ELKHART — Both candidates for the District 6 seat on the Elkhart City Council know what it’s like to represent the residents on the southwest side of town.
Incumbent Pam Kurpgeweit, a Republican, beat Democrat Tonda Hines by six votes out of 608 in 2015, unseating the two-term councilwoman.
Kurpgeweit said the issues she will work on if re-elected include growing the number and diversity of jobs that pay a good wage, opposing wasteful spending and maintaining city services and programming for residents.
“I like to look at the city as an entire whole,” she said. “You have your 6th District, but what impacts our neighborhood also impacts other neighborhoods, and a perfect example is the ADA playground that I was able to help get over at McNaughton Park.”
The Republican would also like to see an improvement to the city’s roads. She and the council are trying to get the Street Department on a proactive schedule rather than a reactive one for repairing crumbling roads, she said.
Hines said the City Council should incentivize development in more neighborhoods, including District 6.
“I would like to see our neighborhoods revitalized. There’s a lot of older homes that are just run down now,” she said. “If we can strengthen those neighborhoods that don’t have as much homeownership, if we can provide programs and even possibly – I’d like to see us work with our Housing Authority more.”
Another “hot topic,” according to Hines is ensuring that there are enough crossing guards at schools throughout the city. Hines said the current council has not been supportive enough on that issue, which was most recently addressed at the 2020 budget hearings this fall, when David Henke, R-3, suggested crossing guards should be managed by the school corporations.
Hines criticized the current City Council, including Kurpgeweit, for defunding the Tolson Center in 2018.
“That being voted down really impacted the community in its entirety and certain parts of the 6th,” she said. “Having a voice, a representation that looks at those things in a more equitable way is what is definitely needed.”
Kurpgeweit said she is excited for the $4 million plans to expand the Tolson Center and said that even now, as the center was recently reopened, it is doing better than it was before the City Council defunded it due to financial mismanagement.
“If we had not gone through the really tough times and the tough decisions to do what happened with the Tolson CommunityCenter, we would not be where we are today,” she said. “I think much bigger and better days are ahead.”
Kurpgeweit, 68, said she is the right candidate for the job because she has the experience of being on the council and from working with engineering for the U.S. military and the private sector, which she said had given her an eye for community development.
Hines, 51, is a program manager for Elkhart Community Schools’ 21st Century before- and after-school programming, which she said has helped her be in touch with the community. She also pointed to her work on the council, which included fighting a megashredder and beginning the revitalization of downtown, as evidence that she is the right candidate.
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