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GOP takes control of city gov't

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Incumbent Democratic Connersville Mayor Harold Gordon (left) congratulates Mayor-Elect Chad Frank Tuesday at Republican headquarters after the tally of votes showed Frank will serve the community as mayor for the next four years.
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The Fayette County Republican Party swept the Tuesday elections gaining all the positions on the ballot. From the left are Council members Clarence Werner, Brian Robb, Bill Gray, Diana Phillips, Mike Bishop, Mayor Chad Frank and his wife Amy, Councilwoman Jennifer Barrett, Clerk-Treasurer Rosemary Brown and Councilman David Nutty.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Republicans will control all the elected positions in the city of Connersville for the next four years as the party pulled off a clean sweep in Tuesday’s election.

No one at GOP headquarters could recall a time when that had ever occurred.

In the voting, Councilman Chad Frank beat incumbent Democratic Mayor Harold Gordon by a margin of 1,234 to 932.

Frank said the Republicans on Council will be challenged to move the community forward.

“Council, we are going to get busy and make a lot of changes that are necessary,” he warned. “I have an agenda ready to go for the very first council meeting. I want to do what I talked about the whole campaign. The very first promise is insurance, working with the unions to get that changed over so we can establish a fund to put money back into the general fund.”

He wants to sit down with every city employee to discuss their thoughts, work with the unions and get every council member busy on those tasks he has talked about, as well as what the council members want to do.

“I have been talking about what Walt Disney did, Imagineering, by putting groups together to tackle problems and build groups in the community to solve the issues,” Frank said. “I am focused on the downtown to revitalize downtown. I want to create something millennials will want to come to. We’re losing the younger generation and we have to capture them.”

Gordon said in his four years the city came out of the financial emergency that was in place when he took office. There have been several new businesses come to town including in the Whitewater Trade Center.

He added that the energy savings program with solar panels will have lasting benefit to the city and that work on Rivers Edge Park began during his term.

The Redevelopment Commission also became active and purchased The Oasis and the old Burkhart properties to improve the downtown. He helped re-establish the Main Street Program, known as Discover Connersville.

In addition, equipment was upgraded at several departments, several city streets were paved and the Grand Avenue project completed, he said. Several projects are also in the planning stages. The city cleanup will also be a major improvement for the future.

Gordon said the city is better today than when he took office.

“I thought Mayor Urban was right with some of the things he had to do and we built off that. We built savings and started spending our money better,” he said. “The department heads, working with Rosemary (Brown, clerk-treasurer), did a great job. Sometimes she would say ‘no.’”

He is not going away after Dec. 31. He would like to serve on a board, particularly boards that work with children.

“I enjoy this type of work and trying to figure how to fix things,” he said. “There will be a park board spot open and I would be interested in that. I plan to stay involved.”

Going into the voting, Democrats had two slots on City Council, Connie Durham in District 1 and Debbie Montgomery in District 3. Retired City Police Capt. Clarence Warner took District 1, 254-210, and Brian Robb ousted Montgomery, 184-117.

Montgomery served seven years after her appointment to council and enjoyed her time on council.

“I was there for the people of Connersville, not just the people in my district,” she said. “I tried to really listen. I did my best for Connersville.”

Werner has not looked into the budget yet but said he will spend time with the mayor to begin solving the problems. He thanked all who supported him.

Robb also will begin listening to those already in the city government because everything is new to him.

“I plan to make a splash but I have to learn the ropes and I plan on doing that,” he explained. “I look forward to it. I wasn’t sure how all this would come out and now I’m looking forward to hopefully making a change.”

District 2 saw Jennifer Barrett defeating Jerry Pennington 347-130. In district 4, Bill Gray beat Jack Willis 314-139.

Gray said in the next two months before his first council meeting Jan. 6, 2020, he will attend council meetings and get familiar with the city policies. He will talk about issues with the other council members.

“I want to get in there and get my feet wet,” he said.

Barrett has already started getting informed by following council meetings, but now she will get up to speed on what other government bodies are doing, such as Fayette County Commissioners, County Council and the city Board of Public Works and Safety to understand what is going on in the city.

“I am also going to start thinking about goals and writing them down that we want to work on the next four years,” she said. “I am ready, but I have a lot to learn.”

Barrett has served in many community activities but one she will have to give up is the city Parks and Recreation Board.

David Nutty in District 5 and Brown had no opposition.

For the at-large seats, Mike Bishop and Diana Phillips defeated their Democratic opponents John Gibson and Christopher Lephew, 1,374 and 1,315 to 665 and 630, respectively.

“It’s time we started moving the city forward,” Bishop said. “We have had the last four years to get things accomplished that was on our objective and we didn’t do it. Now we have a team leader that’s going to make things happen. We’re going to go after it and clean this town up.”

“I think we’ve been a team, I never had any complaints about how we’ve worked together, but this is just that much better,” Phillips said. “It’s a good night and I’m glad they’re giving me and us an opportunity to continue with what we started, and we’re well on the way. We’re going to make a difference.”

Democratic Chair Tim Rose offered his congratulations and best wishes for the new office holders.

He was not sure if tweaking the clean-up ordinance just before election or the Babe Ruth Complex situation helped or hurt his candidates, he said. He added that there have been positive changes in the city during the past administration and that the city is looking better and there are new things happening.

“I hope Chad can continue to bring businesses to Connersville and keep it moving in the right direction,” he said. “He has Mike, David and Diana to help that are not new in order to continue working in a positive way and making Connersville a great place. They came out of the financial emergency and I hope they can stay out. I believe they will work for what’s best for Connersville.”

The sweep took Republican Party Chair Vivian Himelick by surprise.

“When I moved here in 1975, I wondered why I should go vote because my candidates rarely won,” she said.

She gave credit to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who personally endorsed Frank by sending postcards to voters in the community, saying she believed that made a big difference. The effort at the Fayette County Free Fair by all the candidates made an impression on voters and those candidates went door to door meeting voters and handing out campaign materials.

“I told them, ‘Now, you have to show this community that Republicans make a difference,’” she said. “We have areas to improve and Chad has a list of goals. We want to make sure those goals are fulfilled by a council that will support the mayor and a mayor that will support the council.”

For the first time in more than three decades, Glenwood had an election. Incumbents won the three seats. Republicans Jon Lykins and Jo Temple and Democrat Denny Richardson won re-election with 16 votes each over challenger Cindy A. Holland with 4 votes on the Fayette County side of town. On the Rush County side, Lykins received 37, Temple 22, Richardson 35 and Holland 20.

Republican Clerk-Treasurer Mary M. Richardson had no opposition.