Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on candidates who will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. All candidates were asked the same slate of questions.
There will be plenty of choices for the Odon Town Council seats with six people looking to fill the three seats on the board. Vernon Graber, who was appointed to the board and is filling out an unexpired term, is seeking to be elected to the board. The Washington Times Herald contacted him to be part of these articles, but he declined to participate.
Billy DeWane Burns moved to Odon to go to work at the Crane Army Ammunition Activity as a quality assurance specialist. He later retired from Crane. Before working for the government, he owned a silk screening business. Burns has held public office before by serving on the Savanna, Oklahoma, board of trustees. He is a member of the Frank Roberts VFW Auxiliary and the Frady Memorial United Methodist Church in Raglesville. He has a degree from East Central State University.
Long-time resident B.J. Sanders graduated from North Daviess High School in 1978 and Indiana University in 2007. He worked at Otis Elevator in Bloomington for 34 years in various production management and leadership positions. For the last four years he has been employed at SIAC at WestGate. He has spent 20 years and is currently vice chairman of the board for Members Choice Federal Credit Union. He has been active in the Little League and the Odon VFW Auxiliary.
Susie Roach was born in Odon and has lived there all of her life. A graduate of North Daviess High School, Roach worked at Indiana University before taking a job at the Crane Army Ammunition Activity where she is a management analyst. The majority of work over the last 37 years has been in the financial field and she is currently responsible for a budget of $30 million.
Macy Wilson is another Odon native seeking the town board seat. A 2009 graduate of North Daviess High School, she is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Vincennes University. She currently works at Ketcham Memorial Center with plans to continue her nursing career there. She is married, active in the community and says she plans to raise her family in Odon.
Delbert Gingrich brings a unique background to the list of candidates. He is a native and lifelong resident of Odon. He has also worked for the town.
What skills will you bring to this position?
Sanders: Education, life, and work experience. My education, concentration is in public management financial budgeting, planning and organization for nonprofit organizations. Being an active board member for Members Choice Credit Union, has taught me several things. The responsibility of being a board member. Understanding how boards function. Working with budgets and budgeting. The importance of compliance, and what it takes to be compliant within government rules and regulation.
Working at Otis Elevator provided me the opportunity to develop my organizational skills in personnel management, resource management, and production requirements.
Roach: Thirty-seven years of experience working in the field of government finance and government regulations. In my current position with Crane Army Ammunition Activity I am responsible for the oversight of an annual budget of over $30 million. This includes the development of budget plans, budget requests and execution plans, as well as management of the execution/expenditure of those funds. I have an exceptional understanding of federal regulations which dictate how specific funds can be used/spent as well as the reporting requirements. I believe this knowledge/experience will translate easily into an understanding of the state/county/city regulations which mandate how the funds in the town’s several accounts can be used. While ultimately it is the responsibility of the town’s clerk-treasurer to manage the funds of the town, I strongly believe it is imperative that the members of the town council have a better than average working knowledge of these financial regulations in order to perform the controls and oversight of the town’s financial operation as outlined by Indiana Code 5-11-1-27(e).
I have participated in and testified in Congressional budget hearings, defending the budget I had prepared which resulted in an actual plus-up of $10 million over and above the initial request. I strongly believe that this experience will translate well into assisting the town of Odon in preparing successful grant applications which are needed to accomplish projects while minimizing the impact to the town’s finances.
As a Department of the Army Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, I have performed analytical studies of processes to determine where there could be savings in both time and dollars. I am adept at preparing root cause analysis, cost benefit analysis, time studies, etc. My efforts enabled Crane Army Ammunition Activity to realize a cost avoidance of $750,000. I would employ these skills in the expenditure of the town’s funds in requiring cost comparison shopping as well as cost benefit analysis of all major expenditures.
As a member of the board of grand trustees of the Indiana Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, I am experienced in working with the corporation lawyer as well as insurance agents in successful and equally beneficial resolution of situations. Again, I believe this experience, along with my proven leadership, organizational and analytical skills will be very beneficial to the operation of the town of Odon.
Wilson: As a lifelong, younger resident of Odon, I feel I have a lot to bring to the town council. I believe that to be the best and most effective council, there needs to be different perspectives and opinions. At 28 years old, it is my opinion that I can bring fresh and new ideas for problem solving. I earned an early introduction to politics by campaigning for my grandfather, John Myers. I take pride in my ability to see other perspectives than my own, and use those perspectives in weighing the pros and cons of every decision I make.
Gingrich: I’ve worked for the town and lived there all my life, so I know the town very well. I’m familiar with the people and the town inside and out.
Burns: I have experience working with various stakeholders setting and accomplishing goals. I served on the board of trustees for the town of Savanna, Oklahoma, in the 1990s. During my time on the board we upgraded our fire department’s equipment, started a senior citizen’s center and began the process of upgrading the sewer system, to bring it in compliance with state and federal regulations.
What are the biggest challenges facing the office?
Roach: Over the past 10-11 months, our town has been faced with a great deal of controversy surrounding the finances of the town and the findings of the State Board of Accounts audit for the period January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2017. This has resulted in difficult challenges for the council to make informed and confident decisions regarding the expenditure of the town’s funds. This has also had a negative impact on the town’s credit rating and has resulted in a diminished faith on the part of the citizens of Odon in the town’s government. Many questions still exist both in the minds of our citizens as well as the council as the town’s records of 2018 and 2019 still must be audited and those findings dealt with over the next few months.
