Commissioner race has veteran and newcomer

A political newcomer is challenging Republican Bartholomew County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop for the District 2 seat, one of three elected officials who serve as the county’s “executives.”

Lienhoop did not have any opposition in 2018, but this fall is being challenged by Democrat Chris Sims.

Q: The county commissioners has been heavily criticized in social media by an animal rights group. This group wants Bartholomew County to adopt animal cruelty amendments similar to what is found in Columbus and other cities. What is your response?

Lienhoop: We can’t invoke the same standards as the city. First, we don’t have the manpower and the county council isn’t approving new hires. Second, we’ve got much more area to cover than Columbus. Now, the commissioners don’t accept animal cruelty, but decisions to file or not file charges are made in the prosecutor’s office. I don’t belittle those who think of dogs as their children. But I was raised to see dogs as outdoor animals. While my dogs can find shelter in my garage, there’s a limit to what the commissioners can do, and how much we are willing to do.

Sims: I think adopting the same amendments as the city is a good Idea. I will be meeting with the advocacy group. I have been apprised of several local situations that I found absolutely appalling. Some responses this group has gotten have been sort of dismissive. I think it deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Q: The commissioners are in charge of keeping the county buildings in good shape. What building needs the most attention at this time?

Lienhoop: We’ve got to decide the future of our old State Street highway garage site. But at this time, the three of us are not yet in agreement on the matter. But we will have to immediately clean up the fuel tanks on that site in the very near term. While most of our buildings are in pretty good shape, the courthouse is an old heirloom that just requires more money than the average Joe would like to put in it. But we are going to maintain and preserve that building.

Sims: Perhaps the interior of the courthouse. It could use new tile, and the old wood doorways could stand to be refurbished. In addition, the decorative iron could stand to be treated. Arguably, the courthouse is the poster child of all the government buildings.

Q: What do you believe is the number one priority in regard to bridge or road repair at this time?

Lienhoop: The Lowell Bridge (at Lowell Road and County Road 325W) is slated for replacement at about 2026. By the time we do road realignment and relocate the new bridge, the cost is going to be in excess of $8 million, so we have to wait to receive federal money. Near term, the concrete bridge on East 25th Street crossing Clifty Creek requires extensive rehabilitation, but I believe we’ll need to maintain traffic. The restrictions are going to be unpopular, but if we detour traffic off East 25th Street, it may go onto County Road 50N past several homes, and Clifty Creek Elementary. I would not advocate that particular detour for three months.

Sims: There are so many places where that is an issue right now. One is County Road 400N between U.S. 31 to the west and River Road to the east. It has a one-lane bridge that is so narrow that it’s downright dangerous. There are also roads in southern Bartholomew County with old trees over the road. Those trees are going to come down one day.

Q: If you are elected to the county commissioners, what will be your top priority over the next four years?

Lienhoop: With over 400 county employees, I feel we truly need a designated Human Resources person. Another chief priority is making sure the courthouse is up to snuff for the next 20 years. That includes providing a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Finally, it will be a tenacious time for employees for a few years when we give up our entire county parking area (north of the county jail). After a few years of inconvenience, we will eventually have more county parking spaces than we have now. However, they will be further away from the county buildings.

Sims: One reason I wanted to run is accountability. I’m not saying the current commissioners are not accountable. But I have read about the auditing issues the county has faced since 2020. I would want to make sure our expenditures are adequately disclosed not just to the state, but to the public. It seems everybody has gotten too comfortable lately, and it’s easy to let things slip.

Name: Carl Lienhoop (R)

Age: 72

Address: Bartholomew County

Previous elected positions: Currently completing his fifth term (20th year) as a Bartholomew County commissioner

Occupation: Self-employed farmer

Educational background: Graduated from Columbus High School in 1968 and earned his bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Purdue University in 1972.

Community Service: Served on the Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation board of directors and held various offices at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church prior to being elected. Has also served on several local boards, commissions and committees in his capacity as a county commissioner.

Family: First wife Deborah died in February 2018. Married current wife Kim in October 2021. Has three adult sons and seven grandsons from his first marriage, as well as several stepchildren.

Name: Christopher K. ‘Chris’ Sims (D)

Age: 33

Address: Columbus

Previous elected positions: none

Current employer: TA Services, Inc.

Educational background: Graduated from Columbus North High School in 2008. Received a bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University in 2012 and a master’s degree in English from Kansas State University in 2016.

Community Service: Has been involved with nonprofits outside of Bartholomew County that have worked with those who teach English as a second language. Part of his responsibilities involved developing curriculum.

Family: Wife, Sarah.