County council at-large GOP primary preview election grid

Candidate Q&A and bios attached for grid.

Evelyn S. Pence

The county council’s primary job is oversight of departmental budgets. If you are forced to consider further cuts next year, what will be your area of focus?

  • Work sharing in the offices.
  • Video conferencing and meetings utilizing the Internet when possible. Our courts and jail use video meetings, which have shown savings.
  • Travel costs/hotel and food savings would be realized by using webinar meetings.

Are there any additional revenue sources that the county has not yet considered?  How do these differ from previously considered plans?

  • A study currently is underway to ensure nothing is overlooked.
  • The council, as well as the county commissioners, has the option to implement several additional taxes, but we have tried not to do that. Once a tax is put into effect, it never goes away.

Since switching to a self-insurance plan, the county has been forced to make several unexpected contributions to this program to ensure its ability to meet claims obligations. What steps would you take to ensure this program operates smoothly in the future?

  • We are reviewing the insurance expense status monthly, and sometimes twice per month, to eliminate any surprises.
  • The new plan has additional options which should allow folks to catch health issues early and be proactive.
  • We promote health lifestyles.

Several agencies within the county have been discussing confined animal feeding operations and the requirements necessary to allow these kinds of operations within county limits. What is your position regarding this issue?

  • This has been a topic of concern for some time with many meetings on this subject. I respect the group that has been working diligently on this to do the right thing for all parties.  
  • Agriculture is and has always been a very valuable asset to this county.   

The local juvenile court has seen an eight-fold increase in the number of abused or neglected children entering the local service system since 2010.  Many of these children end up in county care at the Youth Services Center. What is the council’s role in supporting services for these children?

  • We support the Youth Services Center with a well-trained staff. Parenting programs are available, as well as day and evening treatment programs, for the juveniles. A shelter is also at the center.
  • Youth Services accepts children from other counties who reimburse our county.  

James "Jim" Reed

The county council’s primary job is oversight of departmental budgets. If you are forced to consider further cuts next year, what will be your area of focus?

My choice would be to delay new purchases that are not absolutely necessary. I would not want to put any employees in jeopardy of losing their job.

Are there any additional revenue sources that the county has not yet considered?  How do these differ from previously considered plans?

Yes, as discussed in the 2015 budget hearing. We could enact a (local option income) tax and wheel tax.  I am not in favor of either. 

Since switching to a self-insurance plan, the county has been forced to make several unexpected contributions to this program to ensure its ability to meet claims obligations. What steps would you take to ensure this program operates smoothly in the future?

The council does not control the benefit trust. The commissioners control this. They made substantial changes for 2016.  If this does not make the trust self-sustaining, the commissioners will address this.

Several agencies within the county have been discussing confined animal feeding operations and the requirements necessary to allow these kinds of operations within county limits. What is your position regarding this issue?

That has nothing to do with the powers of the council.

The local juvenile court has seen an eight-fold increase in the number of abused or neglected children entering the local service system since 2010. Many of these children end up in county care at the Youth Services Center. What is the council’s role in supporting services for these children?

The budget for this is about $1.5 million. They are being reimbursed in the amount of about $600,000. The time to treat these youth is before they become hardened criminals. The downside of this is the recidivism rate of about 50 percent.   

Matt Miller

 The county council’s primary job is oversight of departmental budgets. If you are forced to consider further cuts next year, what will be your area of focus?

That’s the problem. The career politicians on the council have to be forced to deal with issues. Occasionally, they do the right thing, but only after they have tried everything else. All budgets need scrutiny. By prioritizing the services that are most important to taxpayers, we can realize additional savings.

Are there any additional revenue sources that the county has not yet considered? How do these differ from previously considered plans?

Additional revenue sources are another way to say new taxes. Instead of new taxes, we should take steps to increase the revenue we obtain through existing taxes. Economic development is the key to long-term financial stability for the county.

Since switching to a self-insurance plan, the county has been forced to make several unexpected contributions to this program to ensure its ability to meet claim obligations. What steps would you take to ensure this program operates smoothly in the future?