Additionally, the council was just notified on Wednesday, Oct. 16, that proper procedures had not been followed in the handling of the submission/public hearing and adoption of the town’s 2020 proposed budget and therefore the council will be forced to operate 2020 with the 2019 budget. The ramifications to the town’s operating budget are significant in that there can be no raises for town personnel, any additional budgetary plans that may have been included in the 2020 submission which were over and above the 2019 budget will most likely be in jeopardy, but most significant of all is the loss of THOUSANDS of dollars in revenue from the town’s requested 3 ½% tax levies that will not be recognized/accumulated. This is going to mean some serious belt-tightening as well as looking for other sources of revenue such as possible grants.
These issues will mean, while the newly seated council members along with the new clerk-treasurer will be working to get the town’s finances and records in order, while moving the town in a positive direction, they will be working hard to restore the citizens’ faith in the council and town hall.
Lastly, as in any business, there is always the challenge of aging infrastructure and the need to continue updating equipment, machinery and the streets. All of these things come with a price tag and must be prioritized.
Wilson: Our town is currently facing several challenges. A couple of the biggest challenges are prioritizing the many needed projects, re-evaluating current town ordinances, and establishing more open lines of communication between the town council and the residents of Odon.
Gingrich: I believe there is a lack of communication. And everyone should work as a team for the town and people instead against one another.
Burns: The biggest challenge facing the Odon Town Council is funding to improve the town’s infrastructure. Currently the town is in the early stages of updating the water system and needs further funding to continue street upgrades. Runoff water is causing erosion problems throughout in the community and needs to be addressed. Issues dealing with future growth of the community needs to be identified and addressed. The money isn’t there to complete all the needed improvements at once so priorities must be set and a plan of action implemented.
Sanders: The town of Odon has several challenges, but the biggest challenges will be to balance the inherited budget with the needs and wants of the public. The town needs to get away from a knee jerk reaction and always being in crisis mode. This will require the incoming board to be creative and work closely with the Odon town clerk and her staff, in directing the funding to those areas without making huge sacrifices that effect those areas.
Why do you want to serve the public in this position?
Wilson: I want to serve the residents of Odon as a council member to get our town back. I feel we have lost touch with what Odon is really about. There has been so much animosity over the last year or two, I want to get our town back on track. Odon is a fantastic place to call home. My hope is that my future children and grandchildren can be just as proud to call Odon their hometown as I am.
Gingrich: I care about this town. I was born and raised here and raised my kids here. I now have grandkids that I want to live in a great community as myself and kids have.
Burns: I have the experience and the time to address the issues the community is currently facing. I believe my knowledge of budgeting and operations of town government gives me the knowledge I need to make informed decisions.
Sanders: Odon has been my home and my family’s home for several decades. With my education and life experience, I want this opportunity to be able to give back to the community for which has been a huge part of my life so others can enjoy living here in Odon, Indiana.
Roach: Not many people can say they were born in Odon, but I can. I was born here and have lived my entire life in Odon, my roots are here and I have a very deep pride in my hometown. I truly believe that I have many qualifications as well as practical experience which will be extremely beneficial in the oversight of the operation of our town. I want to represent and work for every citizen of Odon to help our town to grow and prosper for generations to come. I would be honored to serve.
What do you hope to accomplish during the term if elected?
Gingrich: To let the town people know I care about them and the town and what they need and want to make us grow together as a hometown.
Burns: I want to see the needed upgrades to the water system completed and a street improvement and runoff water plan implemented. I would use my time to encourage growth for Odon.
I moved into the area in 2006 and looked for rental property in Odon, unfortunately, there wasn’t any available. Today Odon still has a shortage of rental property. Crane employs many people for a short period of time, usually three to five years. The majority of these people look for rental property in the area yet ends up living in Bloomington due to the lack of adequate housing. We have so much to offer these families, a great community, a short commute to work and one of the state’s best school systems, unfortunately with a lack of short-term housing they have to live elsewhere. Encouraging private development of multi-family or single dwelling housing will be one of my priorities.
Sanders: To establish a five-year plan that will be a conglomerate of ideas from the people of the town of Odon. Through this plan, we will be able to create a park committee, town street committee and Odon economic development committee working together with the Odon Business Alliance to develop the strategies to build and act upon the plan.
Roach: The bottom line up front is that I intend to see that the council is fiscally responsible in the financial dealings of the town and to be good stewards of the town’s funds and assets. I want complete transparency in the accountability to all citizens of Odon with the timely posting of meeting minutes on the town’s website. I expect ample notification to Odon’s citizens when there are financially significant decisions to be made so they can understand the background and need and can have a voice in those decisions. I want to see unification of our town, as well as cooperation among the council members and the clerk-treasurer. I want to see the trust in our town council and town hall restored. Recent occurrences have created a great deal of animosity in our community. Many things that have been said in social media, as well as the actions of some have been very divisive and have created hostile situations which have made it very challenging to conduct business. I want a council that will cooperate and work together for the good of the community. Cooperation does not mean that everyone agrees. It is respecting those disagreements and opinions and still putting the needs of the town first to arrive at decisions for the best interest of the town of Odon, and to insure the needs of the entire town and all citizens are met. There are many businesses in our community that are expanding as well as new businesses opening recently and in the near future. However, there are still vacant store fronts and properties. With the completion of I-69 to the west of town, and the growth of the West Gate properties to our east the possibilities for our town are endless. My goal is for the council to work hand-in-hand with our citizens and the Odon Business Alliance to insure the growth and prosperity of our town.
Wilson: I feel that there are several adjustments that need to be made, but that they should be based on the input of the business owners, taxpayers, and surrounding residents of Odon and not solely on the desires of a few.