth term.
“The progress we’ve made in the last 8-9 years, I just want to keep it going,” he said.
Brown, director of Wabash Valley Regional Community Corrections, pointed to the millions spent in recent years on infrastructure repair, thanks large in part to the state’s new Community Crossings Matching Grant program, which sets aside tax dollars specifically for road projects.
He is also a supporter of the Pantheon Education Center; he sits on the five-member board overseeing aspects of the construction.
He said he first ran 16 years ago because he wanted to see eyesore houses torn down, an effort that is now light years ahead of where it once was, he said.
Oddly enough, he decided to support the Pantheon project because that was one building — a piece of the city’s history — he couldn’t bear to see demolished.
“So I want to see that through,” he said of the project, set to open early next year.
He also sits on the Knox County Development Corp’s Board of Directors, and he enjoys being a part of efforts to recruit new industry and business, he said.
And his willingness to keep “an open mind,” he adds, is an important attribute for anyone holding a government office. He pointed to his own skepticism of the Pantheon when the idea was first pitched by the non-profit INVin.
“Initially, I was against the Pantheon,” he said. “And then I started talking to people. I didn’t base my decisions on the flavor of the day on Facebook. And when I started looking at all the facts, I decided that it did make sense.
“You’ve got to be able to listen,” Brown said. “You have to be willing to change your mind.”