Nelson Peters is seeking a third term as Allen County commissioner and is up against someone from his own party – the county recorder who is also touting his local government experience.
Peters, Recorder John McGauley and William Phillips are running for the District 1 commissioner seat in the Republican primary.
District 1 encompasses the east side of the county. While county commissioners must live in their individual districts, they are elected at large by all Allen County voters.
The position pays $65,294 annually plus retirement and health insurance benefits. Peters was one of two county commissioners who declined a county vehicle.
McGauley has served as the county recorder since 2007, and his experience and record in that office speaks for itself, he said.
He cited a 73 percent drop in consumption of tax dollars in his office due to a number of new technologies that better serve the public.
A proponent of consolidated government, McGauley has been outspoken about the need to reduce the number of commissioners and merge the county recorder and county clerk into one office.
Conceivably, I’m talking about eliminating the job I seek and the one I have, McGauley said.
The government still operates on the model established in 1851, but revenues have dropped significantly and continue to do so, he said.
We are trying to preserve a structure that no longer works, he said.
His idea has been met with silence or negative feedback, he said, particularly by other elected officials.
If we don’t talk about it now, people who believe in county government will find it impossible to carry on the mission indefinitely, McGauley said.
After McGauley’s office began offering online services, the turnaround time for documents was reduced from two months to one day or less. Very little of the process is what it was even five years ago, he said.
His office has reduced staff and is making thousands of dollars in revenue due to implemented technology, a concept McGauley said can be applied to the entire county.
The county also needs to be more aggressive in economic development efforts, he said.
Right now we’re satisfied with the low-hanging fruit, but there’s been no effort to be predatory and go after new business, McGauley said.
McGauley worked for years as a public information officer for both the city and county prior to being elected recorder. He attended Ball State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After graduating, he worked eight years for The News-Sentinel.
Peters hopes to be elected to a third term so he can continue attracting new business and lowering the cost of government, he said.
He cited the nearly $500 million worth of economic development projects last year and said the county has been able to do this despite slashing the budget every year for the past six years, he said.
New construction led to the county being named the No. 1 place for job growth in the country in the November issue of Fiscal Times, a digital news service.
The county’s unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent – full employment status is considered to be 5 percent. To reach full employment, the county would have to create 9,000 jobs, but that’s possible with continued success in economic growth, Peters said.
He also wants to move local wages 10 percent closer to national wage averages, continue to expedite the permitting process and finish the integration of city and county departments where it makes the most sense.
The consolidated City-County 911 Center was a 10-year fight prior to the time I came on board, Peters said. But we have been able to wrap that up.
The county’s collaborative efforts with Fort Wayne have resulted in merged departments for emergency management, 911 communications, information technology and the Department of Planning Services.
Peters would like to continue reducing and streamlining local government in other departments such as human resources, he said.
The first in the state to have a strategic plan, Allen County was recognized by the Association of Indiana Counties, Peters said. During his tenure, the county has also garnered statewide awards for the development of an employee health clinic, the development of Silverado Park, and Peters received an Outstanding First Term Commissioner award.
Peters ran for mayor of Fort Wayne in 2007 but was defeated by Matt Kelty in the GOP mayoral primary. He served on the County Council from 1991 to 2000 and before that was the human resources director for both the city and the county. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University.
I’ve been very successful, Peters said. I have a vision for Allen County and can make it happen because I know how to do it.
Phillips has a business background and has served as a Republican delegate to the Indiana State Convention. He declined to be interviewed.