I’m not convinced that this is the best program for the county employees or for the taxpayers. The council briefly looked at a different program and a different vendor, but it failed to address the shortcomings of the existing plan. It’s time to look at this from an unbiased perspective.

Several agencies within the county have been discussing confined animal feeding operations and the requirements necessary to allow these kinds of operations within county limits. What is your position regarding this issue?

At this point I am of two minds. One, the supporter of agri-business and economic development; and the other, concerned about property values and the impact on water quality. The wisest course is to err on the side of caution and set standards that provide the greatest degree of safety.

The local juvenile court has seen an eight-fold increase in the number of abused or neglected children entering the local service system since 2010. Many of these children end up in county care at the Youth Services Center. What is the council’s role in supporting services for these children?

This is not a local phenomenon. Sadly, the fabric of family and community has tended to unravel across the nation in the past decade. I have consulted with experts to see how we can improve the impact of our efforts. I am convinced we can achieve better results.  

Bill Lentz

The county council’s primary job is oversight of departmental budgets. If you are forced to consider further cuts next year, what will be your area of focus?

In recent years, the County Council has been diligent in making certain the county budget is adequate. If spending cuts become necessary in the future, I believe the cuts should focus on areas of government that affect people the least.

Are there any additional revenue sources that the county has not yet considered? How do these differ from previously considered plans?

The County Council must look for ways to broaden resources. I have met at the Statehouse with lawmakers and the governor and also locally with the Columbus mayor and City Council members trying to accelerate resources. I encourage county government to live within our means as opposed to a tax increase.

Since switching to a self-insurance plan, the county has been forced to make several unexpected contributions to this program to ensure its ability to meet claims obligations. What steps would you take to ensure this program operates smoothly in the future?

I have been working with health care providers to help our employees live healthier, longer lives. I would like to see our employees receive compensation time to attend healthwise classes or exercise programs. This would encourage employees to strive for healthier lifestyles which would in turn lower claims cost.

Several agencies within the county have been discussing confined animal feeding operations and the requirements necessary to allow these kinds of operations within county limits. What is your position regarding this issue?

Since the county council focuses on the financial realm of the county, I have not yet had the opportunity to study the planning commission’s latest recommendations. I applaud the hard work and efforts of all parties involved in this process.

The local juvenile court has seen an eight-fold increase in the number of abused or neglected children entering the local service system since 2010. Many of these children end up in county care at the Youth Services Center. What is the council’s role in supporting services for these kids?

It takes the hard work of multiple county departments to oversee the local juvenile service system. The responsibility of the county council is to oversee funds and to make certain that finances are used wisely and properly. The children in this system deserve the utmost care that we can provide.

Evelyn S. Pence

Evelyn S. Pence

Age: 72

Current office: Member of Bartholomew County Council since 1980.  

Occupation: Retired from Cummins Inc. in June 2011. Currently works in property management.

Education: Columbus High School, National School of Aeronautics, attended Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis.

Family: Husband, Dr. Ben Pence; daughter, Melissa.

James "Jim" Reed

James “Jim” Reed

Age: 70

Current office: Member of Bartholomew County Council since 2012.  Served out the term of the late Eugene Eckrote on the council, 2002 to 2004.  

Occupation: Farmer for more than 40 years. 

Family: Wife, Karen; 3 adult children

Matthew David "Matt" Miller

Matthew David “Matt” Miller

Age: 29

Previous offices sought: None

Occupation: President and owner of Raft To Rafters Pool and Spa, reserve deputy with the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department. He was formerly a full-time deputy sheriff.

Education: 2005 graduate of Trinity Lutheran High School. Purdue University, 2009 graduate; Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, 2009

Family: Wife, Lisa (King) Miller

William "Bill" Lentz

William “Bill” Lentz

Age: 58

Occupation: Co-manager of Lentz Farms

Current elected office: Bartholomew County Council, 2008 to present

Previous elected sought: Flatrock-Hawcreek School Board, serving 1992-2008

Family: Wife, Shari; son, Aaron; daughter, Ashley

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