8 min read

April 23, 2024 | Mayor Sharon Tucker's election + what's next

April 23, 2024 | Mayor Sharon Tucker's election + what's next

Hey Locals,

Fort Wayne's new mayor is former City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker (D-6) — the city's first Black and (longserving) female mayor. We have details on her election, plans and what's next this week.

We also talk about a new local bicycle shop with a powerful mission on the city's North side, and we share a few fun things to do this week, like attending The Garden's "April in The Garden" two-day concert series.

This month: we're partnering with Bravas to honor the one-year celebration of their brick-and-mortar April 18! 🎉 Anytime in April, all paid subscribers get a FREE order of patatas with any sandwich purchase when you dine-in.

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Community Event: When starting The Local, one of our goals was to harness our community to help Fort Wayne neighbors in need. So we're organizing a day of service through Neighborlink. On May 18th, we'd like to get our subscribers together and help a few neighbors with spring yard work for an afternoon. It'll be a chance to support our community and meet fellow subscribers. If that sounds like something you are interested in, sign up here! We'll follow up with specific details in a separate in email closer to the date.

Now, let's get started!

Sharon Tucker will be the city's first Black and (longserving) female mayor.

We have details on her election and what's next for local government.

Mayor-elect Sharon Tucker addresses crowds at Saturday's Democratic precinct caucus. (Photo courtesy of FortWaynePolitics.com)

What's happening?

On Saturday, former City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker (D-6) was elected mayor of Fort Wayne in a special Democratic precinct caucus, following Mayor Tom Henry's recent death. She is the city's 36th mayor and will serve out the remainder of Henry's term until 2027, likely competing in that year's mayoral election.

  • How did it happen? After two rounds of voting Saturday morning, Tucker quickly beat out six challengers, winning the majority of votes from 92 Democratic precinct chairs who participated. Other frontrunners were state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta and the city's Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Stephanie Crandall. Final vote counts were not shared publicly to show solidarity for Mayor Tucker, says Democratic Party Chairman Derek Camp.
  • So what happens next, logistically? Tucker will be sworn in at the Clyde Theatre today at 11:30 a.m., and the public is welcome to attend. The City's Facebook page will also livestream the ceremony. Since she's currently on City Council, representing the 6th District (Southeast), she will have to vacate her seat, and the Democratic Party precinct chairs will participate in another caucus to elect her replacement. City staff is unlikely to change much. Tucker told The JG* she plans to retain Karl Bandemer as deputy mayor and communicate with the rest of the city's staff to "alleviate concerns about what is next." However, diversity in race and gender may increase on some of Fort Wayne's more powerful boards and commissions. (More on this in our premium newsletter.)
  • What's Tucker known for? She's been the 6th District (Southeast) City Council rep. since 2019 and was previously the only Democrat on Allen County Council (elected in 2014 and 2018). She's highly personable (shared her phone number with constituents on the city's website) and comfortably works across party lines. She also manages to be judicious about city spending (Co-Chair of the City Council Finance Committee) without sacrificing progress or investment in neighborhoods. In recent years, she's been a strong advocate for investment on the Southeast side where she's fostered homegrown growth via entrepreneurship in her Project Activate SouthEast P.A.S.E. small business training and pitch competition. She's also keenly aware of the city's challenges with homelessness, affordable housing and mental health as Executive Director of Vincent Village.

Read more reflections on Tucker's historic win here.

Why it matters

Fort Wayne — and the Southeast side — are on undergoing a lot of change, from Electric Works and Riverfront to the Southeast Strategy, so along with making history, Tucker's term as mayor comes at an important time in local history.

Get details on the implications and what you might see during Tucker's term in our premium newsletter.

