FORTVILLE — Voters on the north side of Fortville will have a choice this primary election between a sitting town council member who has never been elected and a challenger who is trying to regain the position.
Timothy Hexamer, 64, was appointed to serve the last year of a term for Nancy Sizemore, who resigned when she moved out of the district.
He is challenged for the Republican nomination by former town council member Sean Simmons, who served on the council from 2006-10.
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Hexamer said his biggest hurdles to winning his seat are name recognition and the fact he’s a relative newcomer to town. But he said his personal qualities of open dialogue, respect for others with differing opinions and life experiences make him a good choice to help guide the town.
Hexamer, who is married with two grown sons and a stepdaughter, said he and his wife have lived in Fortville one year and chose to build a home here after visiting the town many times and falling in love with it.
“People here have just been very, very warm and friendly around here,” Hexamer said. “We’re just thrilled to death. We made a good decision.”
Hexamer, who retired in 2006 after 34 years of manufacturing work with General Motors at Guide Corp. in Anderson and Allison Transmission in Speedway, said that after he moved to town he looked to contribute somehow. He started attending town council meetings.
“I went for probably six months, and I heard this opening was going to occur,” Hexamer said.
While his record in town government extends back to just January, he said he has made a couple of decisions and has some experience and positions that should help people make up their minds about him.
He pointed to his support of a recent water project; the town approved spending $250,000 to extend the town’s water service to a new development at the 96th Street and Cyntheanne Road area.
That money — and then some — will come back to the town eventually through fees and payments, he said.
While Hexamer wasn’t on council when it voted on the most recent 644-acre annexation attempt — which is now is tied up in legal proceeding — he said he is in favor of smart annexations done in a deliberate and respectful way.
“I don’t think it’s right to just go out and grab land,” Hexamer said.
Hexamer said he knows annexation is “a sore spot” in Fortville right now, but he thinks, as much as anything, the recent effort was mishandled.
Speaking as a person whose property once was annexed, he said, the key to growing the town’s boundaries is open dialogue, because rumors abound, and people fear there will be higher taxes and that a government entity is bent on controlling their property.
But, he said, paradoxically, annexation might be a tool to help address one of the main concerns of those opposed the town-expanding process. Annexation allows a town to have a measure of control about what development occurs in an area, he said.
“Counties don’t seem to have as much concern about things that, as a town, Fortville would have,” Hexamer said.
Fortville is a small town and wants to do what it can to preserve that, he said. “You want to make sure what comes there is not going to be a problem in the future.”
Hexamer, who served six years active duty in the U.S. Air Force, said he is a big supporter of public safety officials. He said he believes Fortville Police Department Chief Bill Knauer has done a great job leading his department.
In terms of goals for expanding public safety, Hexamer would like to see the Fortville Fire Department get its own free-standing fire station as close to town as possible. Besides giving the department more space for sleeping quarters, among other things, he said the town government also could use the area currently occupied by the fire department.
Hexamer also noted a prime concern in Fortville right now is getting the clerk-treasurer’s office functioning well. He said Clerk-Treasurer Marcie Stafford, who also faces a challenger in this spring’s election, is behind in record keeping, doesn’t keep set business hours and is a source of frustration to many.
Challenging the incumbent is Simmons, who grew up in the area. He graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in 2000 and Anderson University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. His full-time job is in the IT department of a firm providing desktop and mobile support.
Simmons, a married father of two children ages 4 and 2, served on the council from 2006-10. He ran for Vernon Township trustee that year and lost.
He also served on the Fortville Redevelopment Commission in 2014 before a new state law took effect in January prohibiting rental property owners from serving on the RDC. Simmons owns two rental properties.
Simmons said he wants to run for council again for a few reasons.
First, he said he feels he has support. He also applied for the council position that opened when Sizemore moved, and the council vote tied 2-2 between Hexamer and him three times.
While Hexamer went on to get the spot, “At that point, I kind of thought, you know, I kind of want to run,” he said.
He aid he tried for the position in the first place because he enjoyed giving back to the community.
“It’s a way to kind of have a say in what’s going on,” he said.
Simmons said he feels the council is doing a good job now working on the comprehensive plan, attracting jobs and beautifying Main Street.
“There’s a lot of things I want to jump on board with and continue with the current council,” he said.
He noted that when he served on the council there were differences in viewpoints about the town’s priorities. Now, he said, council members are more in sync.
“I feel that there are some good people on (the council) that are on it for the right reasons,” he said.
Simmons said his top three priorities should he be elected would be to work to attract businesses to Main Street and the industrial park, bring the council and the clerk-treasurer together so they are pulling in the same direction and make sure public input is sought on all major decisions.
The last point is especially crucial when it come to annexation discussions.
Simmons said he doesn’t know precisely how everything happened during the most recent and contentious annexation effort, but he said he’s sure there is a right way to pursue annexations. It starts with open and personal communication with property owners, he said.
“If it was done in the right way, there would be minimal issues. It’s based on being up front,” Simmons said.
On the issue of business development, he said he feels Fortville is primed for growth. He said now is the time to drive the growth by working with the local chamber of commerce, the Hancock Economic Development Council and others to take advantage of the opportunity.
“At this point, with the markets starting to turn, I think a lot more people are starting to build houses,” he said. “I think the plans are in place.”
Describing himself as pro-growth, he said when the businesses and residential developments happen, annexations will be a byproduct, and that will benefit everyone in town, in ways such as lower water and sewer costs.