By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Several Madison County candidates running for a variety of offices met at Alexandria-Monroe High School Wednesday night to introduce themselves to voters and talk about some issues.
It was an opportunity, Alexandria residents said, to get to know the candidates a little better and hear how they planned to run their office.
Darcy VanErman, who lives in Alexandria, said this primary on May 6 is very important and she wanted to hear all she could about the candidates, especially for Madison County sheriff.
The races for the sheriff’s office will be two of the most contested with several candidates from both parties running in the primary. Brian Bell and Scott Mellinger, both seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the fall ballot, were joined by Tony Boze and Bruce Dunham, running for the Republican spot, at the event.
“At this forum I needed to hear what the sheriff’s candidates had to say,” VanErman said. “Because we do have so many and when you have that many it’s hard to leaf through it sometimes.”
Bell, who is currently a major with the sheriff’s department, said he has learned from working with current Sheriff Ron Richardson and will continue to make local involvement a key for his department if elected. He also mentioned a desire to continue to attack the drug scourge that is present in Madison County.
Boze, who has spent time with the FBI as a terrorist investigator, said he too wants to be out in the community as much as possible if elected. He said he wants people to see him and be able to come up to him and talk about whatever is on their mind. He also wants to create an “office of professional responsibility,” where citizens can call about complaints or concerns they may have with the office.
Mellinger was the only candidate at the forum with previous experience as the county sheriff. He was elected as sheriff in 1990 and 1994 before getting elected to the state legislature. He currently works at the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. He still lives in Pendleton and said his desire to work for his community is what pushed him into this race. He wants to push for tougher, longer sentences against offenders who commit crimes against senior citizens and children.
Dunham said the sheriff has to be a multi-faceted individual capable of juggling many things and handling all kinds of situations. He said he has that ability thanks to his experience working for the sheriff’s department, running his own business and being a member of the U.S. Army. Dunham said he has learned a great deal from all of those experiences.
Kenneth Bryan, another Alexandria resident, said he got some good information from some of the candidates he didn’t know too much about, especially in the sheriff race.
“There were a few that impressed me tonight,” Bryan said. “The sheriff race is going to be big and I still don’t know which way I’m going to go on that.”
Melanie Wright hopes to challenge the current state representative from District 35, Republican Jack Lutz, for his seat in November. Both of them spoke to voters Wednesday about their vision for Madison County.
Lutz lauded several items initiated by the Indiana General Assembly in 2014 including new tax cuts and the establishment of a pre-K program as signs of the progress Indiana is making.
Wright, a teacher for 26 years, said she wants more local control for schools instead of so much direction from the government. She said she does not like a recent law that ties teacher evaluations with student test scores. She said too many other variables go into making a good teacher.
Darlene Likens, county clerk; Linda Smith, county recorder, and Steffanie Owens, county commissioner, were also on hand to talk to voters and let them know what their respective offices do.
The primary is May 6 and the general election is on Nov. 4.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.