Both sides of county executive issue gearing up for Election Day

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – In an off-year election, the most interesting Allen County race may end up involving zero candidates. Voters will see a referendum on November’s ballot, asking them if they want to restructure county government.

The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year that gives Allen County voters the following question on the November ballot:

Shall the county government of Allen County be reorganized to place all executive power in a single county executive and to place all legislative and fiscal powers in the county council?

Voters will select ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the ballot.

In August, the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics put on informational sessions to explain the referendum.

If approved, county government in Allen County will go from three commissioners to one. The Board of Commissioners would be replaced with a single county executive who would have executive power.

The county council would go from seven to nine members who would all be elected from individual districts in the county. The current structure of council has four council members from districts and three elected at-large. The new government structure would give legislative and fiscal power to the nine-member council.

“We feel very strongly that a single county executive would be the more efficient, more effective, and more accountable form of government for the community,” said Mark Becker, the CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. The organization is on record of supporting Advance Allen, the organization asking voters to select ‘yes’. “Also, the commissioners in the current form of government we have, they have both executive and and legislative authority. So, you don’t have the checks and balances in county government that you have in city, state or the national government.”

Those with Allen County No to One Pac are against the changes and would rather keep the current structure.

“There’s just too much loss of representation,” said Roger Hadley, president of Allen County Farm Bureau and a member of Allen County No to One.

“Right now there are ten people that are in power in Allen County. You got three commissioners and seven county councilmen. You and I vote for seven of the ten. I have a direct vote on those. The new proposal has us voting for just two of the ten.”

Map of Allen County elected officials and where they live (source: Advance Allen).
Map of Allen County elected officials and where they live (source: Advance Allen).

How someone looks at representation may decide which answer a voter chooses.

Advance Allen has released a map showing where the county-level elected officials reside. “We have no elected officials in the eastern third of the county,” Becker said.

A new district map would be put in place aimed at giving a more equal representation to smaller cities and towns in Allen County.

“The guidelines that were established for how a new district map would be established for the county council does provide criteria that ensures that there is a better distribution of those county council representatives,” said Becker.

No final decision has been made on the structuring of the district map, Hadley said. He’s seen maps that show the county being divided up into a pie, with the center of it meeting at Fort Wayne.

“If you draw a pie out of Allen County, with the tip going into Fort Wayne, every elected official could be within two or three miles of one another,” Hadley said.

Becker said the change would improve the county’s economy. Hadley countered with the change helping the county wondering why all 92 Indiana counties haven’t made the change.

If the referendum passes, Allen County voters would see new representatives on the ballot in 2018. The new government structure would begin in 2019.

There would still be several issues that the new structured council would have to figure out: such as the compensation for elected officials. Becker said the county executive should probably be paid something comparable to the Mayor of Fort Wayne. In 2011,

In 2013, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry earned $127,289, according to public records.

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