NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Voters should re-elect Didier in District 3
Does anyone remember when Tom Didier beat now-Mayor Tom Henry by 141 votes in the 3rd District City Council race 16 years ago?
That was Didier’s first of four consecutive terms on the council, and News-Sentinel.com is endorsing him for a fifth term in the Nov. 5 election.
Didier was elected to his first term in 2003. He served as council president in 2013 and 2017. He is currently co-chair of the council’s City Utilities Committee. What’s the secret to his longevity in the 3rd District?
No, it’s not because he sings the national anthem at the start of Komets hockey home games at the Memorial Coliseum and other events around the city – although that’s increased his name recognition through the years.
“I overemphasize customer service,” the sales representative for U.S. Foods told the News-Sentinel.com editorial board. That’s one of the keys to his election success, and, he said, the fact that every year he asks himself, “What can I do better? – That’s experience.”
Didier said his job is addressing the needs of a diverse district, whether his constituents are Republicans or Democrats. The 3rd District covers much of the northwest portion of the city, from about Spring Street north to Carroll Road – a population of around 40,000.
One of Didier’s biggest concerns for his district, he told us, has been the substandard performance of the city’s trash hauler, Red River. The company had failed to meet its contract obligations by repeatedly missing pickups, Didier said, in part due to a shortage of drivers. As part of Mayor Tom Henry’s task force to address the crisis, Didier suggested new routes for the trash hauler’s trucks a year ago, so they could focus on a more limited area at any one time. And that has seemed to help.
Now he says his biggest concern is the contract with Red River. “It needs to be rewritten and worked out with the state,” he told us.
Didier says his pragmatic approach to solving problems is one of his strengths. He prides himself in looking for solutions to problems by understanding the perspectives of all those involved. As with the garbage-collection problem, he said he likes to keep an open mind and consider all sides in the issue.
While adhering to conservative principles, such as resisting tax increases as much as possible, Didier did favor the creation of a city wheel tax to help maintain streets. He also favored increasing the local option income tax, not because he wanted to raise taxes, he said, but because it was necessary to create revenue for the city.
Didier worked in a bipartisan coalition that built Promenade Park, and he voted last year to fund Electric Works with a $10 million grant from the city’s Legacy fund and another $3.5 million in local income taxes.
If council had denied funding, Didier said at the time, others in government and business would have taken note of that, too, potentially making the city less attractive for investment.
Didier says he advocates increased spending for infrastructure and the ongoing needs of neighborhoods in his district and throughout the city.
Didier’s opponent in the Nov. 5 election is Democrat John Henry, a radio talk show host and salesman for a local advertising and marketing company. He told us Didier is ineffective and more of a celebrity in his 3rd District role and that he “needs to move on.”
One of Henry’s main emphases, he said, would be to educate his constituents about property taxes – ”Where do your taxes go and to know the great value of what it does.”
He also thinks Fort Wayne needs a full-time council and that the city should run districts like small towns. “Each council member would just focus on their district,” Henry explained.