Allen County Council will have a new if familiar face next year but the same old party label: Republican.
That was assured Tuesday when two incumbents and one former Commissioner handily defeated Democratic challengers in the race for Council's three at-large seats.
With 83 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Roy Buskirk led the ticket with 54,704 votes, or 20 percent, followed by incumbent Robert Armstrong's 52,906 votes or 19 percent, and former Commissioner Bill Brown's 52,882 votes or 19 percent. Sharon Tucker led the Democrats with 39,709 votes or 14 percent, followed by Gina Burgess with 37,885 votes or 14 percent and Denny Sprunger with 36,506 votes or 13 percent.
“It was the emery boards,” Buskirk joked, referring to the fingernail-smoothing handouts that have become a hallmark of his campaign. But he pointed to substance as well, including his lead role in efforts to streamline the process through which businesses apply for and receive permits.
“A lot of contractors have told me they appreciate it,” he said. “Jobs are the most important thing.”
That's especially true now, he said, because the sluggish economy and state-imposed property tax caps have reduced revenues for the county and most other governments – perhaps permanently. As a result, the Council may have to continue recent budget-cutting efforts indefinitely.
“This may be the new 'normal,' ” he said.
Brown, who is also interim president of the Downtown Improvement District, said his four years as Commissioner did more than provide the name recognition that contributed to his victory. It also provided the experience he will use to make the county more efficient and effective.
“We need to look at what is essential and start there, and to be as innovative as possible,” Brown said. To that end, he will ask department heads to suggest “best practices” that could reduce costs and improve service.
Brown would also like to use some of the county's rainy day fund as a source of loans to promote business development.
As for Armstrong, who reported only $505 in contributions on his campaign finance report filed last month – Tucker led all Council candidates with nearly $9,000 – he admitted to doing very little campaigning but nevertheless received a boost from the two local newspapers, neither of which supported his bid for re-election.
“You just keep on not endorsing me, and I'll keep on winning,” he said.