Commissioner announces bid for 7th term

One of the longest-serving elected officials in the Columbus area has announced he will seek a seventh four-year term as Bartholomew County commissioner.

Larry Kleinhenz, 57, was first elected in 1992 by defeating incumbent commissioner Marvin Finke during the spring Republican primary. Kleinhenz said he successfully campaigned during the next five elections by opposing property tax increases and positioning himself as an advocate for individual property rights.

Kleinhenz represents District 1, which includes the townships of Flatrock, German, Harrison and Hawcreek — in northern and western Bartholomew County — as well as a section of northern Columbus.

Only Bartholomew County Council member Evelyn Pence, first elected to her current position in 1980, has served longer in the same elected position than Kleinhenz.

Through the years, Kleinhenz has successfully advocated for combining city and county planning departments, the creation of a joint emergency dispatch center, and the expansion of County Road 600N between Clifford and Hope.

When challenged by Tim Dillingham in the 2012 GOP primary, Kleinhenz took about 62 percent of the vote and was unopposed in the general election.

A more recent effort by Kleinhenz to advance State Street redevelopment by constructing a $3.25 million county annex building fell through during the summer as the result of a fiscal crisis that largely developed from a reduction in funding at the state level.

Despite increasing financial constraints, Kleinhenz said he feels confident about local government’s ability to meet ever-increasing demands.

Kleinhenz and fellow commissioners Carl Lienhoop and Rick Flohr have spearheaded efforts recently to financially stabilize the health care trust for the self-insured county that covers more than 400 employees.

His priorities for a seventh term include carrying out a long-overdue renovation of the Bartholomew County Highway Garage, as well as continuing to collaborate with community partners to promote positive change, Kleinhenz said.

Laura Moses, director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Bartholomew County, will serve as chairwoman of Kleinhenz’ reelection committee.

Two-term Bartholomew County Council member Jorge Morales announced in July that he intended to challenge Kleinhenz in the 2016 Republican primary. However, candidates cannot officially file their candidacy until after Jan. 1.

While the three commissioners serve as the county’s top executives, commissioner is a part-time elected position. Kleinhenz said he has a number of ongoing business interests including home construction and farming.

Larry Kleinhenz

Who: Larry Kleinhenz

Age: 57

Employment:  Self-employed businessman

Current office held:  Bartholomew County Commissioner District 1, first elected in 1992.

Family: Wife, Annette, 11 children

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.