The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 05, 2020 1:00 am

In meetings, most officials failing to #MaskUpHoosiers

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

A new statewide public service campaign, #MaskUpHoosiers, encourages Indiana residents to wear facial coverings to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus – and it's a message apparently worth reiterating.

Physicians and public health officials continue to stress wearing masks and practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But masks were largely absent last week as elected leaders and other government officials in Allen County attended in-person gatherings, including public meetings.

New Allen Superior Court Magistrate Taylor Beaty was sworn in Tuesday, and photos and a video posted to the court's Twitter profile show judicial officers packed closely together in a third-floor courtroom, many without masks.

Beaty will serve in the court's Civil Division, handling small claims cases, and takes over for retiring Magistrate Thomas Boyer, who wore a mask during the ceremony that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Boyer was among only three people wearing a face covering. Seated together in the jury box of Courtroom 1, officials including Judges Fran Gull, Wendy Davis and Andrea Trevino and Magistrate Samuel Keirns could be seen without masks.

Court Executive John McGauley said Wednesday the ceremony was livestreamed to limit the number of people in the courtroom. Some seated inside had been wearing masks but were holding them during the ceremony, he said.

McGauley said about 20 people sat spaced apart in the audience. The 15 people who attended a two-hour work session Tuesday in the East Allen County Schools board room in New Haven sat in socially distanced chairs, and district staff sprayed tabletops with disinfectant after adjournment. But facial coverings were largely absent among participants. Only one board member, Paulette Nellems, wore a mask.

A similar scene played out in Tuesday meetings of the Grabill Town Council and Springfield Township Advisory Board. Each meeting lasted at least 90 minutes.

The state wants residents to share the #MaskUpHoosiers message through social media posts, and it has drafted a post for nonwordsmiths to copy and paste onto their feeds: “We need you to #MaskUpHoosiers! As Indiana gets Back On Track, it's still important to practice safety precautions and healthy habits to protect our neighbors. Wearing a mask helps prevent someone who unknowingly has COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Show us your face mask fashion and share why you choose to #MaskUpHoosiers!”

GOP hopefuls file

Two Allen County residents declared their candidacies for the 4th District seat on the Allen County Council last week.

Emery McClendon and Christopher Spurr filed paperwork to replace former County Councilman Larry Brown. They joined Apryl Elizabeth Underwood as candidates for the seat representing southwest Allen County,

Brown resigned recently amid outrage over comments he made about racial injustice protesters during the council's June meeting. A caucus of precinct committee members from the 4th District will vote Monday on Brown's replacement.

McClendon, a Black man, is a three-time Republican convention delegate. Spurr unsuccessfully ran against Allen County Commissioner Rich Beck for the GOP nomination in 2018 for 3rd District commissioner.

Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine, who has endorsed Underwood, a Black attorney, said he is delighted by the diversity of the candidates.

“I am pleased with both Chris Spurr and Emery McClendon's entry and in particular. I am pleased that our caucus candidates include individuals of cultural diversity,” Shine said Monday. “That is important for the Republican Party in that it has been unfairly cast and portrayed as one that does not advocate cultural diversity and differing views.”

House ballots filled

The Democratic Party has filled two ballot vacancies for seats in the Indiana House representing districts in northeast Indiana.

Caucuses of precinct committee members Monday nominated Emma Steele in the 84th District in northeast Fort Wayne and Martha “Marty” Lemert in the 52nd District, which consists of DeKalb County and parts of northern Allen County and southeast Steuben County. 

Steele will challenge Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, in the Nov. 3 general election, and Lemert will challenge Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, in a rematch of the 2018 race won by Smaltz.

“Both of these women have a history of showing up and working for the values they believe in. Our communities would be fortunate to have them representing us,” Misti Meehan, chairwoman of the Democratic organizations in Allen County and the 3rd Congressional District, said in a statement.

Steele is a freelance writer and climate activist. Lemert, who lives in Allen County, practices labor and employment law for Burt, Blee, Dixon, Sutton & Bloom, a Fort Wayne law firm.

Matthew LeBlanc, Ashley Sloboda, Rosa Salter Rodriguez and Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook, contact Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily