Schmitt, Lorey face off in District 5 council race



JASPER — Jasper’s District 5 Common Council race is a competition between two men who sit just feet away from each other during board meetings for another city entity.

Democrat incumbent Earl Schmitt and Republican challenger Paul Lorey have served together on the Jasper Plan Commission for years, and both men spoke highly of each other in interviews for this story.

Lorey aims to bring a young perspective to the council, and Schmitt hopes to maintain his influence on the group.

Schmitt, 71, is a Vietnam War veteran and is a member of several local veterans groups. He is also a retired truck driver who worked for Kimball International for 47 years. He was first elected to the council in 2012.

He said he brings the working-man’s perspective to the group. In a press release, he noted that “Jasper has been progressive” during his time as councilman, adding that he is seeking reelection to see current projects completed.

Schmitt was instrumental in bringing a dog park to Jasper, and expressed pride in the city’s repurposing of the JOFCO and Jasper Lumber buildings, as well as the creation of the Parklands of Jasper.

He prides himself in being a voice for the people of his district.

“I’d just pretty well try to keep doing what I have been doing,” Schmitt said of his plans if he were reelected. “Trying to take care of my district and the rest of the city of Jasper.”

He has long kept residents in his district in check over the state and appearance of their property, and he said he would continue to do that, if elected. Schmitt acknowledged that the Impact Jasper comprehensive plan will be a roadmap for the city into the future, but he also said there aren’t big projects on his radar since the city has funds tied into a lot of ongoing work.

“We’ve gotta take care of what we got,” Schmitt said. “That’s more important to me than getting new stuff.”

Someday, he’d like to see the city provide public transportation for senior citizens. Public safety is his top priority, and workforce attraction is also important to him.

Schmitt and his wife, Deborah, have five adult children and 12 grandchildren.

Lorey, 42, is a salesman at Hopf Equipment of Jasper and is also the president of the Jasper Plan Commission. He has been involved in city politics since 2012.

Working on the city’s Downtown Riverfront Master plan piqued his local political interest.

“That’s what kind of wet my appetite,” he said of those early experiences in city government.

His career snowballed from there. He has served as the plan commission’s president for the past six years, during which he has played a hand in driving subdivision development and defining the latest comprehensive plan.

Now, he wants to bring a young voice to the council. Issues important to him are addressing blighted buildings in town, bringing affordable housing to the city, “creating an excellent quality of life” and retaining small businesses in Jasper.

“I bring a different perspective,” Lorey said. “Maybe a little younger perspective, with more of a business background.”

Lorey’s parents owned the now-closed Benjamin Franklin store in town, and he said that afforded him an inside view of small business life that not everyone has seen. If elected, he pledged to be open, even-keeled and to listen to both sides of an issue.

A common council representative does serve on the plan commission — Schmitt is currently that representative — and if he were elected, Lorey said he would “absolutely” be open to maintaining his spot in the group.

Paul and his wife, Tracy, have three children: Fletcher, 11; Colton, 8; and Porter, 5.

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