GREENFIELD — Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell will not run for a third term, leaving the top elected office open in the 2023 election.
“I have enjoyed this job immensely,” Fewell said. “It’s different every day, and it’s been a great, great feeling that the people are happy to have you here because they’re the ones that put you here.”
The mayor, a popular city leader who was appointed in 2013 after the death of former Mayor Dick Pasco, will have served in the office for a decade. He achieved significant majorities in two elections, running against Judy Swift in the Republican primary in 2015 and against Democrat Zachary LaFavers in 2019, when he won by a margin of nearly 5-1. Assuming he remains in office until 2023, he will leave the post at age 80.
Fewell said that since his first day in office, he’s had ambitious plans for what Greenfield could accomplish.
“I want us to be the best third-class city in the state of Indiana, and I think we’re pretty darn close to being that city,” Fewell said, referring to how cities are categorized by population.
Fewell said when he moved to Greenfield, being mayor one day wasn’t on his radar. He started his career in law enforcement, working for the Shelbyville Police Department in the county where he grew up before becoming a state trooper. He moved to Greenfield after marrying his wife, Kristin, a teacher at Greenfield-Central schools.
OVERSET FOLLOWS:After leaving law enforcement, Fewell started a career in governmental affairs working for Milestone Contractors. The firm frequently worked with state and local governments on building roads and other projects, and Fewell got insight into how local governments worked. He wanted to be an involved member of his new community, he said, and became a member of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Merit Board, the Alcohol and Beverage Board of Hancock County and the local Chamber of Commerce.
“If you show an interest (in local government), Greenfield and Hancock County are very welcoming,” Fewell said.
Fewell and his wife frequently attended Lincoln Day dinners and other events of the local Republican Party, and he told her he was interested in running for local office. Fewell said he began putting together a two-year plan with the intention of leaving his job at Milestone to run for mayor. He was on good terms with Pasco, he said, and went to talk to him about his plans so that he wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up as opponents in the next election.
What Fewell didn’t know was that Pasco had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The mayor didn’t mention it in their meeting, either, but he died about two months later.
“My exit strategy of two years went to 30 days,” Fewell said. That’s how long the local Republican Party had to hold a caucus and choose a new mayor.
At the caucus, Fewell said, he had several opponents, but won nine of the 12 precincts in the city and became the new mayor. Fewell said he didn’t know everything about local government at the time — and still doesn’t — but thought his set of credentials would bring a unique perspective to the city.
“I was capable of learning,” Fewell said. “I knew I could do the job.”
He went to work at the Board of Works meeting the next day and has been at the helm of the city ever since.
Fewell’s time as mayor has seen unprecedented growth for Greenfield and Hancock County in general, with numerous new businesses attracted to the area and a significant increase in population. Fewell has led the city in decisions to add several new buildings: A new wastewater treatment plant and animal management facility are under construction, and he has promised to build a new home for the city’s street department before the end of his term.
Fewell said he has plans for what he’d like to accomplish during his last two years in office and will discuss those in more detail in the near future. He added that he expects several good candidates for mayor to run in the contest to be his successor.
City leadership is a group effort, Fewell said; he credited city council members, department heads and other city employees, and his operations assistant, Chuck Anderson, as key parts of everything he’s done in the office.
“No mayor can sit at his desk and do it himself,” Fewell said. “It’s about teamwork, and we have a good team.”
City council member Kerry Grass said Fewell has always had a vision for the direction of the city and has worked well with the council to carry it out, even when he and the council have not agreed.
“There’s more to do, and I hope whoever the next mayor is, they continue to have a vision for the city of Greenfield,” Grass said.
Grass said some of Fewell’s biggest accomplishments have included his work on recruiting new businesses to the city, as well as improving recruitment and retention of city employees.
Council member Jeff Lowder also praised Fewell’s work on recruiting new businesses and on revitalizing Greenfield’s downtown district, and said he has had a positive working relationship with the city council.
“He’s worked very hard for the city,” Lowder said.
Clerk-Treasurer Lori Elmore said she has enjoyed working closely with Fewell during his terms as mayor.
“I feel like we work really well together and collaborate on a lot of things that have had a positive impact on the city,” she said.
Elmore mentioned attracting businesses like BWI and Yamaha to Greenfield as some of Fewell’s biggest accomplishments. She also said he has played a significant role in the city’s participation in the Stellar Communities program, a grant program that has provided funding for projects like the new Depot Street Park, which Elmore said will be a significant asset to the city after its completion.
“He’ll be a hard act to follow, that’s for sure,” Elmore said.
Fewell said he’s dealt with several significant challenges during his tenure as mayor, but COVID-19 is an obvious choice for the greatest obstacle.
“COVID was the biggest challenge that I could’ve probably ever faced,” the mayor, who tested positive himself in November of 2020 but didn’t experience severe symptoms, said. “We lost people and there’s never any way to bring back the people we’ve lost.”
Fewell said he was proud of how the city performed during the pandemic, with few positive tests among city staff even though most of them could not work from home. Although the pandemic isn’t over, he said, he’s happy to have mostly gotten back to normal.
As for his plans after retiring from public office, Fewell said he isn’t sure what he’ll do yet. His wife recently retired from teaching after 44 years, he said, and seems to be enjoying it immensely.
Fewell does know that he won’t be leaving Greenfield, and he’ll be available to give his successor any advice he can.
“I’m probably not too good at sitting around and doing nothing,” he said.
Though the 2023 election cycle is far from its formal beginning, candidates are already beginning to express interest in the role.
Larry Silver, a newcomer to city politics, has announced plans to run for mayor as a libertarian.
Silver recently submitted a petition to the city objecting to several elements of its 2021 budget, including spending on a potential expansion of Park Cemetery and on beautification of State Road 9 medians. He also criticized an $8,000 raise included in the budget for both the mayor and the clerk-treasurer.
“You have to be willing to give back and sacrifice a little to the people you’re serving,” Silver said.
Several prominent Republicans are also rumored to be running, but none have yet confirmed their candidacy.
Fewell said he plans on talking with candidates for mayor about their plans for the city and what they would like to bring to the role. He said he has no intention of leaving Greenfield
Before the 2023 mayoral election, several county- and state-level elections will take place in 2022. On the ballot will be county sheriff, prosecutor and District 2 commissioner, along with recorder, clerk of courts, auditor and seats on the county council.
Sheriff Brad Burkhart and prosecutor Brent Eaton have each confirmed that they will run for re-election. County Commissioner Marc Huber said he has not yet made a decision about whether to run for another term.
State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, will be up for re-election, along with all other members of the state House of Representatives. Rep. Greg Pence, the Republican representative of the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, also plans to run for a third term.