By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — Madison County Republican Chairman Russ Willis has had his hands full in the last few months.
As the head of the GOP, it is his job, among other things, to oversee the replacements of vacated town council seats held by Republicans. It has been that aspect of his job that has kept him busy with vacancies in Ingalls, Markleville and Pendleton.
The Markleville and Pendleton replacements are for longtime council members. Sally Gustin, who died in November, served more than 30 years on Markleville's Town Council. Don Henderson served 13 years on Pendleton's council, including 12 as president. Jack Stout was a long-serving member of the Ingalls Town Council before a new job forced him to resign.
Their replacements have big shoes to fill. Chad Wolfe, who will be taking over for Henderson, said he plans on helping Pendleton stay on its current course.
"Obviously, I'm not coming in with a big, course-altering agenda," Wolfe said. "I want to get my bearings and then go from there."
Because Pendleton is composed of several districts, Wolfe was voted in by Willis and other GOP members. Willis said Wolfe was the only one who applied for the position. Despite only one application, Willis said Wolfe is very qualified for the position.
"He has a good business background, which helps," Willis said. "He will have a good idea as far as numbers are concerned."
Wolfe runs Wolfe Diversified and says having to make big business decisions every day will help him with making decisions while on the town council. He is also currently serving on the town's planning commission, so he has an idea of how the town works.
He said as a father of a young family he is hoping to bring a perspective to the council that might have been missing over the last few years. He said there are a lot of young families living in Pendleton, and he wants to make sure their interests are heard as well.
"Adding new blood is not always a bad thing," Wolfe said.
Mike Ernst will be doing just that in Markleville after taking over for Gustin. His first meeting, like Wolfe's, will be in January. Ernst said his biggest concern right away is getting up to speed on the town's business.
He worked for the Boy Scouts before retiring this year and deciding to apply for the vacant seat. Willis called Ernst a "very community-minded person." Because Markleville is only one precinct, Willis got to make the call on Gustin's replacement himself. Ernst was also the only one to apply.
"I wanted to give back to the town," Ernst said on why he applied. "This town has given a lot to me, and I want to give back."
He said he doesn't want to have any sort of agenda as a member of the town council. He plans on examining every question by asking what they best option for the town is.
"I don't really plan on having a personal agenda," Ernst said. "I think they're always biased."
Both Ernst and Wolfe have their work cut out for them replacing long-serving members, but they are hoping to leave lasting marks for their own.
"This is an important time," Wolfe said. "We have a great town here, and we have to continue to improve it."
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.