GREENFIELD – The four Republican candidates running to fill the open seat for Representative of District 53 addressed questions on popular topics during Thursday’s candidate forum at the H.J. Ricks Centre For The Arts in downtown Greenfield.

The Greenfield Area of Chamber Commerce hosted and Hart Summeier moderated the event.

Candidates Keely Butrum, Brian Evans, Ethan Lawson and Kevin Mandrell answered questions about topics and policies the candidates would focus on if they were to be elected to fill the seat currently held by Representative Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield).

Starting the event, each candidate introduced themselves and why they chose to run for office. For each question, the candidates only had one minute to share their answers.

The first question for each candidate was about their greatest challenge and how they overcame that obstacle.

Answering first, Evans said that when he worked at the White House, the previous administration left with no process and procedure in place. There he had to coordinate secret services, archives and more to get the operation off the ground and running.

“…They weren’t being heard and our job was to hear them and help them solve their problems,” Evans said. “The biggest challenge was just getting that entire operation off the ground from scratch.”

Lawson said while their are many challenges, the toughest one was knowing a close friend experience addiction, didn’t have the treatment he needed and ended up doing time behind bars. Lawson said while he wasn’t in his friends position, he felt it closely.

“It’s motivated me to make sure that in our community, those resources are available to those who need them,” Lawson said.

Mandrell said that with his service as a board member with the Arthritis Foundation, they went through a difficult time with finances and tough decisions had to be made. Sought out from the CEO, Mandrell helped organize to bring 10 regions into one federation.

“In doing that, I was also the chair of our capital campaign which helped raise $35 million to try to bridge the shortfall that we were running into,” Mandrell said.

Butrum said in her current position serving on the county council, in Sept. 2022 she had some suspicions of ulterior motives in some transactions taking place. After extensive research and collaboration with commissioner Bill Spalding, the transaction did not go through.

“It was a difficult thing that upset some people, but ultimately it was confirmed…” Butrum said.

On how Indiana should balance the need for revenue for local government and schools against rising property tax pressure on fixed income households, Lawson said that this isn’t just a Hancock County issue but is statewide and supports the cutting down of taxes, especially regarding seniors and those on a fixed income.

Mandrell said they need to be more proactive in how they ask people to pay their fair share. Mandrell said that not only is it just a tax issue, but overall inflation the country has seen in the last few years, stating that costs in a household of four have gone up by approximately $1,000 a month.

Butrum said that it all starts with assessed values, and that another problem from the county level is they are limited by state government each year on what they can take in for the budget. Butrum said she would advocate for changing the structure for individual taxing units to put money back in the people’s pockets.

Evans said that while traveling, he has seen the growing number of people in poverty and said they should look at removing the influence of a single state agency and bring more control to local government.

After having multiple questions regarding education issues, the candidates were asked how Indiana should navigate the “complex terrain” of social media among social-aged children.

Evans said that he believes in limited government control and that it should be up to the parents when their child is ready for a smartphone and social media. Evans said for those parents who aren’t up to date on the latest social media, there are tools and resources that can help manage and supervise online platforms and should offer those instead of passing a law that controls what a parent can or cannot do with their children’s social media use.

Lawson agreed with Evans, saying that that the government isn’t handing out the phone, but it is in the hands of the parents. Lawson said that they should protect students while they are in school and can define what that looks like, but when at home it is the parents’ responsibility if the child has internet access and at what age.

Mandrell said he disagrees, and when he was first introduced to the bill, he found that one of the many reasons behind this also had to do with teen suicide and online bullying. Mandrell said he looked at this from a parent and grandparent perspective and noted that the government has age restrictions on other items, such as when a child can drive, buy tobacco and alcohol.

Lawson responded and said that he doesn’t think the government should have an internet license, and while kids are in school, it is the government’s responsibility. But outside of school, it is the parents’ responsibility.

With the current discussion on the ban of TikTok, candidates were asked if Indiana should regulate the social media app. While Butrum said no, the other candidates said yes.

“As much as I loathe young people on social media and smart phones, and as detrimental I think it is to society productivity, mental health… at the end of the day, I do believe in limiting government…” Butrum said. “I don’t believe that blanketing laws over society is the best first approach to take to solve problems.”

After expressing their viewpoints on other issues, the last question was about traffic in Greenfield and overall advocating for municipalities in the district.

Lawson said he wants to be accessible, and that local elected officials are the ones who are closer to the problems than the state could be. Lawson said he wants to build those relationships to be able to advocate at the state level.

“We want it that way because they are accountable and they live in the community,” Lawson said.

Mandrell said that he has spoken with former Mayor Chuck Fewell, local elected officials and other mayors across the state. Mandrell said that he thinks local is the best option, but as a state representative there needs to be a balance to make sure they support local growth.

“Home rule is vital to local officials having a priority say in how their community runs,” Mandrell said.

Butrum said during her time served on city and county council, she learned that “INDOT does not care if you don’t want something,” and she said having local input is important and that elected officials should have a say.

“I do believe right now the local elected officials have very little weight in decision making when it comes to any road that’s actually mandated by INDOT,” Butrum said.

Evans said he agreed with Butrum on INDOT, and that as a state representative, he should have the ability to go to agencies and put pressure on them to help local communities.

“A legislator at the end of the day, also has oversight over state agencies,” Evans said.

With closing remarks, each candidate had two minutes to share any final comments and why they are the right person to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat for District 53.

For more information or to read about another forum with the candidates just held last week, visit