Caucus to fill vacant city council seat


JASPER — Saturday, 11 candidates vying for an at-large Jasper Common Council seat will enter a morning Republican caucus at City Hall, but only one will leave as the new member of the council.

The caucus of Dubois County Republican Precinct Committee members will choose the next councilperson.

The seat opened when Dean Vonderheide was named mayor late last month. This week, the Herald reached out to each candidate to ask what they would bring to the table.

Steve Block

Steve Block

For Block, it’s time.

“I’m 62 years old,” he explained. “If I was ever going to serve the city that’s done so much for [my] family and whatever, it was probably time. And then this came up, so I thought it’s time if I’m gonna ever do it. So, here I am.”

He said he is a good fit for the position because he is a lifelong resident of Jasper who knows most of the players in city government and what’s happening in the area. A salesman for most of his adult life, he now works as a purchasing agent at Jasper Engines and Transmissions.

“That has put me in situations that I have had to talk with people, get opinions from or try to persuade them one way or the other,” Block said of his sales experience. “Plus, with the fact that I am a salesperson, I can stand up in front of people and articulate, communicate my thoughts to them.”

If elected, he would work to strengthen the bond between the city and the county and help the city move forward in whatever way he can.

Adrian Engelberth

Adrian Engelberth

Engelberth, 47, planned to run for a council seat in the upcoming election. But when Vonderheide left his post, Engelberth jumped on the opportunity to join the group a little sooner.

“I believe I have the ideas and the vision to help make sure the council continues to be fiscally conservative, while also being future-minded in a lot of the things that they are doing,” he said.

As a new product development engineer at Kimball, Engelberth said he understands the nuts and bolts of numbers. He’s also studied the council and its budgeting process for nearly eight years to hold the council accountable, adding he has a deep understanding of tax increment financing, the abatement process and infrastructure.

Continued planning of the Midstates Corridor, assessing the success of our tax abatement and TIF programs, and addressing basic infrastructure needs like repaving and repairing streets are all important issues to him.

Dr. Richard Moss

Dr. Richard Moss

Moss, has entered three election campaigns on the state and national level since 2014. If chosen for the council seat, he’d like to bring the values of those big campaign platforms to local government.

“Those principles being limited government, low taxes, protecting the workers and taxpayers, and encouraging free market economy,” Moss, 64, said. “Making it as good a environment as we can for businesses to thrive and to come here so the community can prosper.”

Moss said he is rooted in the community in many ways. He is a board certified head and neck cancer surgeon who graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine and has had his own practice in Jasper for 25 years.

Moss is an original investor at the St. Thomas Surgery Center and currently sits on the center’s board, and also operates a small real estate business. He writes columns and has penned a couple books.

Locally, maintaining the best climate for businesses to thrive in and for jobs to be created is important to him, as are strengthening local schools and supporting infrastructure developments, like the Midstates Corridor.

Levi Hulsman

Levi Hulsman

Hulsman threw his name in for consideration to be the next mayor when Terry Seitz stepped down in December. He didn’t win, but he looks back at the experience as a learning one, and he’s hopeful he’ll land the council seat.

“I thought I would be a good young voice on the city council,” Hulsman said of his decision to run. “Bringing different generations’ views to some issues. Most people that are running for this are older than me, and I think it’s important to have the youth up there and represented well. And I think I’d be a good representation to people my age.”

At just 23 years old, he is the youngest applicant for the seat. Hulsman is the vice president of sales at 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.

If elected, he would like to continue facilitating change in Jasper as it continues to rise “as one of the great communities.”

Chad Lueken

Chad Lueken

Lueken, 44, can think of many good reasons he decided to run for the common council seat. Eight of them are his children.

“They’re the reason I work so hard in my business, and the reason I want to serve the city that’s been so good to me,” Lueken said.

He sells insurance for the Knights of Columbus Insurance and said he’d be a good fit for the council because many have encouraged him to run for public office, but it was never the right time. Now, he’s ready.

He has worked closely with families on important, complicated financial problems in an intimate setting, and said he has the ability to collaborate with others.

“There’s this thing called due diligence,” Lueken said. “And I think that’s what I’ll bring to city government. Having an openness to hearing all sides of an issue, a commitment to study the options, and most importantly, the will to act, and act quickly to implement solutions once we identify them.”

After talking with members of the public, Lueken has heard concerns with the issues of economic development, infrastructure growth and improving city-county government relations, and if he got the council nod, he’d explore them.

Steve Messmer

Steve Messmer

Messmer knocked on the doors of 600 homes across the city when he ran in the 2015 mayoral Republican primary. He lost, but it was a powerful experience for him. It showed him that everyone truly has a great idea that could be used to make Jasper a better place.

The 67-year-old Jasper man currently works on the advertising team at Uebelhor and Sons, and if chosen to fill the seat, Messmer said he would again ask people what their concerns are and what they’d like to see done to get a pulse on what the community is feeling.

