BICKNELL — At an age when most are just starting to think about running for public office, Thomas Estabrook, 33, is a seasoned veteran with more than 12 years worth of experience under his belt.
Now the Democrat is planning his re-election campaign for mayor of the county's second-largest municipality.
Estabrook was still a student at Vincennes University when he first ran for public office in 2006, eventually winning his race for Vigo Township Trustee. He would serve two terms (though not consecutively; he served one four-year term in between on the township's advisory board) before running for mayor in 2015.
While campaigning and knocking on doors he heard the same concerns over and over again.
Estabrook listened to stories about blighted properties and a need for jobs, and during his term he's taken pride in finally removing some of those dangerous and unsightly houses and doing what he could to improve the lives of residents.
Over the past two years, Estabrook has secured money from the state’s Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Fund, enough to tear down 20 homes.
Because blighted properties, he said, have a direct impact on everything from jobs to economic development. Removing eyesore homes and repairing infrastructure, he hopes, will go a long way in attracting new residents and businesses.
“When those houses disappear, it fundamentally changes the neighborhood,” Estabrook said.
He also touted recent improvements in water and sewage service without raising rates as well as the procurement of grant dollars from the state’s Community Crossings Matching Grant Program to fix streets.
He also worked with the city council to secure retirement benefits for non-public safety full-time employees.
But more change, he said, is needed.
He’s learned much in his first four years, he said, especially in terms of how expensive it is to keep a city running in its best form.
But those lessons have allowed him to become better at planning an prioritizing.
If elected again, Estabrook, a 2004 graduate of North Knox High School, said he would continue his pursuit of a Tax Increment Finance Zone, a vehicle by which a portion of property taxes within the zone are captured and spent on infrastructure improvements, thereby encouraging even more development.
He also wants to focus on enticing developers to build single-family homes.
He desires, too, a continued relationship with the Knox County Development Corp. in an effort to new business to Bicknell.
And, overall, he promises to approach a second term with the same attitude he had when first elected.
“When it comes to businesses and community members, what can I do to help you?,” he asked. “That's the attitude I want to continue in the second term.”
Official candidate filings don’t begin until after the first of the year, and leaders with the county’s Republican Party have made no candidate announcements.