Republican party to hold convention after six file for five NP town council seats

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NEW PALESTINE — The Hancock County Republican Party is holding a convention for the six Republicans vying for the five seats up for grabs on the New Palestine Town Council. The five top vote-getters will then be on the ballot with two other Independent candidates this fall for the general election.

Due to the fact six different Republicans signed up to run, the Republican party must hold the convention, which is slated for 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 at the United Methodist Church, 3565 South 500W, New Palestine. The doors will open at 7 p.m.

A town convention is a specific party function, not a town function. The Republican Chair, Janice Silvey, appointed a convention chairperson, Debra Carnes, the Hancock County auditor who lives in the town. Carnes then appointed a secretary, Becky Bolander, who also lives in the town.

Carnes noted they’ll officially post details about the convention three days prior to the event at New Palestine Town Hall, Sugar Creek Public Library and the New Palestine Post office.

Each of the six candidates are expected to be given three minutes to tell voters why they want to represent the Town of New Palestine as a council member. Registered voters are the only ones allowed to cast ballots, and Carnes noted the doors to the convention will be locked promptly at 8 p.m.

“Once we start the convention, no one else will be let in and then we’ll go through the rules and get things rolling,” Carnes said.

Part of the rules include voters signing an affidavit showing they plan to participate in the Republican Convention.

“You can only vote in one convention,” Carnes said “Violating that is a felony.”

Each of the six Republican candidates will be allowed to have a “watcher” observe the vote count.

“We know that is important,” Carnes said.

The six Republican candidates are (R) Bill Niemier, New Palestine Town Council at large (Incumbent); (R) Robert (Rocky) Cooper, New Palestine Town Council at large; (R) Ethan L. Maple, New Palestine Town Council at large; (R) Chad Molinder, New Palestine Town Council at large; (R) Teri Reed, New Palestine Town Council at large; and (R) Chris P. Wernimont, New Palestine Council at large.

The top five Republican vote-getters will then be added to the ballot in the fall along with the two independent candidates who are already on the ballot, (I) Adam Axthelm, New Palestine Town Council at large and (I) Ryan Hartley, New Palestine Town Council at large.

For Niemier, the only current council member running for re-election, he said his motive to run again is simple. He wants to serve the community.

“I do want to continue to serve the town,” Niemier said. “My wife and I moved her over 30 years ago, and all three of our children have been raised here. From that first day we moved here, we’ve been active in our community, and I want to continue to do so because there are exciting times with lots of opportunities, and I want to be part of helping regulate what comes.”

Niemier noted with four of the five current council members not running again, having at least one person on the council with some experience would probably help for a smooth start to a new council.

Maple, a pastor with Mt. Comfort Church, said he wants to be part of the council because the landscape of the town shows others have served, and now seemed like good opportunity for him to do so as well.

“I would like to be able to share my skill set as a leader,” Maple said. “I’d like to be able to help lead the town in the most positive direction possible… I want to be able to listen, learn and lead.”

Molinder, a former United States Marine, handles distribution for a major warehouse company. He said his 20 years of military experience coupled with his work experience gives him a unique perspective on growth and the community.

“It all boils down to New Palestine is where my kids are going to school and it’s where we live. My unique experience in the Marines and running logistical warehouses would allow me to use those experiences to help the area grow and continue to be a place where my family is going to live for a very long time, and I want to make sure we’re heading in the right direction,” Molinder said.

Molinder noted he wanted to run the last time there was an opening on the council, but his family had just moved to the area and his legal address had not been changed in time.

Cooper moved to the town over three years ago and said he served on the town council in Carthage and thought he might be able to make a positive difference in New Palestine as well.

“I noticed there were five open seats and I thought, ‘I did some good out in Carthage. Maybe I can do some good here,’” Cooper said. “I want to serve the community and maybe bring a little common sense, truth and bi-partisan behavior to the council… I’m just an honest person and I don’t pull any punches. If I have something to say, I’ll say it and I want to be someone who will speak on behalf of the people.”

Wernimont, who is currently on the New Palestine Planning Commission, noted he’s running because he’s concerned about growth in the area.

“It is the unmitigated growth that threatens to turn our community into the next Franklin Township, McCordsville or Fishers,” Wernimont said. “In the last year and a half, I have been actively attending plan commission and town council meetings expressing my concerns on this growth issue.”

Reed, who lives in New Palestine, said her aunt was on the town council for 23 years and instilled in me her love for the community and the importance of listening to the public and to be their advocate. And, if elected, she will vow to do the same and more.

“I have attended town council meetings and have heard what the public is saying, which is why I want to be part of the council to have a positive impact on the community,” Reed said. “We have great potential in this town, and I want to see it develop strategically so that our children will be proud to call New Pal their home for years to come.”

Silvey noted she was somewhat surprised to see so many people sign up to run for a seat on the New Palestine Town Council but said it just shows how people do like to get involved in local politics.

“I knew there was only one current member who expressed a desire to run and the rest of them were done because I know it’s been rough on a lot of them,” Silvey said.

For the past several years, the council has bickered relentlessly over major and minor town issues, even attacking each other personally, creating a toxic environment on the council and at meetings.

With all five seats up for grabs, the council will certainly have a fresh start in 2024.