Jeff Jones, KPC News

BUTLER — The Northern Indiana Mayors Roundtable stopped in Butler Friday.

As the event concluded, Butler Mayor Mike Hartman and members of the International Monster Truck Museum took many of those leaders for a spin in one of three monster trucks.

Nearly 90 people from local and county government — plus state Sens. Sue Glick and Dr. Tyler Johnson and state Rep. Ben Smaltz and representatives from the offices of Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sens. Mike Braun and Todd Young — attended the event.

“They told me if you get 50 (people), that’s a good turnout,” Hartman said afterwards. “In a way, I think it puts Butler on the map just a little bit among the other mayors.

“A lot of these meetings we go to are in Nappanee, Elkhart, communities that are bigger than Butler. For us, with 2,700 people, that’s a good little feather in our cap to be able to have the roundtable here.”

Unlike Hartman, who operates two businesses in addition to serving as part-time mayor, most of his counterparts Friday are full-time mayors.

Regardless whether the mayor is full- or part-time, many communities face similar issues.

“It’s good to come here and talk about different ideas. It’s nice to talk amongst your peers,” Hartman said. “It’s nice to be able to throw some ideas out here and get some really good feedback.

“As the mayors-only meeting, we discuss things. Sometimes, INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) is discussed because we may have a road problem.

“We may think we’re the only ones that have that problem but we talk to the others and they say, ‘No, I have that same problem. Here’s what I did to take care of that.’

“The railroad always seems to be a hot topic. How many mayors here have crossings getting blocked for eight hours at a time? Who did you contact to try to get a good rapport going?”

Another meeting included representatives from INDOT, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Representatives from Goodwill shared information about the Pre-Employment Transition Services program that helps connect youth and adults with new skills that is in place with some northeast Indiana schools.

The Pre-ETS program also connects people with developmental issues or disabilities find employment after school. Goodwill is active in Allen, DeKalb, Noble and Steuben counties.

Hartman encouraged mayors in attendance to consider partnering with their local school districts to bring this program to their communities.

Originality can be overrated when it comes to ideas.

“I’ve always said the best idea is a stolen idea,” Hartman said. “You come to these meetings and steal something and take it back to your community and hopefully it will work.”

New Angola Mayor Dave Martin said the forum is a great avenue to share ideas.

“There’s a wealth of knowledge within this group. There’s some very experienced people. There’s some new people that have new ideas and there’s very experienced people that have older ideas,” he said.

“It’s just a great networking opportunity for mayors like me to learn from some of the seasoned people and get ideas from some of the newer mayors.

“We all basically have the same problems,” Martin continued. “Our issues are their issues. We have the same challenges and the same opportunities.

“It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off this particular group.”

While some of her counterparts declined the opportunity to ride one of the monster trucks, new Fort Wayne Mayor Sharon Tucker stepped right up for a spin.

“First time ever!” she said excitedly after her ride. “I’ve never even seen a monster truck up close so being able to be here today was heartwarming for me.”

While she’s easily the newest mayor in the group, taking office April 23 in a special election following the death of longtime Mayor Tom Henry, Tucker said she’s been welcomed into the group.

“I’ve been serving as mayor for about 64 days (as of Friday), but the collaboration, friendship and reach-out that I’ve received from all of our local mayors, no matter the party, has been really, really welcoming. It’s really made me feel at home.

“People have been asking, ‘Will we be seeing the Fort Wayne mayor more often?’ and I said, absolutely. They have the experience that I don’t have. I do have the second-largest city but some of them have had 20 years experience or 10 years experience.

“Being able to reach out, whether it’s the mayor of Logansport or the mayor of Nappanee and just talking about the same things we have in common; We all have streets that need to be repaired, infrastructure that needs to be improved, and staff that we’re trying to figure out how to navigate to get those things done,” Tucker said.

“We share the same concerns,” she said. “It’s a friendship, a partnership to be able to get the answers for those.”

In addition to Hartman, Martin and Tucker, the event brought together mayors from around northeast Indiana: Dave Clark, Auburn; Dan Rickord, Decatur; Todd Fiandt, Garrett; Richard Strick, Huntington; Lance Waters, Kendallville; Earle Franklin, Ligonier; Chris Martin, Logansport; Aaron Sims, Monticello; Phil Jenkins, Nappanee; Don Sturch, Peru and Scott Long, Warsaw.

SOURCE: The Star, DeKalb County

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