11 min read

April 9, 2024 | Mayor's race heats up + how to make your voice heard

April 9, 2024 | Mayor's race heats up + how to make your voice heard

Hey Locals,

Hope you caught the solar eclipse yesterday. We drove about 20 minutes south and had a truly magical experience with friends and family. (Who knew the sky could get that dark so quickly?) It's been a busy week for local news, too. Seven candidates have filed so far in the historic race for Fort Wayne's next mayor. We fill you in on what to know – and how to make your voice heard.

Speaking of races: early voting for the primary election begins today. We share tips and other talking points, like why Parkview Health is cutting care for out-of-network patients.

In our Local Spotlight, we reveal what's next for Electric Works this year and some of the top amenities the public wants to see there.

Don't forget: 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 when you dine-in.

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!

A historic race for mayor is heating up.

We break down a quick look at the candidates (so far) and how to make your voice heard.

So far, seven Democrats have filed in the race.

What's happening?

  • After the premature loss of Mayor Tom Henry, 72, in late-March, Fort Wayne's Democratic party is facing a historic caucus, where about 100 precinct party members will elect a new mayor. The vote must be carried out within a 30-day deadline, and candidates can file up to 72-hours before the caucus, scheduled for April 20.
  • We had a quick conversation with Downtown City Councilman Geoff Paddock (D-5), who tell us: “We’ve never had anything quite like this where we have lost a mayor so early into his term." This sentiment is echoed by Chair of the Allen County Democratic Party (and Presiding Chair of the caucus) Derek Camp, who tells WANE 15 he's never been part of a caucus for a position quite like this. "There’s a lot of emotions around this one because it is so unique, and we’re still all grieving the loss of Mayor Henry." Former Mayor Paul Helmke tells us: "The last and only other time there was a caucus to deal with a vacancy in the mayor’s office was when Win Moses resigned in the mid-1980s as part of a plea deal and was then returned to office a couple weeks later as a result of a caucus vote by Democratic precinct officials." In the meantime, Fort Wayne briefly had its first female mayor, when City Controller Cosette Simon became the “Acting Mayor,” as Karl Bandemer is now.
  • So what's next? Candidates can continue to file up until 10:30 a.m. April 17. Then the Democratic precinct will host a town hall with the candidates at 6 p.m. April 18 at Franklin School Park at 1903 St. Mary’s Ave., followed by a caucus vote to determine the new mayor at 10:30 a.m. April 20 at Lincoln Financial Event Center at Parkview Field. (The new mayor will likely compete in the next mayoral election in 2027, which would have been the end of Henry's term.)
  • Now here's an interesting question: How do you contact your Democratic precinct representative (voting for the new mayor on your behalf)? We're looking into it. But based on what we've heard from insiders, the list is either not publicly available, or it's quite hard to find. "Most precinct chairs don't even have the list," one reader told us. So how are citizens supposed to make their voices heard? We've reached out to the Allen County Democratic Party for more information and will report back when we know more! 🙌

In the meantime...

Here's a quick look at seven candidates who have announced so far.

  • Jorge Fernandez: Mayor Henry's unsuccessful opponent in last year's Democratic primary. Fernandez told WANE 15 he wants to focus on the environment, supporting working families, improving transparency and reforming the Fort Wayne Police Department.
  • Michelle Chambers: Represents City Council (At-Large) and owns the business Signing Closers LLC. Her public service career spans 20 years, and Chambers says the last time she met with Mayor Henry, he called her the city's "next mayor," commenting on her “numbers” (when she netted 21,952 votes last fall in her re-election bid, topping all other at-large candidates). Her vision for the city is building on Henry's legacy, which she describes as innovation with inclusive growth and "putting people before politics." She notes the mayor entrusted her to lead the city's Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice. Most recently, she's been advocating for affordable housing across Fort Wayne (not just in targeted areas).
  • Sharon Tucker: Represents City Council (D-6) and serves as Executive Director of Vincent Village, Inc., the only transitional shelter in Allen County serving two-parent families and single-male headed families. She formerly served as Treasurer for the Allen County Democratic Party for five years and as Vice Chair in 2016. She was elected Councilwoman (D-1) on the Allen County Council in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018 before becoming the first Black woman in the City Council (D-6) seat in 2019. In 2012, she formed the "Women in Politics Forum," and in 2021, she launched Project Activate SouthEast Fort Wayne (P.A.S.E.) an entrepreneurial training and pitch competition. Her priorities for the city are economic development, public safety and community engagement.
  • Phil GiaQuinta: Represents Indiana House District 80 (which includes portions of south-central Fort Wayne) as the Indiana House Democratic Leader. He was first elected to the Indiana House in 2006 and has since worked to streamline the home-buying process for Hoosiers. His bio notes that he authored successful legislation to create funding for the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board. "The bill allowed for the board to use a portion of the revenue from county food and beverage taxes to fund new structures and renovate old ones, like the Electric Works project," it says. "This funding has helped to create many good paying jobs for the community."
  • Palermo Galindo: Former community liaison for the City of Fort Wayne, responsible for connecting neighborhoods with city officials from June 2009-July 2021. Galindo says his experience working for Mayor Henry's administration made him want to run. Most recently, he's worked at Indiana Tech as the Spanish MBA Program director for nearly two years and is now a self-employed proprietor. He's also previously made two unsuccessful bids for office: the 3rd District City Council seat (2019) and an Allen County Council at-large seat (2016 general election), after succeeding in the primary.
  • Austin Knox: Wayne Township Trustee. He is the youngest candidate on the ballot, and he's endorsed by Henry's brother (Tony), who calls Knox a "young, shining star." Why? One reason is: Knox has saved the township approximately $10,000 thus far by installing solar panels on the office roof to reduce energy bills. He's been working at the trustee office for about nine years, and his bio says he is known for his fairness, sportsman-like values and deep understanding township work. "I'm the one who has the executive government experience, running one of the state's largest townships, the largest township in Allen County," Knox said in his announcement. "We service almost 110,000 people here in the township and cover a third of the city's population.... I'm ready."
  • Stephanie Crandall: City of Fort Wayne's Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. She's worked in the mayor’s office for nearly 11 years, and in her (unsuccessful) bid for City Council last fall, she was the top fundraiser among non-mayoral candidates city-wide. During her race for Council last fall, she identified three priorities for the city as: safe neighborhoods everywhere (investments in sidewalks, trails, alleys, streets, and roads), housing across the city and an economy that works for all.

