Political newcomers running for council

The exterior of Bartholomew County Courthouse in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

In a three-man primary race for Bartholomew County Council, Greg Patterson defeated incumbent Scott Bonnell and fellow Republican Dave London to win his party’s nomination for District 1 representative on the Bartholomew County Council.

This fall, Patterson is being challenged by Democrat Joshua “Shua” Cobb, who spent most of his childhood in the Columbus area, lived in communities outside Indiana for a number of years, and eventually came back to Bartholomew County.

They talked about why they are pursuing a county council seat in the following interviews.

Q: What are your thoughts about the salary study received last March that showed many salaries and benefits for local county employees are below the median income for a comparable worker in another Indiana county?

Patterson: I think the study was thorough and that many of our employees are underpaid, so we need to be competitive. I also know that, many times, it costs more to hire new employees that it does to maintain the current workforce.

Cobb: I watched the council discuss this. One thing that stuck out to me was that there were a lot of people commuting into Bartholomew County. Commuters bring additional commerce, and we want people to continue to live and work here, so it stimulates our economy. I have no idea why there is any hesitation at all in trying to put the recommendations into place – especially with the current job market.

Q: For several years, local government has received criticism for hiring consultants. Do you feel this is a valid criticism?

Patterson: I think it’s money well spent. I’m all in favor of hiring a consulting firm if they are an expert in a field that we need to research. Let’s use the salary study as an example. There was nobody in the county who was going to give a fair and objective view that compares all the salaries with the same positions in other counties. So it was better money spent to hire a firm to do that outside work.

Cobb: There are areas where council members are not experts in a particular subject. But some council members don’t want that neutral third party to give a true reflection of what things could be looking like. When you don’t reach out for additional guidance, you might get backed into corners and backroom deals. We need to be super transparent and make sure there is no conflict of interest. Consultants help us do that.

Q: There’s about $10 million in reserves (aka the Rainy Day Fund) in Bartholomew County coffers. What should the council do with that money?

Patterson: I would like to see it saved until we have some opportunities (to consider the best place for it.) I know there is some debt (jail bond) that we are considering retiring. If that’s the appropriate place to put some of it, that’s fine. But I’m in no hurry to get rid of all of it.

Cobb: I want to ask each department head if they felt the 2023 budget met their needs. If so, I want to see what they feel needs to be done in other areas. I’m not opposed to any one thing, and I want to be open to areas of needs. There are a lot of opportunities, especially in affordable housing. My big things are anything related to clean energy, renewables and educational programs that will result in people trusting technology more than they do.

Q: Neither you nor your opponent are incumbents. Do you understand how many committees or boards you may be asked to sit on, as well as special events? Can you handle that time commitment?

Patterson: I’ve read minutes from last year, and I’ve had conversations that have given me a pretty good understanding of what it entails. And yes, if I need to devote time for it, I’ll devote time to it.

Cobb: Absolutely. I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels. I’m always doing something extra, so this would be a constructive use of any free time I had. I would make attending these meetings a priority, but I would recuse myself from any decision involving my employer.

Greg Patterson

Name: Greg Patterson (R)

Age: 54

Address: Elizabethtown

Previous elected positions: none

Current employer: Field sales representative for Stewart Seed/Bayer Corp.

Educational background: Graduated in 1985 from North Decatur High School. Received his bachelor of arts degree in communications from Purdue University in 1989.

Community Service: Officiating youth sports events, volunteering for Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief and serving his church in a variety of capacities.

Family: Wife, Thecla. Two adult children.

Joshua Cobb

Name: Joshua “Shua” Cobb (D)

Age: 41

Address: Columbus

Previous elected positions: none

Current employer: Verizon Wireless

Educational background: Graduated from Estero High School near Fort Myers, Florida. Studied telecommunications and marketing.

Community Service: Manages a number of public service projects sponsored by his employer, has worked with multiple humane societies and has been involved in community theater.

Family: Married.