Ten vying for city council vacancy

Ten people are vying for the at-large seat on Elkhart City Council that was formerly held by Republican Kyle Hannon.
Posted on Jan. 2, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Two more people threw their names into the hat for the vacant Elkhart City Council seat before Monday’s deadline.

That means 10 people will be vying for the at-large seat formerly held by Republican Kyle Hannon, who resigned last month after being named president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

Jim Gouker and Ed Higy filed paperwork with Elkhart County Republican chairman Dale Stickel before Monday’s deadline.

Other candidates include David Bontrager, Adam Bujalski, Brian Dickerson, Steve Gruber, Pam Kurpgeweit, David Miller, Dave Pixey and Bill Schweinzger.

Higy is 62 and has lived in Elkhart County for 10 years after moving from Ohio.

Higy served on the city council in Rittman, Ohio, for seven years beginning in the late 1970s and said he helped uncover improper spending habits in city hall that left the city in debt.

Higy said he’s familiar with Elkhart city government and would like to see a better sense of cooperation among city leaders.

“I would hope to bring a positive spin to the council and bring all the sides together,” Higy said. “Despite the little differences they have, everybody’s hearts are in the right place ... It’s just a matter of bringing everybody together.”

Higy works for Furniture Land in Goshen and previously worked as a manager of Gund Arena, a large sports facility outside of Cleveland.

Gouker, 53, is an Elkhart native and recently ended a five-year stint on the city board of zoning appeals and the plan commission. He said he enjoyed having a hand in planning and development issues for the city.

He said he wants to bring a common-sense approach to governing.

“I worry about wasteful spending,” Gouker said. “I just want to see Elkhart keep going in the right direction.”

He said he’s bothered that the city did not plan better in preparing to meet federal guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act which seeks to improve accessibility for the disabled. And he also thinks the city should investigate whether to privatize the municipal airport.

Gouker is employed with Elkhart Central Transfer, a moving and storage company owned by his family since 1938.

Republican leaders will gather at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Time Was Museum to select one of the 10 for the seat, a position that won’t be up for election for three more years.

Stickel said the number of candidates for the seat underscores an increased level of interest in local politics.

“I’ve never seen anything like this outside of a commissioners (race) back probably in the 1990s,” Stickel said. “The whole political landscape has changed in the last few years.”

And it’s not just a Republican trend, he said.

“If you had a Democrat vacancy, you’d have a similar (level of) interest,” Stickel added.

The selection will be made by 24 precinct committee members who live within the city of Elkhart. Three of the candidates, Bujalski, Dickerson and Pixey, are among those who will vote.

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