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.