Osterman, Lueken seek Republican nomination



JASPER — The Jasper Common Council will soon have a new member, and it could be one of two men running in the upcoming Republican primary election. John Bell, current holder of the council’s District 3 seat, is not running for re-election.

That opens the door for candidates Merrill Osterman and Chad Lueken, who are vying for the seat for which early voting starts today.

Osterman, 54, said he was motivated to run for the soon-to-be open spot because serving is in his blood. He is the vice president of strategic programs for a U.S. Air Force defense contractor, and he has worked in the fields of information technology, management and business consulting for entities like the U.S. Department of Defense as well as pharmaceutical and manufacturing organizations. Through his work, he has operated on local, national and global levels.

“It’s all about service,” Osterman said after detailing his family’s extensive military experiences. “Service to the country, service to the city and community. I gear a lot of my activities toward that kind of service.”

He is passionate about technology and would like to help bring new industry to Jasper.

“There’s a significant — and I mean very significant — interest among local entrepreneurs to pursue new technology product development,” Osterman said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there to develop new technology and products, and I think we could make Jasper attractive to that.”

He said the city also needs to be made attractive to young adults to add diversity to the community’s technical workforce, which would involve keeping local talent here and attracting it from afar.

He believes if he is elected, he would bring the first, strong, technical workset to the council.

“Every department in the city government and in operations of the city, is affected by technology,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about body cameras for the police department or controls and monitors for wastewater treatment or upgrades to the infrastructure and communications system, the city faces more and more technical challenges. So, my background, I can help break down complex problems and requirements into manageable pieces.”

His primary election opponent, Lueken, decided to run because Jasper has been good to him, and he wants to see that continue. He has nine children, and he wants the city to be a viable place for them to live, work and raise a family.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Meinrad College in 1997, Lueken has worked as an insurance agent with Knights of Columbus Insurance in Jasper for two decades.

“There’s gonna be some challenges in the next 10 to 20 years,” he said.

Lueken explained that one of those challenges is related to the lack of young adults in the area. He’s discussed that issue with constituents throughout his campaigning, and said that through those discussions, a common thread has been affordable housing and promoting the development of more of it.

“Businesses are already basically employing everybody that they can,” Lueken said. “They can’t grow without a sufficient workforce. So I think getting people here is the first part.”

Other issues he’s discussed with voters include the need for parks and walking trails on the west side of the city, street conditions, mental health, the potential construction of the Mid-States Corridor project and more.

“I think the real opportunities for growth in the next 10 to 20 years ... you’re gonna see there’s great potential for expansion in a lot of sectors in our area,” Lueken said, pointing to the fields of health care, manufacturing, banking and finance, information technology, communications and education.

He said getting to meet the diverse citizens of Jasper has been a rewarding experience. If he wins the seat, he said he will try to represent them the best he can.

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