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County council makeup changes

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Republicans and Democrats have shared responsibility for the Henry County coffers for more than 40 years.

Starting in 2019, that burden falls squarely on the local GOP.

Following last week’s election, the Republicans gained control of the Henry County Council.

In addition to that, voters elected four new members to the seven-person council.

Democrat Richard Bouslog has represented District 1 on the Henry County Council since the late 1970s. He announced in January that he wasn’t going to seek re-election for his term that ends Dec. 31, 2018.

Democrat Pat Cronk, Republican Kenon Gray and Libertarian Jeremiah Morrell all campaigned for Bouslog’s seat.

Gray won the contest with more than half the votes on election night.

In the District 2 race, Republican Chad Malicoat beat long-serving Democrat council member Robin Fleming.

District 3 council member Steve Dugger lost his bid for GOP candidate in the primaries to political-newcomer Peg Stefandel.

Stefandel went on to defeat Democrat candidate Dakota Clark and Libertarian candidate Jesse Riddle in the general election last week.

Council member-elect Susan Huhn beat fellow Republican and incumbent Nate LaMar during the May primary race for District 4.

Huhn was unopposed for that seat in the general election.

Gray spent most of his career in public education, Malicoat owns his own business, Stefandel is a long-time nurse and Huhn has a formal education in business finance.

This will be the first time that the new council members have held public office.

The veteran members of the Henry County Council are Republicans Harold Griffin, Clay Morgan and Mike Thalls. All three men were elected “at-large,” meaning they represent the entire county.

Morgan and Thalls both announced earlier this year that this will be their final term. Neither plans to seek re-election in 2020.

The issues

The job of the Henry County Council is to create a budget and figure out how to fund the government each year.

One of the biggest projects right now for county leaders is finding an answer regarding Henry County Jail.

Citizen committees have started looking at different ways to create a new detention and treatment center for Henry County or ways to incorporate those aspects into the existing facility.

Current and newly-elected council members are involved in that process.

Henry County is also working with the City of New Castle to install new emergency radio towers throughout the area to improve communications for police, fire and medical responders.

County leaders approved this project after the 2019 budget was already complete, so next year’s council will need to find a way to keep the whole thing funded through appropriations.

In addition to creating the annual budget, Henry County Council members also hold various positions on internal committees and act as liaisons to other county departments.

Bouslog, for example, served on the Abatements Committee, Youth Center Committee and Voting Equipment Study Committee (ad hoc). He was also the council liaison to the Auditor, Aviation Board, Community Involvement and Solid Waste Management District.

Fleming served as liaison to the Henry County Clerk and Voter Registration, Health Department, Job Classification & Salary Advisory Commission, Planning Commission, Recorder, Treasurer and Wellness Council. She also served on the ad hoc Public Safety LOIT Committee.

Dugger was liaison to the Henry County Commissioners, Community Corrections, Highway Department and Surveyor and served on the Policy Committee and ad hoc Voting Equipment Study Committee.

LaMar’s appointments were to the County Assessor, Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (EIRPC), the Henry County Purdue Extension Office, Unified Courts and Veterans Office. LaMar also served as ex officio on the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board.

The Henry County Council makes its internal appointments by the end of January each year.

Out-going council member Fleming said the current council will need to work over the next few weeks to make the transition easy for the new officials taking office in January.