Caucus to choose from 4 mayoral candidatesDecember 24, 2018
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — On Wednesday, Jasper’s next mayor will be decided by a caucus of Dubois County Republican Precinct Committee members.
Following Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz’s resignation on Jan. 1, his replacement will fill the remaining one year of his term. The candidates for consideration include Nancy Eckerle, Levi Hulsman, Dean Vonderheide and Bernie Fallon.
Eckerle, 61, currently sits on the Jasper Common Council and is executive director of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce. She said she has more than 30 years dedicated to the City of Jasper, is very organized and detail-oriented, and also has strong beliefs in honesty and integrity. She also said she is dedicated and reliable.
Eckerle detailed what her focus would be in 2019. Examining what the city will look like in the future is important to her.
“I am passionate about Jasper and want to see our fine city advance and continue to progress,” she said. “I also believe that each department should develop a five- and 10-year plan so the city can have an idea of its assets, properties, buildings, vehicles and people — and look at how to budget and plan now through 2029.”
If elected by the caucus, she would run for re-election in 2019. She would use the comprehensive plan the city is currently working on as a blueprint for the next 10 years.
Hulsman, 23, is vice president of sales at his family’s business, Hulsman Refrigeration in Jasper. He held leadership positions while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management at the University of Evansville and when he was in Boy Scouts.
When he heard about the opening, he jumped on it.
“The biggest thing was, it seemed like a good way to get started in politics,” Hulsman said. “I really think that I can do the job very well. I have the communication skills, the drive and the young ideals to take over. And I believe with the help that I’m sure every mayor receives, I’ll definitely be able to do the job.”
Taking care of small problems within the community that residents approach the city with is important to him, as is keeping Jasper safe and clean.
“And continuing that streak of greatness, really,” Hulsman said. “But still being able to work on improving. We’re a great city, but we can always be better and we can always work towards something greater.”
He would strongly consider running for re-election in 2019 if tapped by the caucus.
Vonderheide, 65, has been a member of the Jasper Common Council since 2016, and retired from Kimball International in April 2015 after a 31-year career that concluded with him in the chief human resources officer role. He has served on the Dubois County Contractual Library Board and Jasper Public Library Board since 2011, and is currently president of the Jasper Public Library Board.
He weighed what he could bring to the position, and opted to enter his name to “help secure a strong future for the city,” he said.
“I think, one, I just have a passion for the city of Jasper and seeing it progress,” Vonderheide said. “I felt like my background really positioned me to do a job like this. I think we’re on the right path right now, we’ve got a lot of things happening, we’re progressive.”
He continued: “I’d like to see us maintain that effort. Not just in the city, but in the county. And I feel like I could be a catalyst for that. A leader for that.”
Like Eckerle, Vonderheide spoke on the importance of long-term planning. He also spoke of the importance of infrastructure and economic development.
If elected by the caucus, Vonderheide would run for re-election in the 2019 mayoral election.
Fallon, 57, worked for and ran family businesses for many years. He’s currently a commercial driver for Ackerman Oil.
He previously ran for mayor in the 2011 primary election, when he was defeated by Democrat John Burger. He also ran for office in 1998, and made an unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic nominee for the District 73 seat in the Indiana Senate.
Even though Fallon ran as a Democrat in those races, Dubois County Republican Party Chairman Mark Messmer said he is eligible for the current ballot since he voted in the last primary as a GOP.
Fallon said he realizes running as a Democrat before and a Republican now “is an unusual thing,” but he said he was inspired by Messmer, who is a state senator; State Rep. Shane Lindauer; U.S. Sen.-elect Mike Braun; and Dr. Richard Moss, who ran and lost against Dr. Larry Bucshon in the 8th District congressional primary race earlier this year.
“There’s a lot of quality in that group,” Fallon said. “They inspired me and got me excited again.”
He said that while driving for Ackerman Oil, he sees the traffic coming in and out of Jasper every day, and it presents so much opportunity.
“I think we’re a jewel,” Fallon said of Jasper. “I think there’s a lot to come, and I’d like to be a part of it.”
Fallon is active in the Knights of Columbus and other community organizations. He and his wife, Marsha, have six children.
Herald News Editor Olivia Ingle contributed to this story.
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