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April 2, 2024 | What's next for the office of mayor?

April 2, 2024 | What's next for the office of mayor?

Hey Locals,

This week, we're remembering the late-Mayor Tom Henry, 72, who died Thursday from complications related to his recent stomach cancer diagnosis. And we're answering the question: What happens next with the office for mayor?

We also talk about eclipse plans (and potential traffic) on April 8 and another open carry district for alcohol underway (outside of Downtown).

This month: we're partnering with Bravas to honor the one-year celebration of their latest location April 18! 🎉 Anytime in April, all paid subscribers get a FREE order of patatas with any sandwich purchase when you dine-in. We share menu recs in our Local Spotlight.

You can gain access to our monthly freebies (and our premium newsletter) with a paid membership. And guess what? You can get those patatas with this 30-day free trial.

Now, let's get started.

NOTE: Links to Journal Gazette articles are marked(*) and may be behind a paywall.

What's happening with the office of mayor?

We break down what's next for local leadership.

Flags at Citizens Square at half staff to honor Mayor Tom Henry.

What's happening?

Last Thursday, Fort Wayne lost its longest (consecutive) serving Mayor Tom Henry, 72, elected to his fifth term in November. Henry died from complications related to his recent stomach cancer diagnosis. He became Mayor in 2008 and is generally credited with Downtown's revival, including projects like Parkview Field, The Landing and riverfront development.* So what's next for the office of mayor, and will progress continue?

Here's what we know:

  • So far: former Deputy Mayor (since 2013) Karl Bandemer has been sworn in as acting mayor and will serve until a new mayor is appointed. Bandemer formerly served as VP of what is now Greater Fort Wayne Inc. 2010-2013 and as the city’s economic development director 1981-1986, as well as corporate roles. Garry Morr, the city's former controller (since 2018), was sworn in as deputy mayor.
  • Next up: a new mayor will be selected via an impending caucus by the Allen County Democratic Party (Henry's party) within a 30-day deadline (expiring April 27). "If the party doesn’t meet the deadline, Bandemer, 79, will remain in the mayoral position until the end of Henry’s term in 2027," The JG reports. Even so, Bandemer tells The JG he's not planning to be one of the caucus candidates.
  • So what's a caucus? Basically, about 100 Democratic precinct committee men and women will vote to choose the city’s next mayor from a pool of interested candidates.
  • Who is running? The race is heating up quickly. As of Monday night, four candidates are in the ring: Jorge Fernandez (who ran against Henry in the 2023 primary), City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers (At-Large), fellow Councilwoman Sharon Tucker (D-6th) and Indiana State Representative Phil GiaQuinta. Another potential candidate could be City Council rep. Geoff Paddock (D-2nd) who told The JG he has been asked, but not yet decided. All candidates must declare at least 72-hours before the (TBA) caucus date. The Democratic party is currently seeking an event space and hopes to announce a date this week. (If a current elected official wins the caucus, it triggers another caucus the following 30 days to fill their position.)
  • For more insights on the caucus, check out a new local newsletter on the topic here.

Why it matters

While it's too soon to make many predictions, we share three factors to watch in our premium newsletter, available with a 30-day free trial.

  • Fort Wayne is slightly outside the path of totality for the upcoming solar eclipse on April 8, so it's not expecting major crowds. We spoke with leaders at Visit Fort Wayne and the Bradley Hotel who say they're not seeing any indicators that next week will be busier than usual. "Since we are slightly outside of the path of totality, we are not pushing it as hard as a lot of the other Indiana destinations," says Jessa Campbell at Visit Fort Wayne, noting you can find a list of local eclipse activities on the VFW's website. If you are planning to go south into the path of totality, expect to encounter "heavier-than-usual traffic," warns the Allen County Department of Health. Bernie Beier, Director of the Allen County Office of Homeland Security says: “Plan your routine errands for before and after Monday, April 8. Expect travel delays, and plan for extended trips – even local ones.” All areas of Indiana will see at least a partial eclipse, which will start about 1:53 p.m. here and be closest to totality between 3:02 p.m. and 3:04 p.m. The next eclipse in Indiana is not until August 2044.
  • Electric Works might soon be open carry for alcohol, like the recently Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) Downtown. Community Development has officially proposed the campus as Fort Wayne’s second DORA, and City Council unanimously approved its introduction, some saying it might boost business. The DORA now goes to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission for approval. Indiana law allows cities and towns up to seven DORAs. So far, Union Street Market, Dynamo Alley and five businesses have applied to be part of the one proposed for Electric Works: Chapman’s Cider Co. LLC, the Charlie Horse, Kekionga Cider Co., Local Apple Cart and From My Side of the Kitchen. It would be bordered by Broadway to the east, Swinney Avenue to the south, College Street to the west and the railroad to the north. The Downtown DORA is already approved and waiting for public safety and other logistics before it begins (TBA).

Plus: A campaign to change a local street name, street projects, primary voting resources and more. Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

Celebrate Bravas's one-year anniversary!

We catch up with brother-sister duo Bo and Becky Gonzalez on what to order – and their plans for 2024.

Bo and Becky Gonzalez share updates on Bravas and menu recs.

What's happening?

As Bravas prepares to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its latest location on April 18, we sit down with Bo and Becky Gonzalez to catch up on a few of their favorite menu items and events so far, and what’s next.

When you go...

  • Get FREE patatas with any sandwich (if you become a paid subscriber to The Local). Becky recommends the Fried Chicken Sando (plain, or dipped in chili glaze or buffalo sauce). Bo recommends the PB (peanut butter) Burger.
  • Try Bo and Becky's other favorite dishes: pork belly (Butifarra Blanca) and Steak Frites, respectively.
  • The most popular dish on their tapas menu? The eggplant (Berenjena) made with goat cheese and honey.
  • Kids Eat Free tomorrow (Wednesday) night, just in time for Spring Break! So far, these events have been a hit, Becky says.
  • Pro tip: Get a bottle of wine. "We have a lot of great Spanish wines," Becky says. "The Txakolina is a fun one. We call it our party wine. It’s light, high acidity with pear notes."

Get more details in our full interview!

  • 🐅 Visit: the Wild Zoo Spring Preview, letting you in extra early for Spring Break this year, April 1 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $12 admission, kids 12 & under $10, and FREE for Zoo members.
  • ☕️ Caffeinate: at the Hive, a new coffee house Southwest at 7120 Homestead Rd.
  • 🍹 Enjoy: patio weather with the Fort Wayne Foodslut's guide to outdoor dining, including kid-friendly and dog-friendly establishments.

What else? We recommend more things to do in our premium newsletter. Try it out with a 30-day free trial.

Got a story tip or idea?

Let us know at thelocalfortwayne@gmail.com.

Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett