December 30, 2013

County council members looking to keep seats

County Councilmen Bishop, Grover plan to run in 2014.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — At least two Cass County Council members whose terms end next year are planning to run again.

Cass County Councilman Grover Bishop, who represents the county's 2nd District, will finish his first term on the council at the end of 2014.

"I'll try to go one more trip around the park," Bishop said. "The first four years in my opinion have been pretty good training ground. Now I know a lot more than I did at the time."

Bishop went on to call winning his first term's election with little experience "an investment" from voters.

"I think the next four years I'll be able to pay them back," he added.

The economy had been lagging for a few years when Bishop started on the council in 2011, an environment that would continue throughout his term and force budgets to become tighter.

"Things are starting to turn around now," Bishop said. "I guess what I'm proudest of is we were able to get through this lean period with minimal cost to the county taxpayers."

But getting through the lean period did not come without regrets, he added, like the 17 county positions that were cut in the 2012 budget that have yet to return.

The council also voted to discontinue payments to the Cass County Historical Society during Bishop's term.

"I along with a few others still believe that's a pretty good place to put a few dollars because it's important to the overall welfare of the people of Cass County," he said. "It's a real service."

Bishop also saw the elimination of a park board for France Park, the only county-operated park, which is now run by a sole superintendent.

"So far I think that has paid off pretty well, but I still regret we had people out there who were doing what they could but we had to change the program," he said.

Bishop said the council will need to continue to pay attention to the economy to ensure it will be able to adapt with its changes.

Future economic development projects should help in this regard, Bishop added. He said while it is too early to comment on any of them publicly, he is looking forward to the benefits they will bring.

"I'm very encouraged and very optimistic that within the next year or two we'll see some real changes in the Cass County area as a whole," he said.

Cass County Councilman Phil Rains was appointed by precinct officials to take over District 1 in August. Brent Kelley, the district's former representative, resigned after moving out of the district and becoming executive director of the Cass County Family YMCA.

Rains took over with about a year and a half left in Kelley's term. He said he hopes to keep the position and will be on the ballot for the next term starting in 2015.

Rains joined the council right as it was beginning to prepare the 2014 budget.

"We've made very good moves with the revenue we do have and hopefully we can have more revenue without impacting taxes," Rains said.

He also started shortly before the county appointed its own economic development director and left a joint economic development initiative with Logansport. CLEDO, formerly the Cass-Logansport Economic Development Organization, officially became the City of Logansport Economic Development Organization last month.

Like others involved in the change, Rains said he hopes both sides can maintain a positive relationship as they seek economic development opportunities.

"Hopefully we can grow the city and the county at the same time and give the taxpayers the best bang for their buck," Rains said.

Filing for council positions starts Jan. 8. A primary will be in May, followed by an election in November.

Jim David and Brian Reed are also serving terms on the council that will end in 2014, however could not be reached for comment.

Council members Stacey Donato, Jeff LeDonne and George Stebbins are currently serving terms that end in 2016.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK