BROOKVILLE – Six male candidates for commissioner and council seats who are opposed in the May 2 primary voiced their views at a Meet the Candidates night April 5.

The victor in a three-way Democratic race will face incumbent District 2 Commissioner Louis Linkel in the fall.

In their opening statements, Michael Gillman promised to “look after all the needs of residents.” Speaking of Franklin County, Roy Kuntz said, “I care about it and what happens to it in the future.” Don Vonder Meulen said if elected, “I will work hard to meet the challenges that face our community and make sure that Franklin County remains a great place to live.”

Questioner John Estridge asked, “What projects would you want to see accomplished with the riverboat money?” Gillman had a list – hire an economic development director, expand the county’s tax base and “maybe get two industrial parks.” Kuntz said first commissioners “have to take care of what we’ve got going. See what needs to be done and then go from there.” Vonder Meulen noted that money can grow if used to apply for matching grants or “even better, invest it to bring income to the county for years in the future.” He agreed with Gillman that “economic development is the direction we need to head.”

“What would you do to bring more jobs?” Estridge quizzed them. Kuntz said “good schools, good roads and good location” are all important. Vonder Meulen answered, “When I look at Franklin County, I see a place where people want to live. There is a shortage of jobs. This county has a lot of assets. With good planning, those assets can be used to bring jobs and wealth to the county.” He said growth all starts with a good plan, which may take “10 or 15 years” to materialize. Gillman reiterated an economic development director is needed “to bring in major companies.”

Estridge questioned, “What is your top priority if elected?” Vonder Meulen would “meet with every department head and office holder and learn the operations of the county” to improve efficiency and save dollars. Gillman wanted improved roads. Kuntz said, “The door should be open to the public any time to come in and discuss problems.”

District 3 council member Jeff Koch, a first-term Republican farmer, is being challenged by David Lowery, a former U.S. Marine with budgeting experience.

“The last two county budgets have been plagued with problems. What would you do differently?” asked the questioner. According to Koch, “One thing that we did learn on council this year is how you develop a correct budget. You use the total revenue you were certified for the previous year,” not estimates of future revenues. Lowery said in industry, he was “always able to find cost reductions for tasks” and wanted to do the same for the council.

Estridge questioned, “As the county grows, should county government also grow?” Lowery responded, “Government is too big now. I don’t think we have to increase government, but find ... more economical ways of doing the same things.” Koch believed county government will have to grow, but by technology, not personnel. Better computer systems could boost efficiency, he noted. “We’re going to have to do more with less and be smarter about it.”

“What is your top priority if elected?” was their final question. “Work with every department to help them develop a good clean budget and find alternate solutions ... Bring business knowledge to council,” answered Lowery. Koch proposed, “We have to think about different ways of getting revenue,” perhaps by applying for grants or going after more riverboat revenue-sharing funds.

In closing, Koch said being on the council requires “a steep learning curve. All the rules and laws are always changing on how county government is funded. You need somebody who is going to stay up on all the new regulations.” According to Lowery, “My vision is to bring to the county the same elements used in business to enhance profitability and efficiency. Let me help you save money.”

Former council President John Cookendorfer, a 35-year Hillenbrand Industries pilot before retirement, is opposing Republican incumbent Hollie Sintz, who was absent, for the District 2 seat.

He said he wanted to solve the county’s current financial crisis. If elected, "I will get in there and dig." Cookendorfer maintained the budget has gotten “out of control,” growing from $4 million when he left office four years ago to $6 million instead of the 5 percent growth he preached. “We’ve got to get back to fiscal restraint.”

Cookendorfer said he used to visit courthouse offices each week to understand the jobs. “People who work in the system know best where costs can be cut.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 113; or To comment on stories, visit

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