NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Keesling the best choice for city clerk
Republican Lana Keesling has brought much-needed change to the Fort Wayne City Clerk’s office, and voters should reward her with another term.
Keesling faces Democrat Katie Zuber in the Nov. 5 election.
Keesling was a political newcomer when she was elected in 2015. But she wasn’t a newcomer to Fort Wayne, having spent 10 years as a successful business owner followed by 17 as the CFO of a warehouse business. She said the clerk’s office needed her business acumen following the 32-year tenure of Democrat Sandra Kennedy, who did not seek reelection in 2015.
The clerk’s office “is right in line with my skills and my background,” said Keesling, who has an MBA. “No one looked at numbers in this office for, how many years? So for the first time ever, you’ve got someone who is looking at it as a business, what makes sense and how can we turn it around.”
The transition wasn’t easy. The clerk’s office required a complete overhaul. “We started from the ground up,” Keesling said. “We had very few people that didn’t resign or retire. We had to hire staff, change everything.”
Keesling can point to significant improvements during her first term in office. Most notably, the city converted the city’s coin-operated parking meters to electronic meters that accept credit and debit cards as well as coins. She raised meter prices from 50 cents per hour to $1 per hour. When Keesling started, the city was losing money on its parking operations. Now, parking generates more than $380,000 per year. The revenue from parking operations paid for the new meters.
Keesling hopes to introduce a new parking app in her second term.
Keesling said the office had no process for collecting outstanding citations for violating city ordinances. Many weren’t addressed within the two-year statute of limitations. Keesling implemented a structured notification process and dramatically increased the number of citations processed by the municipal court each week. As a result, a process that was often taking two years has been decreased to four or five months. Citation collections have increased more than 20 percent.
Keesling has implemented structures to foster greater transparency, ensuring that City Council meeting agendas are posted by 1 p.m. on the Friday before the council’s Tuesday meeting. Agendas were often being posted the day of the meeting.
In her second term, Keesling wants to finish the process of digitizing historical city records and making them available online in a searchable format. She also plans to implement an electronic system that will record and make transparent the votes cast by individual council members on issues.
Zuber has her MBA from University Saint Francis and is an employee of Midwest Pipe and Steel. She said she believes she can improve communication among the mayor’s office, City Council and the clerk’s office. Zuber also said she would take a different approach to parking, starting with giving responsibility for parking enforcement to the police department. She is opposed to the practice of marking tires to identify parking violations and advocates a common sense approach to parking enforcement in which minor violations are ignored. She also suggested that the city set up a system allowing residents to donate to nonprofits as an alternative to paying fines for citations.
We believe the structure, professionalism and technological improvements Keesling brought to the clerk’s office were sorely needed. The office is on the right path under her leadership, and voters should give her a second term on Nov. 5.