The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Politics

April 30, 2014

Democrats want to help council budget

ANDERSON, Ind. — Two Democrats are leading the charge in the race for their party's nod for the Madison County Council's 3rd District.

Richard Symmes and Fred Reese are both looking to earn the chance to represent the Democratic Party in the November general election. Both men have ideas for the budget and experiences they think makes them right for the job. Paul McClish will also be on the primary ballot on May 6 but did not return calls from The Herald Bulletin for an interview.

Symmes is a lifelong Madison County resident who runs his own auction company and serves on the Anderson Township Advisory Board. He worked at Guide Corp. for 37 years where he also served as a union representative. Reese, who has lived in Anderson his whole life, is an experienced businessman with a wealth of knowledge on local communities thanks to his time as a traveling bailiff for the county courts. He has experience running campaigns but hasn't yet been successful.

Symmes, 64, has never run for a public office before but said he thinks the experience of running his own business for 22 years will help with the county council's most important task, creating the budget.

"I'm a successful businessman, I feel like I bring a lot to the table," Symmes said. "We have a budget just like the county has a budget."

Speaking on the budget, Symmes said he thinks the council needs to play a stronger role in promoting economic stability in the county. He also isn't a fan of some of the cuts the council has made including scaling back the hours the sheriff's department is open.

"We have to have the sheriff's department," Symmes said. "When you cut it to where you can't have the sheriff's department open on Monday then you've got a problem."

Reese, 56, said growing up in Anderson in a religious household has given him invaluable life experiences that will help him on the council. He said he learned how to treat people with respect and was taught from an early age about leadership and responsibility.

"I think I bring a multitude of different experiences in life and involvements with the public sector and government sector," Reese said.

Reese is also a former superintendent of Anderson's Parks and Recreation Department, which he said taught him a lot about how to balance budgets, manage employees and work with the public. He also had to deal with budget restraints that he said he met head-on through "common sense" government.

"Whenever we were challenged with budget cuts, we were able to come up with innovative ways to solve those problems," Reese said. "I want to be able to work with the budget as a councilman and make sure the tax dollars are used more efficiently."

He said his main goal on the council is to make sure the taxpayers get the most value out of their money.

One of the big issues these men will face next year if elected is the business personal property tax discussion. During the past legislative session, lawmakers said county governments could choose if they wanted to eliminate the tax that businesses pay on equipment purchases. The thinking is if the tax is eliminated, more businesses will come to the area. Opponents of the measure argued the tax generates revenue used to fund local governments, schools and libraries and shouldn't be discontinued.

Symmes, as a business owner, has to pay the tax, which he said he's fine with.

"I don't believe the city or the county can afford to do away with the tax," he said. "Nobody likes to pay taxes, but I think there are some taxes that you can't do without."

Reese, who isn't as familiar with the tax, said he is against ending the tax unless someone can explain to him eliminating the tax would directly lead to more jobs in Madison County.

"I'm a numbers guy," Reese said. "Someone would have to show me getting rid of the tax would be a good thing by bringing in more jobs."

The winner of the May 6 primary will face Jim Dodge for the District 3 seat. Dodge is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.

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