For more updates on the upcoming caucus, sign up for a new (free) local newsletter on the topic here.

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

  • Early Voting for the 2024 Primary Election begins today in Allen County at the Rousseau Centre. New this election year: the Allen County Election Board is rolling out voting machines that are more accessible for people with disabilities at all polling locations, using contrast text, double-talk readers, voting mechanisms that can sit on a lap and other features. On the ballot: Allen County Council has three at-large seats up for election. Republican Councilmen Bob Armstrong, Ken Fries and Kyle Kerley are running for reelection. No Democrats currently sit on County Council, but five are running, and three with the most votes will be on the November ballot out of: Nena Bailey, Nate Cardelli, Jorge Fernandez, Stephanie Henry and Kevin Hunter. Other Republicans campaigning for their party’s nominations include Lindsey Hammond. Learn more about this race and others in FREE 2024 Primary Election coverage by The JG.
  • Parkview Health is phasing out care for out-of-network patients. Changes begin May 1 and take full effect Jan. 2025. Parkview is billing the move as a way to protect patients from surprise out-of-network charges. "We realize that patients may not always understand which providers and benefits are contracted with their plan, which often creates confusion when they receive a bill for out-of-network care,” says David Jeans, a senior VP. However, patients interviewed by The JG* say it will instead "create a hardship for many people by breaking apart patient, physician relationships.” The change is expected to affect about 1% of Parkview's annual patients, and it will not affect uninsured patients or those seeking emergency care. "Notifications are being sent to those who may have health plans that do not include Parkview as an in-network provider," The JG* reports.

Plus: A building at stake on the Wells Street Corridor. Mayor Tom Henry's viewing details. New food at 2Toms Brewing and more. Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

What's happening at Electric Works in 2024?

We catch up with Senior Experience Director Katy Silliman to find out.

Students from Amp Lab visit Building 19, known as The Forum at Electric Works.

What's happening?

It’s a new year, and Electric Works is entering its second (full) year of being open to the public. A few weeks ago, it posted on Instagram that campus saw 754,000 visitors in 2023. So what does 2024 have in store? Senior Experience Director at Electric Works, Katy Silliman, gives us a few insights.

Here are five quick things to know:

  1. Campus activation: In mid-January, Electric Works property management changed hands from Carr Workplaces (still managing coworking) to Colliers (which manages the Stutz in Indy). As Silliman’s team seeks to bring more retail to campus along Dynamo Alley and throughout campus, they’re looking to host pop-ups to activate empty storefronts in the meantime. “The Stutz is a model for us with its historic renovation and creative activation while they were leasing their space up,” Silliman says. “We’re eager to learn from them.”
  2. Expanding on Chapman’s success: As the anchor dining tenant, Chapman’s is bringing more regulars to campus. (We recently went for dessert and loved their Enlighten beer and Cast Iron Skillet Cookie with caramel drizzle.) They’re supporting local artists and entrepreneurs, too, like hosting a shelf of books from Piebald Shark Books and selling lots of local art off the walls. Owner Scott Fergusson tells us his allwalls.art project sold more than $4,000 worth of local art before Chapman’s even opened to the public (all from soft openings). Check out more live events, like music, in the space, as well.
  3. Growing coworking: Carr Workplaces still runs a basement coworking center at Electric Works in the Forum, and Silliman says this space is crucial to the campus vision of supporting businesses of all sizes, from startups to corporations, like Do It Best. Membership plans for unreserved seats in the Carr cafe start at $45/day. You can also rent private offices by the day or hour and meeting rooms. So far, Carr’s coworking is 55 percent occupied in private office space, and 48 additional companies utilize other coworking membership options, Silliman says. Expanding awareness of coworking on campus and its benefits are goals for 2024. “There are some pretty cool perks, like a fully staffed cafe, admin support and a print center," Silliman says.
  4. Leasing offices on campus: This year, SDI is moving its New Millennium (R&D arm) into the Forum at Electric Works. Several other exciting announcements are on leasing are forthcoming, too, but it’s too early to share details, Silliman says. In the meantime: campus offers 10 large “work-ready suites” on the fourth floor of the Forum, ideal for companies with 10-20 employees – maybe those who “graduate from coworking” or are seeking more modern, flux office space for their teams post-pandemic. This year, Silliman’s team will be working with local design firms to stage these spaces for leasing, and some of them are already claimed (TBA).
  5. Adding apartments: If you see construction around the Union Street parking garage, that’s part of a mixed-use development underway called the Elex, which will contain the first apartments on campus. The Elex includes ground-floor commercial space, encompassing the garage. Last June, we reported that it will have nearly 300 apartment units (one, two and three-bedrooms), which will “wrap” around the West and North sides of the garage up five stories (available at a range of market-rate price points). The former plan also called for age-restricted affordable apartments in an adjacent building along Broadway. But Silliman says plans are shifting (somewhat) and an official announcement will be out later this year, which could expand affordable living on campus. Stay tuned for details.

What else? Get five more Electric Works updates in our (FREE) full rundown here.

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett