Q&A with Wayne County commissioner candidates

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Indiana counties have three commissioners, one from each district in the county, who are elected for four years.
Ken Paust of Richmond is the incumbent commissioner whose seat is on the ballot in this election cycle. He faces a Republican challenger, Brad Dwenger, also of Richmond.

Questions
1. Help voters understand what motivated you to run for office, and particularly this position.
2. In your opinion, what are the top three priorities of the office you’re seeking?
3. Please explain why your experience makes you the best candidate for this position.
4. Do you believe there are any misconceptions or a lack of understanding about you that you would like to address with voters?
5. What do you believe have been the three most beneficial decisions/actions for the community that the commissioners have taken in the last four years? What have been the three worst/least effective, in your view?
6. Should commissioners help make connections or resolve issues between various levels of government, businesses, economic development, etc.? If you believe that’s something they should do, what would you do to improve local communication and idea sharing?
7. How would you assist Wayne County’s participation in the new state/federal grant programs such as READI, ARPA, etc.? How could Wayne County best leverage those dollars?
8. If elected, how will Wayne County be different at the end of your term versus the beginning?
9. Do you see the role of commissioner as a part-time or full-time role? About how many hours per week do you anticipate working as a commissioner?

 

Kenneth (Ken) E. Paust

*Former Occupation: President of Paust Printers, Retired
*Military Service: US Army, received Ranger School Patch, stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood as Company Commander, and assumed Command of Local Guard Unit when I returned to Richmond.
*Education: Graduate of Richmond High School, Bachelor of Science from South Dakota State University; Executive Development Program of the Printing Industries of America, Graduate of Diploma Program, Association of Indiana Counties.
*Past Elected Offices: 2007 to present – County Commissioners, 1993 to 2007 – County Council Member, 1964 to 1971; 1976 to 1979; 1980 to 1983 and 1988 to 1991 – Richmond City Council
*Community Involvement: Past President of Richmond/Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, Past President of United Way, Past President of Boys and Girls Club, Past President and National Director of the Jaycees, Served on Boards of Reid Hospital, Kiwanis Club, Public Health Nursing, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society.              *Age: 86
*Contact Information: Wayne County Government – 765-973-9237; kpaust@co.wayne.in.us

1) As a current commissioner and a lifelong resident of Wayne County, I have been dedicated and motivated to make Wayne County a better place to live. I welcome the opportunity to keep the positive momentum moving forward in the next four years. I thoroughly enjoy being a public servant.

2) No. 1 – Jobs. We need to continue supporting the EDC with adequate funding and staff for the challenges facing them to bring businesses to our community. We need to support them financially in acquiring additional land that can be marketed.
No. 2 – Housing. There is a definite need for housing and apartments in Wayne County as we continue to search and work with developers and community members to provide the housing needs and apartments over the next five years.
No. 3 – Maintaining our facilities, county services, keeping up with technology, and public safety, all the while keeping within the budget set by county council and looking for efficiencies within government to lower our tax rate.

3) My state, regional and local community involvement are too numerous to mention, but through that experience, I have made tremendous affiliations with other elected officials through the State of Indiana. I know exactly who to contact for individualized assistance and can get to the decisions makers and cut through the red tape and bureaucracy. My knowledge, involvement and experience of the day-to-day activities of county government cannot be measured.

4) I’ve been told that I’m a big dreamer, and I would be the first to agree. I continue to propose big ideas that will be beneficial to Wayne County’s future. Some of my “big ideas” never see the light of day, and others take root and grow, and have been supported by my fellow commissioners and council members.
5) No. 1 – creation of the Eastern Indiana Planning Commission, giving Wayne County a stronger voice to secure grants and new business. No. 2 – hired a second Veteran Service Officer to aid our local veterans in finding the resources they earned while serving our country; and No. 3 – working with the City of Richmond and EDC and community leaders in acquiring the Elder Beerman building so we would have local control of its development for the future.
Regarding those decisions that we can’t forget and may have made differently – the obvious answer are decisions made during the pandemic. During that time, Commissioners evaluated the recommendations and information from the federal and state government, and along with other local leaders, made the best decisions we possibly could make at that time. With what we know today, we may have done things differently, but we did our best, based on the information available to us.

6) Absolutely! And the commissioners are doing exactly that with representation on the Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, working closely with the City of Richmond, and holding monthly meetings with Valerie Shafer of the EDC. Our communication between agencies is very good, and we speak with one another on a daily basis.

7) Beginning in 2023, Commissioners will host stakeholder meetings throughout Wayne County to get community leaders and citizens input as to the best way to use ARPA funds. The commissioners are investigating every grant and opportunity to leverage the ARPA funds so that every $1 that has been granted to us is worth $2.

8) At the end of my term, if reelected, Wayne County will be more financially sound than it is today. Working in cooperation with others, we will have solved the housing problem, which is a project I have been working on for six years and will see the renaissance of our downtowns. This will be the growth factor needed that will slow the population decrease in Wayne County.