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

  • City Council granted a historic district to the Hake Block at 1010 Wells St., at the request of area neighbors and business owners. This will preserve the block's roughly 140-year-old history as riverfront development creeps across the banks of the St. Marys into the Wells Street Corridor and Bloomingdale neighborhood – which are still not protected by historic districts themselves. What makes the Hake Block special? Its owner James "Jim" Markey of Markey Wells St. LLC, tells The JG*: "it has many interesting angles and was built the same year as the Wells Street Bridge and made with the same limestone and materials used for the foundations." Markey is one of many property owners in the Wells Street area determined to stand his ground as the nearby Pepsi property redevelops, pending the city choosing a developer. The city also recently acquired and plans to demolish the former Richard's Bakery building nearby. Councilman Russ Jehl (R-2) tells The JG* mistakes have been made in the past by destroying buildings with character along Broadway, and the city should integrate more historic preservation into new development. “Downtown and the surrounding corridors are cool because they have soul. And if the buildings are destroyed in these areas, we destroy what makes them special. We destroy the very soul, the very character that makes them desirable to develop around.”
  • Powers Hamburgers reopens today under Salvatori's leadership with a return to late-night hours. Salvatori's group spent about 10 weeks training with the longtime previous owners and says they're dedicated to listening to the community and continuing Power's legacy as Downtown's iconic burger joint, starting with restoring its late-night hours and its traditional buns. Other changes include new outdoor seating, online ordering, delivery and new equipment, WANE 15 reports. New hours will be Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and ownership hints that if all goes well, they may open more Powers locations across the city, too.

Plus: The hottest place to live in Fort Wayne. Construction coming to the south side. A zoo update and more. Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

Meet Old Fort Bicycles!

We learn about a new bike shop on the North side and how local bicycle infrastructure can be improved for all.

Dylan Curtis is General Manager of Old Fort Bicycles at 1820 Dupont Rd.

What's happening?

Old Fort Bicycles is new local bicycle shop, filling a gap in local shops on the city's North side at 1820 Dupont Rd. We met with General Manager Dylan Curtis who tells us about some of his team's offerings, their mission and their Grand Opening this weekend, April 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

When you go...

Be sure to check out:

  • eBikes: Since their soft opening in November, Curtis says some of his team's top-sellers have been eBikes, which are growing in popularity nationally, not only for aging riders, but also for commuters and people looking to exercise in a timely manner.
  • Service options: Even if you don't buy a bicycle at Old Fort, you can still get your bike serviced or tuned up there – which might be of interest if you're riding in the Fort4Fitness Spring Cycle on June 1.
  • Community: Curtis says his shop's main focus is building community among cyclists in town and filling a gap left when Summit City Bicycles sold its store on Lima Road. He hopes Old Fort can collaborate with other local bike shops, like INRUSH and Fort Wayne Outfitters, and they're already working with a few neighbors on Dupont, like Handel's and Solbird, who will be serving up goodies at the Grand Opening.

Perhaps most interestingly...

Curtis tells us a few things that could improve bicycle infrastructure around town: like protected bike lanes on roads and streets, connecting neighborhoods to local trails and small businesses.

When we've asked city officials about protected bicycle lanes in the past, they've told us: only serious cyclists want to ride on the street in Fort Wayne.

But that's not necessarily true, Curtis says:

"It’s a bit misconstrued and even off point from the fact that: Your serious cyclist is not going to train in town. It’s your recreational cyclists — your commuters, your families and your locally owned businesses — who stand to benefit the most from safer bicycling infrastructure on streets, like protected bike lanes. And safer street infrastructure is not only beneficial from a small business perspective (getting people out to walk and bike more), but also from a health perspective because if your streets are accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, you don’t have to drive everywhere."

Learn more in our full interview.

  • Eat: Korean corndogs and wings at Banh Mi Pho Shop's food truck, hitting the pavement for the first time this season outside their shop at 1925 Fairfield Ave. on April 25, 4-8 p.m.
  • Picnic: at Churubusco's new winery, Daylily Estates, which offers two varieties of Pet-Nat (short for Pétillant Naturel or "naturally bubbling") wine. There's no tasting room, but pickup is available Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 2316 E 500 S-57. "Bring a picnic and stay as long as you like," the winery posted on Instagram.
  • Listen: to The Garden's April in The Garden concert series, featuring The Rachael Davis Trio w/Addison Agen April 24 at 7 p.m. and Northern Resonance w/Tall Poppy String Band April 25 at 7 p.m. ($20/show or $35 for both)

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett