Debate cut short after candidate falls

Elkhart mayoral candidates Dave Miller, left, a Republican, and Rod Roberson, a Democrat, talked about the issues during a debate Monday at the Matterhorn hosted by the Elkhart Rotary Club. The election is Nov. 5.

ELKHART — Republican candidate for mayor Dave Miller vowed to press ahead with his campaign despite a fainting spell Monday that cut short a debate with his opponent. 

It was the second occurrence of this type for Miller, who fainted during a previous debate at the Matterhorn restaurant on Sept. 10. 

At the time, he expressed no concerns about the incident. Both times, the former Elkhart mayor quickly recovered from the fall. 

Following the debate Monday, Miller’s campaign issued a statement with comment from the candidate:

“Over the course of the past three weeks, I have had three incidents of an irregular heartbeat that led to dizziness or fainting spells,” Miller said. “I sought medical assistance and was immediately released with clear EKG results. These things can happen and unfortunately this was at an inopportune time. While I was assured there is no evidence of life-threatening conditions, there is no doubt I am taking my health seriously to eat well, drink fluids, sleep and understand how to resolve this from happening again.”

In 2011, Miller was diagnosed with occasional atrial fibrillation, the statement said, and has thereafter completed treatment that resolved irregular heart rhythms.

Following the fainting spell on Monday, Miller visited his cardiologist’s office, which did not admit him and stated doctors would continue to monitor the situation, the statement said.

A second debate hosted by the Elkhart Public Library had been planned at Iechyd Da Brewing Company for Monday night but was postponed.

Miller and his campaign team said they are confident the candidate is up for the challenge and ready to be the next mayor.

Although it was forced to end early, the lunchtime debate, sponsored by the Elkhart Rotary Club, brought hundreds to the Matterhorn to listen to Miller and Democratic candidate Rod Roberson speak on a variety of topics, including several topics addressed in past debates between the two.

Retired judge James Rieckhoff served as moderator.

The Elkhart Police Department scandals were one of the issues addressed. Roberson spoke on accountability and transparency. Miller again commented on his prior police department accreditations, which were allowed to lapse during former mayor Dick Moore’s time in office. He recounted traveling with the officers to help on several calls.

The candidates also addressed the topics of transportation and economic development.

One question asked the candidates about their dreams for the city following their term in office under their leadership.

“There will be greater homeownership – we will have more homes, and more home rentals, more people living here,” Miller said. “There will be bigger and more diverse businesses here because we will find ways to attract them. Workforce development will have been improved. Economic development and the livelihoods of people living here will be increased. There will be better education opportunities for all people in all stages of life. I’m looking forward to bringing all of those about. Your quality of life, if I have anything to say about it, will be better in the city of Elkhart.”

Roberson said he hoped the community could improve the school systems, reopen Tolson Center to serve the residents of the south side, find prosperity in the new aquatic center and bring millenials to the downtown area. He also hoped crime rates would decrease. He also talked about diversifying the job market and creating a robust local economy.

“We really want Elkhart to be in a place where we can not just measure those things but look at them as a part of how you feel about it,” Roberson said. 

Code enforcement was also brought up.

“One of the things that our city government needs is a minimum housing standard,” Miller said. He expressed the hope for changes in code enforcement, stating that officers should have intimate relationships with their territory and its residents. “Some people can afford to do things on their own and some can’t. You’ve got to work in a humane and cooperative way as a city administrator to affect the changes that we want to see.”

Another question focused around executive leadership experience.

Roberson recounted his history in the nonprofit sector, as executive director of Back-To-School Elkhart and executive director of Church Community Services.

He recalled bringing in over $500,000 each year for Back-To-School Elkhart, to the benefit of area youth. As executive director for Church Community Services, Roberson boasted the completion of a $1.6 million capital campaign that created the nonprofit’s food bank.

“Church Community Services, by all measures, was the place that turned a corner for me relative to service to this community,” he said. “It allowed me to be able to see not just my experience that was important, but the ability to serve people at a higher level was more important than anything else, and it galvanizes how I feel about this run for mayor.”

As the former CEO of an RV Transport company, Miller commented not just on his experience working in the for-profit sector, but also his former mayoral experiences.

“You are hiring a CEO of the city. A city is a complicated and diverse organization that I’ve had the privilege of serving for eight years.”

He commented on his administration’s work in the creation of the Wellfield Botanic Gardens, partnering with the Rotary Club to do so. “There’s dozens of things that I’ve been involved in like that – including the saving of the Lerner Theatre.”

Following that question came another directly referencing the Lerner Theatre. The question remarked that the annual deficit for the Lerner Theatre in 2020 is expected to be $863,000 compared to $292,000 for this year, while the Friends of the Lerner is seeking $500,000 for emergency repairs.

“I’d like to see the building stay because it’s a community asset, just like our parks are, just like Pierre Moran Pool is, just like the McNaughton Spray Park we built and all the other amenities that the city government invested in,” Miller said. “Quality of life has costs involved.”

Roberson offered a similar sentiment.

“I believe that when we began to fund the Lerner we knew that it was going to be a struggle for the cash flow, but I think by now it has become one of those pinnacle facilities we have downtown. We will continue to support it,” Roberson said.

He added that the Crystal Ballroom adds opportunities for the Lerner to create revenue, and that Premier Arts working out of the building supports children.

Editor's note: This story was updated to accurately reflect the amount of money Roberson raised for charity in Elkhart as an executive in the not-for-profit sector.

(16) comments


I don't live in the city Joe but I do pay city tax on industrial properties I own there I can't vote. I do not think either guy is qualified to run the city and could not vote for either one.


The problem with the Lerner is the girls running the place after the mayor pushed out Smith that had been running it since before it was renovated. The young ladies are not qualified or experienced enough to be in charge of such an important asset. I have had several unfortunate experiences with the new management in the last year and I have friends that tried to rent the space for two concerts last year and came away from their contractual negotiations with a bad taste in their mouth.


Ok Joe1 I'll go really slooooww for you! I never said Miller was diabetic! I offered that spells such as he had is no different than a diabetic with low counts. I felt you could relate. I was wrong! I guess you also did not understand the other people that we know that have the same malady function very well and under huge amounts of pressure. I guess HW Bush being vice president, President, CIA director and an envoy to China and oh , a WWll hero, may not seem like much pressure....STOP STOP Steve! Joe has lost the connection! Sorry Joe! The facts! HW had Afib.


I guess I nailed it correctly! Eh Joe? Took the bait! Overly religious? Don't know the man personally. I did have a telephone conversation with him during his time as mayor! Religion did not come up. You do understand Joe that there is no nuclear football in the mayor's office. Critical decisions are just not really a thing. Politics take time. Sometimes decades. Joe, have you seen the Mark Spitz ad on TV? Mr Spitz has A fib. Here are some others....Bush 43. Treated while President. He DOES have the "nuclear football"! Oh! And Joe Biden treated in 2006! Larry Bird and Jerry West during playing years. Possibly the most grueling of all jobs! Also another 2 million people in the US. So if this fainting spell is a reason not to run for office Joe! Then there are many millions of people with diabetes that should not be able to hold a decision making position. See how ridiculous you sound?

Joe King

Oh fire, I’ll pray for you.....but I didn’t think it would be necessary for a candidate to bring a note from his doctor showing his fitness... how many times have you passed out this last month?


I see where facts kind of bypass your receptors. Millions of diabetics have similar problems. Quite often now a medic call will result in stabilizing a patient with no transport! So your ridiculous comments don't fly! But thanks for the prayer offer. I need all the help I can get!

Joe King

Fire...he said he is not diabetic.....get your facts right.... Diabetes has nothing to do with this...he said he has heart issues. I think Miller should look out for his health. He clearly has issues and I question his fitness if he is healthy for the job.... Debates are interviews for the elected position.. He has failed 2 and a 3rd was canceled because of his health....


Joe, you question his fitness to do the job. I question Mr Robersons ability to do the job. His private financial life has been a disaster and he seems to gravitate to jobs handed to him as his last job at ECS where they made up a 100,000.00 job for him. That being said, his competition is not a mental giant either. I have said before whoever wins this race will have a tough time as the current mayor and council have invested a ton in the new look down town, “the new pedestrian community”. Good luck to the winner/loser. But Joe you only question Mr Millers health because he is a republican and you are a simple minded guy.

Joe King

So Sidearm, I suppose you read the article of Miller's past leadership of the RV company now closing and laying off hundreds of drivers because he failed to have the proper insurance..... I guess I can count your vote for Rod...


No one knows Mr Millers medical condition than his doctor and himself. Mr Miller doesn’t seem to be very concerned about it. I don’t think that the voters should be concerned either.


Well, have you had any heart-related issues? They can be tricky to diagnose. Give the doctors time to dial in the problem. These things can be fixed with proper medications and sometimes that takes a few tries.


The characteristics of Mayor Miller will be hard work,initiative,ambition, responsible,honesty!! We the people of Elkhart can be proud to help unify Elkhart with Mayor Miller!!


“Over the course of the past three weeks, I have had three incidents of an irregular heartbeat that led to dizziness or fainting spells,” Miller said.

That's only one per week, so over a 4 year term, that is a mere 208 incidents to come. Nothing to see here, move on. Right?

Joe King

2nd time that the public knows of him passing out while under stress....he does know the mayor’s job can be stressful? Right? Perhaps this is a message from Jesus that he should drop out?


I really don't have a dog in this race. But Joe, once again shows his insolence. Miller... if I remember was a council at large. Then mayor for 8 years. Certainly he understands the stresses of the job. Further! Around 2 million people in the US suffer from irregular heartbeat. Those people have varying levels of stress! To question Miller's "fitness" for the job and IF it is a sign from Jesus, is impudent and disrespectful. But I suspect Joe is not done!

Joe King

nope...not done at all.. Miller is known to be overly religious both in and out of the political office... G-d has a reason and plan he always says...perhaps it is he shouldn't run for mayor? When a critical decision needs to be made, I personally don't want the decision maker to pass out.....why would you even elect an unhealthy person with a known heart issue to a stressful job? Time to move on....

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