Republican mayoral hopefuls for Rochester, Indiana do Round 5 Q & A: Vision and Goals

The Rochester Sentinel

Round 1 topic: Management.
Round 2 topic: Law and Order.

Round 3 topic: Downtown.
Round 4 topics: Annexation, Anti-discrimination, Repurposing city property

What You Say Mr. Mayor?

Sentinel Campaign Q&A Round 5

The final question in The Sentinels Republican mayoral primary series was submitted by local pharmacist Harry Webb, owner and operator of Webbs Family Pharmacy on Main Street.

He poses the following question to incumbent Mayor Mark Smiley and challengers Dave Fincher and Ted Denton: What is your vision for the City of Rochester? What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years? 10 years? How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

Reminder: Sentinel Editor W.S. Wilson and Rochester High School Students Noah Roberts, Kovenant Lingenfelter, and Caleb Hunter will ask questions of the primary candidates in a debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday at RHS. Jodie Jones and Emily King will be timekeepers.


1. The “Vision” for Rochester is to be a successful city in all aspects. To coin a phrase from the United States Army “To Be All That We Can Be.” With the emphasis on “continuous improvement” meaning to never be satisfied with what we are today and strive to KEEP improving. This is the attitude that all successful organizations adopt, and we sorely need.

The “Vision” starts with an attitude change. We must demand more from our leaders, starting with the Mayor. Successful organizations have 3 year, 5 year and 10 year plans as part of their goals and objectives process. The plans are multi-tiered and include different areas of the organization. In the case of the city we would break down each department and establish goals and objectives for all coupled with a formal twice a year performance review for all employees. Measurable goals would be established for economic development as well, with the inclusion of the FEDCO group, but make no mistake in both the city operation and economic development changes would occur and people held accountable.

The first change would be a Mayor dedicated to working full time for his boss (the Rochester residents). A Mayor who would not be hampered with splitting his time between running a personal business or networking for political advancement while trying to work for the City at the same time. My decks are cleared for the next four years, making me dedicated to Rochester. I will have regular business hours and will return board of works meetings to evening hours to better fit citizen’s schedules not mine or my staff. Any time spent away from the City will be to aid in the economic development effort by participating in a very aggressive marketing effort contacting industries and businesses to set appointments for the FEDCO Director and Mayor of Rochester to visit and listen to their needs and “SELL” what our community could do for them. I would start this process with WARSAW and the Orthopedic World. I am convinced these meetings can and will take place if we only make the effort and ultimately would result in success.

Much has been said in this campaign about the difference between a Leader and a Manager. In fact a good Leader “inspires” and a good Manager “instills confidence with solid direction based on experience”. The successful Executive MUST have both qualities. I am asking for the chance to use 30 years of experience with proven Executive tools to put Rochester on a new course. My “goal” would be to make a significant advancement and improvement in Rochester, placing it on a path of “continuous growth and improvement”. After which, my goal would be to turn it over to the next Mayor to continue the process. Vision? You bet, but the word Mission is more of what I see.


1. My vision for Rochester includes many things. I see a vibrant, revived downtown due to the efforts and leadership of the Downtown Partnership; a beautiful place where people work, live and shop that attracts visitors, new citizens and industry. Our downtown would offer continued and new activities like the chili cook-off, car shows, parades, art shows and concerts to draw people from near and far. Downtown Rochester would be a place we are proud of and the true heart of our city.

Also in my vision we expand the bike and walking paths in town. We should bring the trails to downtown, the city pool, and to the Blacketor sports complex on 4th Street. When our children go to the pathway they could get to these places without riding or walking on the streets. We should also add bike lanes on selected city streets to all the schools.

Speaking of 4th Street, we should improve East 4th Street following the example of what Logansport did with Chase and Davis Roads. We should add sidewalks all the way from Main to St. Rd. 25 and possibly add a traffic signal at 4th and Main. How do we accomplish this upgrade? Again, let’s follow the lead of other communities and get our city’s name in the pool of candidates to receive federal funding. Federal funding would pay for 90 percent of a project like this.

