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Parties to make leadership changes

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GREENFIELD — Leadership in Hancock County’s two major parties could change Saturday when both Republicans and Democrats hold organizational meetings to choose party chairs and other central committee members.

Parties hold the meetings to select officers every four years, and both meetings Saturday are open to the public.

The GOP will meet at 10 a.m. at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex, while the Democrats will meet at 10:45 a.m. at Hancock County Public Library.

A definite change is coming for the Democrats. Michael Adkins, Democratic Party chairman since 2007, does not plan to run again, and it’s uncertain who will step up to take his place.

Adkins, 62, said he’s faced health problems in recent months and wants somebody with energy and time to commit to growing the small party and recruiting more Democratic candidates.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in a competitive two-party system if you want to have good government,” Adkins said.

But there’s no obvious choice for a successor. Adkins said he hasn’t heard of anyone interested in the spot. He doesn’t even know if there will be a quorum or enough precinct and vice precinct committeemen present Saturday to vote.

Hancock County’s strongest political party could see some leadership changes this weekend. Janice Silvey, who was selected chairwoman of the Republicans last summer to fulfill the rest of Michael Griffin’s term, plans to run now for the full four-year term.

But she may have an opponent. Tara Armstrong, who also ran for chairwoman last year, is considering running for the top leadership position again.

“I have a tremendous amount of support and people asking me to run; I just haven’t made that decision yet,” Armstrong said. “I’m weighing all my options.”

Last year, Griffin, a U.S. Army Reservist, stepped down from the GOP leadership role before he began a stint serving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A GOP caucus was held in July to determine who would fill the rest of his term. Silvey won with 48 votes, compared to Armstrong’s 31.

Armstrong, who is currently vice chairwoman of the group, said she’s considered running for the top position again, and will make a decision today. She cannot serve as vice chairwoman anymore, because party rules state that if a woman is selected chair, a man must be vice chair.

So far, nobody else has formally expressed interest in the chairman position. They must do so by 10 a.m. Wednesday by submitting letters to the state and county party secretaries.

Silvey said in the last seven months the party has accomplished quite a bit by holding successful fundraisers. She’s also worked to get job descriptions to other party leaders to improve communication.

But still, more should be done, Silvey said. She’d like the young Republicans group to become more active again, for example.

There could be other changes in GOP leadership positions: Steve Leonard plans to run for vice chairman. Robin Lowder, currently the secretary of the party, does not want to run again, but Glenda Prewitt may take the role. Joe Copeland, who took Silvey’s position as treasurer when Silvey moved to the top spot last year, plans to run for the seat again.

But more names could come up Saturday because nominations are accepted from the floor for vice chair, secretary and treasurer.

A total of 86 GOP precinct and vice precinct committeemen are eligible to vote Saturday.

For the Democrats, there are only 22 precinct and vice precinct committeemen. Adkins said several have told him they won’t be able to make it Saturday, and at least 12 are needed to vote for the next leader.

Adkins said he doesn’t know who would be the next chairman, but hopes it will be somebody with a passion for building the party to a competitive level.

The next chairman should also be technology-savvy, and be able to use social media to spread the message about campaigns. A guest speaker, David Galvin, the political director for Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz’s campaign, will address the group on campaign strategies. Adkins said he hopes that will inspire local Democrats.

In early 2007, Adkins took the place of former chairman Todd Johnson, who appointed Libertarians to the Democratic Party ballot before stepping down. Adkins said the party was in disarray.

“I took it with realistic expectations,” he said. “I wasn’t naïve enough to think we were going to turn everything around overnight, that it would take a decade or two; and I’ve been proven right.”

In the last five years, Adkins said he’s worked to be a good spokesman for the party, but it’s been “extremely frustrating” to recruit candidates because Democrats know it will take a lot of time, money and work to win an election.

Still, Adkins is encouraged by the growing number of Democratic voters in western precincts. He said even if it may take several more years to recruit more Democratic candidates, the party should at least work to build up the vote to help statewide candidates.

Julia Wickard is vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party, and Judy Brown is secretary. Neither could be reached for comment Monday. Tom Billings, treasurer of the group, said he hasn’t decided if he will run again. Billings also hasn’t heard of anyone interested in the chairman role.

“I think we’ve got to get pretty much a full-time chairperson who can devote time and energy to get out and work, and get out and talk to people,” Billings said.

Adkins lost his bid for state senate last year to Republican newcomer Mike Crider. In retrospect, Adkins wishes he’d had more time and energy to devote to the campaign. He’s had blood pressure problems recently, and after stepping down from the chairman position plans to take at least a year away from politics.

Still, he hopes for growth for the party locally. Interest in the Democratic Party has ebbed and flowed, Adkins said, from a spike in the 2008 presidential election when Indiana was a key state in the Democratic primary. Volunteers abounded then, but now it’s hard to keep precinct committeemen in their positions, let alone recruit volunteers for campaigns and events.

For candidates to succeed in the future, Adkins said it’s important that the people of Hancock County realize most local Democrats are moderate.

“There are no more far-left wing nuts in Hancock County than there are far-right wing nuts in the county,” Adkins said. “Most Democrats are moderate right to just moderate left, and there’s a fair number of very conservative Democrats. You’d better break that perception.”

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