“I’ve got my own feelings, but ... I would rather talk to other people and get their opinions and ideas, and then go from there,” Messmer said. “Everybody’s got a great idea. I really feel that way. I’ve been around a long time and been in a lot of communities. You’ve gotta hear everybody out.”

Messmer has a background in radio and television. He is happy to see so many people put their names in for consideration.

“There’s a whole field of candidates,” he said. “Fantastic. Everybody should get involved.”

Paul Lorey

Paul Lorey

Lorey said his prior local government experience wouldn’t hurt him if he was chosen to fill the council’s vacant seat.

He lost a council race to Earl Schmitt by just 41 votes eight years ago and has been involved with the Jasper Plan Commission since then, serving as the commission’s president for six-and-a-half years. He is also the city’s representative for the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission.

“(I have) always had a passion for being able to do what I can to help the city here,” Lorey, 42, said. “And when the opportunity presented itself, I thought, well, this is as good a time as any to go and help. I feel like I have as good a pulse — as any of us that have filed to run for that position — with the city and what’s going on across several of the departments.”

If elected, he’d like to keep the city moving forward. Repurposing old buildings and continuing to increase the quality of life in the city is important to him.

Phil Mundy

Phil Mundy

Mundy, 55, believes his experience as a small business owner would make his voice valuable in council discussions.

“Being a business owner, I can probably offer a little bit different perspective than maybe some of the other folks that don’t own businesses in the area,” Mundy, who owns Adventures Recreation & Gear, said in regards to why he put his name in the hat. “That, and to be honest with you, a deep love of Jasper and the downtown area.”

Mundy described himself as fairly progressive, and explained he’d like to see the city execute plans that were set in Seitz’s tenure. He wants to retain the city’s youth and bring those who have left back to Jasper. He said the city is on the right course and he wants to keep it moving in the right direction and pushing it ahead.

“I think, again, we have a great plan in place,” Mundy said. “I just want to make sure that we continue and keep going forward on this here. I’m under the assumption that community grows or they die.”

Bernie Fallon

Bernie Fallon

Fallon, 57, is excited. And the timing is right.

The work of State Sen. Mark Messmer, State Rep. Shane Lindauer; U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, and Moss, who ran and lost against Dr. Larry Bucshon in the 8th District congressional primary race earlier this year, has inspired Fallon to make another run at public office.

“I know them all, and I appreciate their service,” he said. “Got me inspired to get back in.”

Fallon 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. He was also one of the candidates for mayor in December when the Republican caucus chose Vonderheide for the position.

This time around, he thinks he can be an asset on help the new mayor’s team and help make the city an even better place to live.

He currently works as a commercial driver for Ackerman Oil, but he has garnered promotion experiences and “a lot of business sense” through work with his family’s businesses.

If elected, he’d work with Vonderheide to determine the most important issues facing the council. He’d like to reduce taxes, bring more people into the community and support the construction of the Midstates Corridor.

Merrill Osterman

Merrill Osterman

Osterman, 53 , was motivated to run for the seat because of his desire to serve.

“It’s in my blood to serve,” Osterman said. “Serve the community, serve my country. My father was a Marine and I have two kids in the military.”

At his day job, Osterman is a defense contractor dedicated to working for the United States Air Force. On a local level, he said he enjoys living and raising his family in Jasper. He, too, wants to continue the success of the local economy and family atmosphere the city fosters.

“I think, more than anything, I’m able to bring the level-headed, critical thinking and problem solving to the position, because I know there are a lot of issues that can be divisive or debated when it comes to council decisions,” Osterman said. “And it’s been in my nature to apply the critical thinking necessary so that we can get to the best decisions for the residents of Jasper.”

Issues important to Osterman include making Jasper more attractive to younger and newer talent. He has a passion for technology and believes it can be the next big industry for the city and surrounding area.

Patty Brosmer

Patty Brosmer

Brosmer, 63, just had a feeling that she should go ahead and run. It seemed like something she needed to do.

A retired Dubois Elementary School teacher who now teaches preschool at Trinity United Church of Christ, Brosmer doesn’t have a special reason she’s pursuing the open seat. But she’s hopeful she can use the opportunity as an avenue to become more involved in community decision-making.

“I just wanted to be part of the Jasper government,” she said of the decision. “I feel like I would have some input in the betterment of our community, and that’s what’s important to me.”

She has experience on non-political entities, like the St. Joseph Parish Council and an intercounty school insurance cooperative. She has also served on the St. Joseph Parish building commission and other boards for faith-based entities.

If elected, she would observe and later address improvements needed in the area. She’d also like to look into how Jasper could draw in traffic from the Midstates Corridor.

“I’m the type of person that sits back and observes and does my research and patiently watches, and then if I do have something that I think is important to add, I will add,” Brosmer said. “But initially, I will just kind of observe and go from there.”

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