6 Elkhart candidates seek 3 at-large seats

Top from left: Brian Dickerson, Mary Olson and Kevin Bullard.Bottom from left: Arvis Dawson, Alex Holtz and Thomas Butler.

ELKHART — Six candidates are competing for the three at-large seats on the Elkhart City Council.

Those seats are currently held by Republicans Brian Dickerson, Mary Olson and Kevin Bullard. Bullard, unlike his party-colleagues, was not elected in 2015 but joined the council when Adam Bujalski moved out of city limits at the end of 2018.

Challenging the Republicans are Democrats Arvis Dawson, Alex Holtz and Thomas Butler.

Brian Dickerson, Republican

Council President Dickerson, 30, is the owner of Final Phase Electric and has served on the council since 2013.

"The most important thing, moving forward in Elkhart, is making sure that we don't stop the momentum of the economic progress," he said.

If that momentum isn't kept up, he believes, Elkhart could be in a situation like in 2009, when thousands were without jobs. Dickerson said he wants to take what is being done in the River District and do something similar all over Elkhart.

"And we have willing partners in the private sector that want to help make Elkhart great and bring it into the next century with investment and opportunity and infrastructure," he said.

Dickerson said he has played a role in making Elkhart open for business again after, he believes, it was closed by former Democratic mayor Dick Moore. Voters should not take a chance on that happening again, and that is why they should vote for him, Dickerson said.

Arvis Dawson, Democrat

Dawson, 67, has been on the City Council for 28 years, from 1980 to 2007, and served as Mayor Moore's executive assistant for eight years and on the Board of Works for 12 years.

"I obviously want to continue our economic development, strengthening our neighborhoods and do all of that in a collaborative way, an organized way so that it's planned out and not haphazardly done," Dawson said.

The current City Council, he believes, lacks civility, especially in dealing with the Mayor's Office. Dawson wants to ensure that that dynamic changes during the next administration, to the benefit of the citizens.

"I'm the only council candidate to have had experience on both sides of the aisle," he said, pointing to his experience working with Moore. "So I understand fully what it takes to run the day-to-day operations of the city."

Mary Olson, Republican

Olson, 72, has been on the City Council for 24 years, being first elected in 1995.

As a member of City Council, she said, her job is to ensure the city has good public safety and utilities. But the most important thing to do in the next council is to bring back civility.

"When you have the honor of serving the taxpayer, as an at-large does, that's everybody, from one part of our community to the other. And I don't think that we've always shown our best colors, our best kindness and respect in the chambers," she said.

Olson said her wide-ranging experience, having represented the city in dealings with the state, as well as her fiscal conservatism are good reasons why voters should re-elect her. She does not seek re-election to represent her own views, she said.

"What you need to do as a representative is take the temperature of your public before you decide on any issue. In other words, whether it's River District or the redo of Benham Avenue, you need to touch base with your constituency. It's their dollars," she said.

Alex Holtz, Democrat

Holtz, 47, the Elkhart Memorial High School's Math Department chairman, has never before held public office. He says the next four years should be about Elkhart coming together.

"We're going to be coming together at the high school level, and that brings the east and the west sides of the community together, and I'm very interested in the north and the south side also being brought together," he said.

That can be done by having civil interactions and assuming goodwill, Holtz said. But more tangible efforts should include making the Tolson Center a place young people and seniors from all over the city can meet.

Holtz said he offers a different perspective to the City Council. Having been a teacher since 1996, he believes he has a better understanding than most of how the city could become a better place for young people.

"Supporting families and kids and neighborhoods is really going to be my focus," he said.

Kevin Bullard, Republican

Bullard, 62, has been on the City Council for close to a year. He is a farmer and owns Bullard's Farm Market with his wife. He previously served on the Redevelopment Commission.

He believes the most important issue for the city is public safety. Then comes making it a fun place to live and making sure the city moves forward.

"Providing opportunities for developers and companies to invest in Elkhart, and hopefully that will bring jobs and make Elkhart a nice place to work and live," Bullard said, adding that he wants to invest in the city's cultural assets such as parks and the Lerner Theatre.

He also calls for audits of the city's departments, and particularly those with the most exposure, he said.

Bullard said his background makes him someone voters will want on the City Council.

"I think my experience of being a 30-year business owner and being able to think on my feet, solve problems — and we've witnessed a steady growth here at Bullard's Farm Market," he said.

Thomas Butler, Democrat

Butler, 49, was a 2015 at-large candidate for the Elkhart Party. He most recently worked in quality control in the pharmaceutical and food-processing industries but quit his job to run for office.

The former Republican complained that there is a lot of talk about diversifying local industry, but no one seems to be doing much about it. He is also concerned that taxes have increased under the current council, which consists of seven Republicans and two Democrats.

"The incremental value of taxes has gone up by 15% in the last two years," he said. "Wages have dropped by 7% during the same period."

With a master's degree in public administration from IU and experience in the private sector and with all levels of government, Butler believes he is well-equipped to earn the votes of Elkhart residents.

"I can be an independent voice for lower taxes right now, because I have ideas that can save us quite a bit of money," he said.

The municipal election is Tuesday.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

(4) comments

Tom Butler

I'm the same guy but you mis characterize the nature of the Elkhart Party. Jason was a Democrat and I was a Republican. We came together with Rose Rivera who never was a supporter of either party but was new to politics to create a new party that was intended to represent Elkhart City which has been a swing city for decades. Our Party was designed to be Independent of any ideologies which are always completely irrelevant to the specific funding decisions of a local government for very specific public services. Such a strong focus on Parties does our City no good. The success of our City depends on good decision making with spending and internal management systems.


Tom Butler? Isn't this the same guy who ran for council last time as part of that radical leftist "Elkhart Party" with his good buddy Jason Moreno? Stay away from his name on your ballot folks. The guy will do no good for the city.

Tom Butler

So Max - Jason Moreno was the founder of The Elkhart Party and he asked me as a Republican to join him. It is true that Jason Moreno came from the Democratic Party and no we are not radical leftists. I was raised as a third generation Eisenhower Republican. Jason's intent was to create a new Independent Party with balance for all of Elkhart.


Tom, why would anybody in their right mind quit a full time job to run for the city council? Sounds really fishy to me.

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