Municipal ballots in New Haven won't have Terry McDonald's name on them for the first time in two decades. The mayor, first elected as a Democrat in 1999 and reelected four times as a Republican, is retiring at the end of his term. The open seat has yet to draw a Democratic candidate, but three well-qualified Republicans are vying to replace McDonald.
Of the three, City Council President Steve McMichael stands out as best equipped to succeed him.
McMichael is owner of Re/Max Imagine Real Estate in New Haven. He has served as chairman of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of Paulding-Putnam Electric Cooperative. He also has served as president of the board of zoning appeals, the redevelopment commission, plan commission and economic development commission. He was a member of the police merit board.
McMichael was an early participant in efforts to make funding of bridge projects more equitable countywide.
“This is a great example of having relationships and working together,” he said. “This is exactly how government should be – where we all get together around the table to find a solution that works for everybody. That's critical. We need to quit building fences around New Haven and Fort Wayne and Leo and think about how things impact everyone in Allen County, because we're all county residents.”
McMichael acknowledges New Haven's biggest challenges, including sewage and water utility rates. New Haven contracts with Fort Wayne for those services and is under a consent decree from the state to build a $12.5 million stormwater storage facility.
“We need to have an adult discussion about what we're going to do moving forward,” he said. “Our rates, when you compare them to Fort Wayne, are higher. There are some things that could be done to make it better. I don't think it's sustainable to continue doing what we're doing.”
He said he doesn't believe the $85 million to $100 million cost to build a utility plant is “doable,” but notes his service on the electric co-op board will be helpful in seeking solutions.
McMichael wants changes in city government that would weaken the authority of the mayor's office, including a requirement for contracts exceeding $50,000 to be approved by city council instead of the board of works. He said he will introduce an ordinance later this year.
“I think it's important for the citizens of New Haven to know they've got elected officials making those decisions, not an appointed board.”
McMichael's 20/20 Vision plan seeks to increase New Haven's population of about 15,000 residents to 20,000 by 2025.
Bob Nelson, president of the East Allen County Schools board, also is a candidate. A marketing and public relations professional, he has a thoughtful plan that focuses on residents' views, support for all New Haven schools, encouraging pride in the community and enhancing public safety. He wants to reestablish a youth advisory committee and create a clergy committee.
“I'm inclusive,” Nelson said of his qualifications. “I'm a listener. I want to get city council more involved – I want to get them back to doing their job.”
Steve Poiry, a 29-year New Haven police officer and former police chief, is the third candidate.
“I oversaw the largest department budget of the city – the police department budget,” he said. “I was very fiscally responsible with that budget. I understand the working relationships of the city and how they work together as a team to achieve a goal. With that insight, I believe I'm better qualified than the other two candidates.”
Each of the candidates has a clear passion for improving the city, but McMichael also has the range of experience to make a difference there.
April 7: Fort Wayne Council at large
April 9: Fort Wayne Council District 3
April 10: Fort Wayne Council District 4
April 11: Fort Wayne Council District 6
Today: New Haven mayor
Sunday: Fort Wayne mayor
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