After defeating incumbent Greg Duke last May in the GOP primary, Republican Leah Beyer is being challenged by author and publisher Paul Hoffman, a Democrat, in her bid to represent District 2 on the Bartholomew County Council.
The Republic asked the candidates a series of questions about county government and fiscal policies.
Q: What are your thoughts about the salary study received last March that showed many salaries and benefits for our county employees are below the median income for a comparable worker in other counties?
Beyer: I paid a lot of attention to the salary study, and believe we need to have and retain competent people in county government. That costs money. It’s a balancing act. How do we be fiscal officers for the county and manage the budget well? Paying our employees is part of that, and we have to pay them appropriately.
Hoffman: I want to study, research and ask people questions on this issue. Research from other counties is valuable, but you have to understand the numbers and how they are – and are not – like your county. It would probably be a good use of the Rainy Day fund to try to keep talented people, instead of trying to replace them. So I would probably lean toward going with a 5% raise, rather than the 3.5% the council has been discussing. But both sides might have legitimate points. There may actually be an answer somewhere in the middle.
Q: For several years, local government has received criticism for hiring consultants. Do you feel this is a valid criticism?
Beyer: It’s probably valid because consultants are very expensive. However, if you are looking for a specific skill set to do technical work, you have to pay for it. And if we are going to limit employees’ salaries, the only alternative is to hire consultants. Large consultant fees are in direct correlation to the county not paying their employees properly.
Hoffman: There are situations where you have to hire people who have more expertise than you have. Sometimes, it comes down to a time factor. I know as a former journalist that I can learn a lot of things by how long is it going to take me, and how much effort will it take to educate myself. So you need to find experts in a particular field to give you the proper information to make the proper decision.
Q: There’s about $10 million in reserves in the county’s Rainy Day Fund. What should the council do with that money?
Beyer: We have much of that money due to (federal Covid-19 relief funds). I think we absolutely have to keep some in a rainy day fund, because we don’t know when a huge expenditure comes our way. However, there are a lot of both capital and staffing improvements. (Examples cited by Beyer include public safety and information technology.) We need to evaluate where we have gaps and shortfalls in our services.
Hoffman: People might ask what we should do during a recession. Well, we’ve always had recessions. We know what to do. You cut back. But when you have the money, identify the most important things and try to make your place as good as it can be. We can do that and still have a pretty healthy rainy day fund.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish over the next four years if elected to the council?
Beyer: First of all, I’d like to bring some camaraderie and common ground between council members, and while the council is working with department heads. Second of all, I want to ensure we are balancing budgets without raising tax rates while still delivering services that our taxpayers deserve.
Hoffman: The overall general goal is to make the best possible place to live, work and play. To do that, you must listen to the concerns of the people. Sometimes, they aren’t sure what they are concerned about. That’s why you must also educate them by learning information from multiple sources and working with your peers to make decisions that are in the best collective interest.
Name: Leah Beyer (R)
Address: Bartholomew County
Previous elected positions: none
Current employer: Corteva Agrisciences, headquartered in Indianapolis
Educational background: Bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics in 2002 and master of science degree in 2004 from the University of Illinois
Community Service: Served two years on the CAFO/CFO Regulation Study Committee
Family: Husband, Matthew, son Brady, 17 and daughter Maddie, 15
Name: Paul Hoffman (D)
Previous elected positions: none
Current employer: President of PathBinder Publishing LLC
Educational background: 1985 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, majoring in mass communication
Community Service: Graduate of Leadership Johnson County, Cub Scout master, coached youth soccer and assists Franklin College students.
Family: Wife, Kimberly, six adult children