An important part of my vision is to bring our fire department back up to full strength. We currently have one less fireman on duty during hours than we did a year ago even though we have the money in the fire department’s budget for another fireman. We must also improve the morale of our city employees by showing appreciation. City employees will know that I care about them. Whether it is a small gift, a note, buying them lunch or just giving them my full attention when they speak; they will feel appreciated and know that I respect their ideas.

The most important component in accomplishing all of these things is creating more local JOBS! We have had a net loss of over fifteen factories in the last 40 years. I have met with our FEDCO director more than any other candidate in the last 6 months. I brought a developer and builder to town to talk about what it would take to get industry to Rochester. I have spoken with potential investors and have discovered there are grants to help build buildings. Over the last several years the majority of requests coming across our FEDCO director’s desk for buildings in Indiana include 40,00060,000 square foot buildings. The biggest thing holding Rochester back right now is our lack of facilities for industry! Successful cities in our area are building speculation buildings. The cities of Plymouth and Warsaw are building them and they are growing. Terry Lee told me he received a call just last week wanting to know what kind of spec building(s) we had. This is reality, and with the right leadership we can do it too!

So, my vision would include more JOBS, a revitalized downtown, a full strength fire department, better morale for all city employees, expanded pathways, bike lanes to schools and an upgraded 4th Street.

In the first four years I would like to see a gain of two or three new factories and apply for federal monies for the 4th Street project (it could take more than six years to get the federal grant). I believe we should be able to get at least one of the pathways and bike lanes completed in the first four years using private and grant money.

The way we accomplish lofty goals like these are to break them down into small steps that can be completed month by month until big things happen.

True leadership requires a willingness to serve others and it is time for a mayor with my leadership skills to turn this city around.


1. My vision for Rochester is for it to be a vibrant community for many years to come.

It is predicted that more and more small communities in Indiana will simply not exist in 40 years. I do not want Rochester to be one of those communities. Our children and grandchildren deserve to enjoy the same quality of life that we have experienced growing up in this city. They deserve good parks, good schools, and good jobs. They deserve the safety of a small community with very little crime. As Mayor, I work everyday to ensure that kind of future for our city.

Over the past 8 years, we have brought the city from a very insecure financial position to one that has allowed us to upgrade our police and fire equipment, replace other dilapidated city equipment, build a much needed water tower, and avoid severe federal and state sanctions over our waste water plant; all while cutting the budget and accumulating a strong rainy day fund for financial security. In other words, we now have our fiscal house in order and we can begin to build for the future.

There are several keys to making our dreams for Rochester a reality and economic development is one of those keys. We are now looking at how to take advantage of US 31 becoming a limited access highway by extending our water and sewer south of the Highway. We want to open this area to the economic development opportunities that will come as the highway becomes more like an interstate in the future.

The downtown is the heart of our community and it is important for us to work on its revitalization. We will continue to apply for state grants and other funding opportunities to help with downtown facades, landscaping, streetlights, and benches. It will take hard work from a lot of people to have a vibrant downtown that can provide the amenities Rochester needs.

We want our community to be one that cares about the environment. We are working to establish a system where the dried waste from the sewage plant can be composted with the yard clippings and leaves we pick up around the city to provide a rich soil for our fields and yards. Instead of having to pay to haul this away, we are establishing a “Go Green” initiative that will help pay for itself and save our city money over time.

After the election, we will put together a long term Capitol improvements plan that will help guide our elected officials and department heads as they make decisions on all aspects of the city’s expenditures over the next 5-10 years. This plan will help us evaluate what infrastructure and equipment will need to be replaced in the future, prioritize those needs, and figure out how to best finance those needs. It will look at our parks, trails, and other recreational assets using this same methodology so that the city can move forward in a well thought out and responsible manner.

There is so much to do in the next four years and it will only now be possible to accomplish this work because of what we have done in preparation over the past 8 years. I’m excited for our community’s future and for what we now can begin to accomplish together.

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