Webster withdraws from mayoral race, Slabaugh files for city council

A Democratic candidate for mayor of Columbus is withdrawing his candidacy, and a new candidate has filed for Columbus City Council.

Sean Webster announced his withdrawal from the mayoral primary on Wednesday afternoon.

Democrat Nick Slabaugh filed for the council’s District 1 seat Tuesday morning.

Webster filed his declaration of candidacy Monday morning. However, officials from the City of Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department and the county surveyor’s office told The Republic his residential address is not within Columbus’s city limits. According to the county’s GIS system, Webster lives in Wayne Township.

“I pay city taxes and am subject to city zoning rules and ordinances, so have always considered myself a resident of Columbus,” Webster said. “However, a careful review, appears to show that my property sits 194.8 feet outside the city limit boundary. It’s an unfortunate situation, but I must abide by the law. I know that my background as an entrepreneur and philanthropist make me an attractive candidate for mayor, but, I am choosing to withdraw my candidacy and focus on other ways I can help my community, including, perhaps, seeking political office in the future.”

Columbus is a third class city but is set to officially become a second class city in 2024. Per Indiana Code 3-8-1-26, a candidate running for mayor of a second or third class city must live in the city for at least a year before the election.

Webster’s withdrawal pares the mayoral race back down to two candidates, Republicans Mary Ferdon and Milo Smith.

Former Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers, a fellow Republican, previously filed to run for mayor but later withdrew his candidacy. Myers attributed the decision to a desire to move away from public service and into the private sector, as well as to spend more time with his family.

Eleven individuals have filed to run for city council so far.

Slabaugh, the latest to do so, is a cybersecurity consultant with Edgile, Inc. He also runs Chestnut Development LLC, a housing development business. This is his first time running for public office.

“I’ve been interested in local issues for a long time,” he said. “I run a small development business, which has put me in direct contact with the laws and regulations of the town. And I think there’s opportunity for improvement. Especially over the last several years, I’ve seen a lot of my neighbors struggle with housing costs and homelessness, and I think there’s things that we could do to address some of those issues.”

He also would like to see improvement and renovation projects at downtown parks such as Mill Race.

Republican Christopher Bartels also filed to run for the District 1 seat earlier this month. Incumbent Councilman Jerone Wood, a Democrat who currently represents District 1, has said he plans to file to run for District 3 due to the city’s new council district maps. He has not yet submitted his paperwork.

Incumbent Councilwoman Elaine Hilber, a Democrat representing District 2, is seeking re-election, as is Republican Councilman Frank Miller in District 4. Republican Sue Norman-Chapple and Democrat Tony Hayden have filed for District 3. Republican Kent Anderson has filed to run for District 5. Democrat incumbent Grace Kestler, and Republicans Alex Engelbert, Christopher Rutan and Josh Burnett have filed to run for Columbus City Council at-large.

So far, no candidates have emerged for the council’s new District 6 seat, which represents portions of central and north Columbus.

Columbus Clerk-Treasurer Luann Welmer, a Republican, has filed to run for Columbus city clerk.

Filings are completed in person at the Bartholomew County Clerk’s office at the courthouse. The deadline to file for the primary is Friday, and the deadline to withdraw as a candidate is Feb. 10.