NEW PALESTINE — After serving on the New Palestine Town Council for this his 16th year, council president Clint Bledsoe is in the midst of his final year of community service, he said. Bledsoe is on record saying he will not run again and is concerned that the upcoming open election is a bit confusing for people vying for what will be five open at-large New Palestine Town Council seats.
“I’d really like to see a lot of people sign up to run, including some young people, and some of them don’t know how the process works or how to get involved,” Bledsoe said.
All five of the town’s council seats are up for grabs for new terms in 2024 and several of the current council members have stated they do not plan to run for re-election. In addition to Bledsoe not seeking another term, council member Chris Lytle told the Daily Reporter this week he just doesn’t have the time to commit to another four-year term.
“I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve just got too many business ventures, work and family things going on, so that doesn’t allow me the time to run or serve again,” Lytle said.
Council member Angie Fahrnow stated during the first meeting of the year that she was counting the days until her term was up and had no plans to run.
Both Bledsoe and Fahrnow are finishing up terms after being appointed to the council by the three other council members after it was determined by voters during a referendum in November 2019 that the town needed to expand the council from three to five members.
Both Bledsoe and Fahrnow lost out on bids to win one of three seats outright in 2020 after Bill Niemier, Jan Jarson and Brandee Bastin gathered the most votes. Shortly after, the council expanded to five seats, adding Bledsoe and Fahrnow. However, Jarson stepped down in Sept. 2020, saying she no longer had the time to serve, and Lytle was appointed by the county’s Republican Party to finish her term.
Niemier has stated he planned to run again and planned to file by the deadline later this summer, while Bastin has not said if she will or won’t run. However, during a meeting in late December, she indicated she was not happy with the fighting among current council members and would step down if it continued in 2023.
Knowing the town’s council will have a whole new look in 2024, Bledsoe said he is concerned, because New Palestine is a small town with different rules for elections, that those interested in running don’t know how to sign-up and get involved.
“I’ve had several people call me and tell me they want to run, but they don’t know how to sign-up or how it works,” Bledsoe said.
County Clerk Lisa Lofgreen noted that all five council seats in New Palestine are open and will be filled during the upcoming municipal election.
Lofgreen noted New Palestine, due to size, is a little different as there will not be a primary election in the spring because there are less than 3,500 residents in the town. She said candidates should file their declarations with the Election Office inside the Hancock County Courthouse any time from the beginning of candidate filing, which started Jan. 4 and lasts through August 1.
“They will file the CAN-16 and CAN-12 forms,” Lofgreen said. “If more candidates from one political party file than there are seats available, then a Town Convention will be held by that political party.”
The rules of a Town Convention are outside the purview of the County Election Board, Lofgreen said, meaning if a Town Convention is needed, the Town of New Palestine will have to handle it.
Bledsoe is hoping numerous candidates step forward over the next few months before the Aug. 1 deadline. He says that, with so much growth in the area and possible annexation coming, the town needs different voices adding input into which direction the town needs to go while maintaining its small-town charm.