GREENFIELD — The candidates running for county commissioner are calling for more interaction between elected officials and their constituents, debating the need for evening gatherings or other methods for reaching citizens who can’t attend regular meetings.
District 1 commissioner candidate Brandon Perry, a Democrat, said if he’s elected, he’ll communicate often with his constituents, holding evening meetings and making social media accounts to update residents on what the board is doing.
Perry faces Republican John Jessup, a current county councilman, who said he believes the current board is fairly transparent. But Jessup said he feels meetings on big issues — such as the proposed new fairgrounds project or the overcrowded jail — could be held during the evening, and the board should considering reserving time at each meeting for public comment.
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The pair is competing to fill the seat Tom Stevens is vacating on the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, which manages the county’s day-to-day operations.
Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, both candidates are calling for more transparency within local government.
Perry would like to see local government leaders regularly communicating with their constituents and providing additional meeting times that accommodate residents’ 9-to-5 work schedules.
Perry doesn’t believe local officials are hiding anything from residents, but the commissioners’ meeting time — 8 a.m. on the first, third and fifth Tuesday of the month — doesn’t lend itself to much public participation, he said.
Transparency is a two-way street — residents should want to be involved in local government, but getting involved needs to be easy, he added.
Perry said if he’s elected, he’ll suggest he and his other board members hold evening meetings occasionally. He’ll also make himself available to residents to meet one on one, giving residents an opportunity to share how they feel about topics outside traditional meetings, he said.
He also plans to use social media to spread the word about decisions being made, something he hopes other county officials will consider as well.
“(Elected officials) should really go out of their way to make sure citizens know what’s going on,” Perry said.
Then, they might see more citizens take interest in what they’re doing, he said.
Jessup said many of the tasks the council and commissioners are charged with are everyday operational duties that don’t necessarily need public input.
And holding meetings in the evening would be difficult, he pointed out, because the council and commissioners meet with department heads, who work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Asking those department heads to attend three to four evening meetings a month in addition to their workload would be unfair, Jessup said.
But when the board is talking about large projects or issues concerning to the public, openness could be improved, he said.
When the commissioners are discussing an issue concerning to the public — such as borrowing money — he wouldn’t be opposed to evening meetings, he said.
He also said he would be open to making time at the start of every meeting to give residents a chance to talk about any concerns they have.
Many governmental boards already open the floor to constituents, he said, but there isn’t a specific spot on the commissioners or council agenda for public comment at every meeting.
“We can take five minutes at every meeting to hear what the people in the room have to say, whether it’s on the agenda or not,” Jessup said. “I’ll hear them out.”
Voters may cast a ballot ahead of the Nov. 8 election and skip election day lines.
Through Nov. 4, voters may vote from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Hancock County Courthouse, 9 E. Main St., and at McCordsville Town Hall, 6280 W. County Road 800N.
Those sites also will have early voting hours on two Saturdays, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5. They’ll be open for limited hours on Nov. 7.
Both branches of the Hancock County Public Library and Vineyard Community Church in Mt. Comfort will hold early voting hours later in the month.
For more information, visit hancockcoingov.org/hancock-county-indiana-election-office.