Candidates running for open seats on the Montgomery County Council and the Board of Commissioners called for more housing and the expansion of broadband internet to attract skilled workers in a forum broadcast on the radio Monday.
The forum, which aired on WCDQ-FM and is available on the station’s Facebook page, offered the half-dozen hopefuls an opportunity to lay out their visions for the community as voters cast ballots ahead of Nov. 3’s election.
In-person early voting opened Tuesday, and more than two weeks remain until the deadline to request a mailed absentee ballot.
Council at-large candidates Jake Bohlander, incumbent Gary Booth, David Hunt and Summer Ervin and District 1 commissioner candidates Jacob Arthur and incumbent John Frey each fielded questions from moderator S. David Long in pre-recorded segments. The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Federation of Business and Professional Women sponsored the forum.
The candidates said building new homes, improving high-speed Web access throughout the county and continuing to develop the Nucor Steel corridor are keys to growing the population, as community leaders lay the groundwork for new industries by expanding water and sewer infrastructure and working to market available land.
“There’s a saying in business: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I think the same can be said for communities,” Bohlander said.
Hunt, who was appointed by local Republicans to serve the rest of late councilman Terry Hockersmith’s term this year, said his own children are struggling to find a mid-priced starter home in the tight real estate market. Booth, in a segment rebroadcast from May’s primary candidates forum, said new homeowners should be infused into the county’s aging tax base.
On the commissioners side, Frey touted efforts through regional partnerships like the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network to expand rural broadband internet access.
Commissioners and council members will take office next year with an economy hit by the coronavirus. Ervin said the council can seek new ways of funding projects and that the county can do more to ensure the health department has resources for tackling the pandemic and preparedness.
Ervin is one of three political newcomers in the races. The Crawfordsville resident, a database developer for a clinical trial firm, would be the first woman to serve on the council in nearly 20 years.
“How diverse our elected officials are is an issue that goes to the very heart of our democracy. It is vitally important that the people who represent us properly reflect us,” said Ervin, who pledged to appoint women and minorities to local commissions.
As the youngest person in the races, Bohlander, 28, employed in the seed business, said he brings a level of energy and a different perspective to the board.
Arthur is running as an independent, staking his campaign on going “back to the basics” in Montgomery County. The excavating and farm drainage business owner called for streamlining the building permit process and widening and improving roads.
Government transparency also emerged as a theme in the forum. Ervin suggested changing the time of council meetings to make it more convenient for day shift workers to attend and posting video of the meetings on YouTube. The council currently meets at 9 a.m.
Hunt praised recent updates to the county’s website, which makes it easier to find agendas, minutes and summaries of public meetings.
Frey pointed to regular newspaper columns and public constituent events as a way for citizens to learn about local government happenings and said he planned to continue meeting with residents.