9) Officially, the role of a commissioner is a part time job, but I have found it to be a full time job. I currently spend a minimum of five hours a day in my role as a Commissioner and some days more, depending on the meeting schedules of the various committees and boards that I have been appointed to, at both the local and state level. During the last two years, I spent many more hours coordinating our response to the pandemic.

 

Brad Dwenger

*Work experience: President of B.A. Dwenger Appraisals, LLC for the past 15 years. Deputy Sheriff with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department (Reserves) currently the Public Relations Officer. Former Vice Chairman of the Board for a local 50-million-dollar Credit Union, Former Senior Vice President of a large Mortgage Bank, Jackson, TN. & United States Air Force Veteran.
*Education/training: Certified Residential Appraiser with SRA and AI-RRS designations, FHA, VA certified appraiser. Attended University of Maryland and Indiana University East with concentrations in Business. Air Force Security Policy Academy, Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, over 40 hours in law enforcement training annually and 26 hours of Real Estate Appraising continuing education every 2 years.
*Elected offices previously held and what years: None
*Community involvement: Vice President of Drug Free Wayne County, Deputy Sheriff Wayne County Reserve Officer. Wayne County Republican Party Precinct Chair                                                                *Age: 53
*Contact information: brad@badwengerappraisals.com; 765-993-6169

1) As a proud veteran, law enforcement officer, small business owner, and not for profit member, I have always had this innate feeling that it is our responsibility to build the community and culture that we want in this world. I have seen too often the result of not reaching our potential in government for our community from population loss to failed attempts at infrastructure. We can’t continue to do the same thing or we will get the same results.

2) We have a nearly 4% population loss in the last 10 years in Wayne County. Indiana as a whole has seen a nearly 7% increase in population. This tells us it’s not Indiana but, Wayne County. I plan on strengthening the relationship with the communities within the county so that our goals can mirror one another for the common goal of advancing Wayne County together. I plan to grow the relationship of the EDC (Economic Development Committee) and WCACOC (Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce) to champion our growth through existing businesses already rooted in Wayne County. We must make better use of the tax dollars we already have!

3) I think the most important responsibility a commissioner has is to make sound financial decisions when it comes to spending tax dollars. I have a strong background with proven results in the banking and real estate market. A commissioner must have the ability to facilitate the cooperation of several different entities toward a singular common goal for our community’s success. From the battlefield to the boardroom, I have worked together with multiple different organizations with totally different scopes to reach a common goal for the group. My background has prepared me to serve this community as a commissioner.

4) I do know as a relative newcomer to politics, some may believe that I don’t possess the skills to unseat a career politician. While I haven’t served as an elected official, I have dedicated more than 35 years of my life to public service and our country. I have decades of experience in both the banking and real estate markets which over the past 15 years have been some of the toughest and ever-changing markets in human history. I have a strong history in maintaining not only a balanced budget but, a profitable business. I truly believe that the fact that I am not a career politician, and instead a proven private industry business owner, only strengthens my candidacy. Instead of fighting for my friends in office, I will be fighting for you.

5) I believe that the last four years has been an unprecedented period of time. I do believe that the Wayne County Commissioners made a positive choice to help Wayne County Employees. But the commissioners have failed to review the cost of health insurance or liability insurance for many years, with a result of wasting tax payers’ monies. There is a lot of things that could be said for this segment but, I believe they are better left up to the voters to determine. I would instead ask the voter, what do you think has been done well or can it be done better with the same commissioner?

6) Commissioners should absolutely make connections and help resolve issues between various levels of the government, business, EDC, etc. A commissioner is an elected official who works for the people of this community. As your commissioner, I would not only invite, but, welcome all aspects of community involvement. Wayne County is home to so many awesome people, businesses, and organizations. I would help to build committees that are as diverse as our community! I believe that the commissioners should be part of advisory boards and coalitions for the betterment of Wayne County. We all win when the community wins!

7) Wayne County is slated to receive a fantastic sum of money from the READI and ARPA. I believe that this money should be used to beautify interstate ramps to make Wayne County more attractive to stop and do business in. The money should also be used to improve our amazing fairgrounds and should be a hub of local entertainment and expo! I envision the creation of a sporting complex that will attract thousands to our area in tournaments and events. This gives us a great place for our own youth to thrive but, attract business to our vibrant and vastly underutilized hospitality sector. This money should be spread throughout the communities within Wayne County to work towards the common goal of not only reinvigorating the county but, watching it thrive! Let’s let each of the vines of this beautiful county have a say in how they flower!

8) In 2026, we will see a comprehensive plan for capital improvements and economic development. We will see the businesses and organizations of Wayne County banded together and working towards a common goal. We will see all of the communities of this county not be treated as standalone and forgotten place but, the backbone of one strong Wayne County. Increased community involvement and an atmosphere that is friendly to large and small businesses. While 4 years is a short period of time to rectify everything, I can promise you if elected, a change is on the horizon.

9) The job of a commissioner is full-time. In fact, there is never enough hours in the day to make the place that you live great. I intend to work as many hours as it takes to break the rust off of Wayne County and return it to the shine it demands!

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