On the heels of last year’s hotly-contested municipal election, another election cycle is upon Howard County. This time, the focus is on multiple county elections.
Candidates aiming to either continue their roles in elected office or claim a new position in Howard County government began filing for election recently. Already, seven candidates have filed to run for the 11 open positions up for election, and they’re all Republicans. Here are those who have filed to run in this year’s election:
Howard County Council at-large
Thus far, three Republican candidates have filed to run for the three available at-large seats on the Howard County Council.
Currently, James Papacek, Jeff Stout, and Stan Ortman serve as the council’s at-large members. Papacek and Stout have filed for reelection, but Ortman has announced he will not be running for another term.
“After prayer, deliberation, and thought, I decided to not seek reelection to the Howard Count Council,” Ortman said. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity given to me to serve as councilman for 20 years.”
However, Howard County Auditor Martha Lake has filed to run for an at-large position.
Lake, a long-time county official, said she hoped to make the leap from serving as the council and commissioner’s secretary to a voting member of the council.
“You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to vote and couldn’t,” said Lake. “We all sit in the meetings, but when it comes time to vote, I have to be quiet. This is a new opportunity to serve the taxpayers in a different way, and I’m excited about it.”
Lake is coming off of her second term as auditor, and prior to that she served two terms as Howard County Treasurer. Both are limited to two four-year terms.
Papacek and Stout filed alongside Lake at the county courthouse last week. In seeking his 10th term on the county council, Papacek said he’s enjoyed his work with the county and that he intended to continue that work with the county for another term.
“I’d like to maintain the good financial position we’re in,” said Papacek. “The fact that the county has no debt, that our general fund is in a strong position, this is due not only to the county council but also all the county department heads working to keep budgets down and working hard to help save the taxpayers money.”
Papacek was appointed president of the council last year.
Similarly, Councilman Stout announced he would seek his sixth term on the county’s fiscal body. The veteran of the council said he hoped to serve the citizens of Howard County for another four years.
“I feel like the council has worked hard, and I’ve been glad to be a part of that over the last four years,” said Stout. “With the budget and not knowing just how some of the annexation would affect what monies we’d have to work with, but we’ve been a conservative council and made it work great. We’ve been able to give raises a couple times over the last four years and still continue the services to the taxpayer that we are responsible for. I feel like things are in a pretty good shape and in a pretty good role. I enjoy doing it, I really do.”
Thus far, no Democrats have filed to run for the at-large positions.
Howard County Commissioner
Incumbent Republican Brad Bray also has filed for reelection in District 3, hoping to serve another term on the Howard County Board of Commissioners.
The volunteer firefighter for Greentown is seeking his third term with the commissioners. After Commissioner Tyler Moore moved into the mayor’s office at the beginning of the year, Bray ascended to vice president of the commissioners.
Also a former firefighter with the Kokomo Fire Department, Bray said he believed Howard County has been on an upswing, and he aimed to continue that trend.
“We’re getting a lot of stuff done in the county,” said Bray. “I feel like we’re going in the right direction. We’ve got a balanced budget. People talked about work release for 20 years, and we finally got that going … I like to be able to help people. That’s what I’m all about.”
A Democratic challenger has not yet filed to run against Bray.
Howard Superior III Judge
Howard Superior III Judge Doug Tate intends to hold onto his position on the bench in Howard County this year.
The Republican judge is seeking his fourth term, and over the last 18 years, Tate has been instrumental in the overhauling of the local judicial system. During his time as president of the Howard County Community Corrections Board the county opened work release, implemented a case reallocation system for the local courts, successfully lobbied the state for a judicial magistrate, and streamlined Howard County Community Corrections by combining it with the probation department.
Within his courtroom, Tate also has decreased his budget since taking office in 2002, reducing his court staff and lowering his annual budget from $300,000 then to about $170,000 now. Similarly, he’s also taken over the domestic violence court after Howard Superior I moved to do away with the program.
Regardless, Tate said work still remains to be done.
“I think we still have a long way to go,” said Tate. “Every time we cover a milestone we realize we have a ways to go, especially on the criminal justice part of it … What can we do to change attitudes and address issues in our community, to go back toward smaller numbers, and that will be a challenge we face as judicial officers every day.”
If elected for a fourth term Tate said he intended to implement a DUI specialty court.
Howard County Auditor
With Lake’s two-term limit set to be reached at the end of this year, an employee of the auditor’s office intends to step into the position of Howard County’s chief financial officer.
Republican Jessica Secrease announced she would be running for the position of auditor this year. Secrease presently serves as the first deputy in the auditor’s office, and throughout her nine years working within the county office, she’s worked in both deductions and finance.
Secrease touted repeated “perfect” State Board of Accounts audits during her time working within the auditor’s office, and she’s also played a role in updating the office’s software and payment methods. The office also worked to implement automatic timekeeping for county employees.
“If elected to this position, I will personally commit to keep integrity and dignity, as well as honesty, accountability, and stability in this office,” said Secrease. “I will always have an open-door policy for all. We will continue to abide by all state statutes and treat all taxpayers fairly.”
No Democrat has filed to oppose Secrease.
Howard County Surveyor Dave Duncan also filed for reelection in the coming election cycle.
The county surveyor is tasked with surveying and record-keeping for all section corners in the county, and the office must maintain records for all the regulated drains in the city as well.
It’s perhaps the last function that puts the county surveyor most in the public light, and Duncan has filled that role for two terms.
Most notably, Duncan played a significant role in the work aimed at providing flood relief to the Ivy Hills subdivision in the Kirkendall basin. Duncan’s task in the project involved reworking the tiles that run through the subdivision, and he said he hopes that work will commence soon.
Duncan also touted what he said was a willingness to interact with the community and take suggestions from the area’s citizens. This has taken place through his promotion of town hall meetings for those seeking help with drainage around their homes or property.
“I feel like I listen to the people, and I do that through town hall meetings,” said Duncan. “It’s not just a meeting I scheduled to tell them what I’m going to do. I ask them what they want me to do and how to approach it. I am a tool at their disposal.”
No Democrat has filed to oppose Duncan at this point.