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Fort Wayne mayoral candidates answer questions ahead of 2023 municipal election

(Left)Four-term Incumbent Democratic Mayor Tom Henry will face his GOP challenger (Right) 20-year Third District City Councilman Tom Didier in the November 7 mayoral election.
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89.1 WBOI
Four-term Incumbent Democratic Mayor Tom Henry will face his GOP challenger 20-year Third District City Councilman Tom Didier in the November 7 mayoral election.

Four-term Democratic Incumbent Mayor Tom Henry will face his Republican challenger, 20-year Third District City Councilman Tom Didier in Fort Wayne's 2023 Mayoral Election on Nov 7.

WBOI's All Things Considered host and reporter Tony Sandleben sat down with both nominees. He asked each the same set of questions to give voters a better grasp of where each nominee stands on the most pressing issues facing the City of Fort Wayne and a better understanding of who and what exactly they would be voting for with each candidate. The full transcriptions of both interviews are below, starting with Henry.

Mayor Henry answers questions ahead of 2023 Election

Tony: All right, we are here with Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry to talk a little bit about the upcoming mayoral election. Mayor Henry, welcome.

Henry: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Tony: We've got a range of questions that we're asking both you and your Republican counterpart, Councilman Tom Didier, about the upcoming election. Basically, the idea is to get a good grasp on what both you and Councilman Didier feel is best for the future of the city and things of that nature. So first, we'll start with the broadest, simplest question we can think of. Why are you running?

Henry: Well, obviously, I've been in this position now for several years, because I really am passionate about this position. I've dedicated my career to public service, because I feel that all of us should be able to give back to our community, in any area, that they feel that they have some strengths.

Henry (cont.): Having run some businesses in the past, having worked in multi-million dollar facilities in the past, I think I had the experience and the education, having a master's degree in business, to be able to bring the right tools to the table as far as moving our city forward. So 16 years ago, when I ran, I had a vision in place. I think that that vision is moving along, in a very progressive fashion. We've invested millions of dollars in our community. And I think that the return on our investment is pretty obvious.

Tony: You mentioned you've been in this position for quite a while. You're running for an unprecedented fifth term. So, being in this position for as long as you have, what new aspect will you bring to the people of Fort Wayne for this fifth term?

Henry: Well, I think a lot of it is continuing the progress that we've already made. And that has put us in a position over the past several years to win some state and national awards in a variety of areas, not just in finance, where we’ve won awards, not just in public safety, where we’ve won awards, but in public works, in city utilities, and a number of other areas.

All of those have received tremendous accolades from throughout the country. So, I think that we are moving in the right direction. Obviously, in many people's opinion, we are the envy of the state, including the city of Indianapolis. When you get that kind of feedback, when other cities come to Fort Wayne to ask us how we’ve accomplished certain initiatives, what a tremendous compliment for our city.

But we took some risks a number of years ago, in deciding what road we should take. And we decided to invest a significant amount of money in our downtown. But I think it's paid off immensely. In the past 10 years, we've invested over a billion dollars in our community. That's with public and private dollars. But it has truly served to be the foundation for, again, not with a number of awards, but with national recognition for some of our efforts. So, I'm going to continue addressing the needs and wants and desires of our downtown community. But also, we've done a significant amount of investment in our neighborhoods.

When I first became mayor, we were investing $- or $7 million a year in our neighborhoods, because our only revenue stream was a gasoline tax. Well, over the years, we've gone to the state legislature. They've been able to give us some additional monies and other areas as well as us asking for some additional dollars from our local residents on local income tax. putting all that together, we're now investing $40 to $50 million a year.

So what used to take us six or seven years to do, we can now do in one year. That's why there's so many orange cones around right now.

We also need to take a look at some additional challenges, educational desires as far as developing certain skill sets in life. Economic development is going to be a primary concern and interesting in the future as well.

Tony: You brought up investing in neighborhoods and downtown. I know, I've asked you before what you think the central issue of the race is. I asked Councilman Didier the same thing. None of you said this, but it seems to kind of be becoming the idea of investing in downtown versus neighborhoods and how to balance that out. What's your take?

Henry: Well, those two will always come up in discussion. And understandably so because they're visible. People would see downtown. They see either the progress or the lack of progress. In downtowns, it's pretty obvious when you have buildings going up and new hospitality offerings versus seeing broken sidewalks and curbs and so on, you know which one is going to be more appealing to a potential employer.

So you've got to make your downtown vibrant and inviting and exciting. Otherwise employers aren't going to look at you because that's the first place they go. Because that's the banking center of any community. That's where all the lawyers are. That's where the government offices are. So they have to go downtown. So you've got to get that first impression right away. And it has to be a positive one if you're going to sell your community.

But there’s no question. Neighborhoods are the backbone of a community. So if you get these employers to come in, and bring employees with them, they have to have a place to live. And you want to make that inviting as well. So unquestionably, you have to invest millions of dollars in neighborhoods. And that's currently what we're doing.

That's the biggest complaint I'm getting right now. “Mayor, there's too many orange cones all over town, we have too many detours.” Well, yes, we do. And it is painful. I go through it as well. But the end result is going to be what all of us have been asking for over the past several years.

And that's to give us a good looking solid foundation in our neighborhoods. So we are building new streets and new sidewalks and new curbs. We are planting trees. We are fixing up neighborhood parks. Because this is what our citizens are asking for, as far as investment: investing in the places where they live.

Tony: Let's say you win this race, and this is a question you might be able to answer a little bit more easily than say your opponent. Let's say you win this race. How will you continue to represent everyone in Fort Wayne, including those who don't vote for you?

Henry: Well, you know, again, I think it's pretty obvious over the past 16 years, that our entire community has profited from the work that we have done as a community. We have tremendous neighborhood associations, we have about 25 or 30 neighborhoods in Fort Wayne, many of them are represented by neighborhood associations and those associations belong to quadrants. We've broken our city down into four major quadrants.

So we're providing all kinds of opportunity for input from the citizens as far as what their desires are to make their neighborhoods, and the city as a whole, a better place to live. So that's the opportunity that we're trying to get our citizens to provide input. And that's just one way through our neighborhood associations.

And through the work that we're doing with our public safety visions. You know, there's a police officer present and all the neighborhood association meetings and all of the quadrant meetings. And we have the fire department goes out continuously and works with students and so on on how to protect themselves and our families in case of a tragic situation. So we're really trying to get involved as much as we can, in a give and take with the community as far as them expressing their needs, and the city being in a position to respond.

Tony: In your administration, what role…this is kind of a complicated question, but what role does Fort Wayne play in Allen County?

Henry: Well, Fort Wayne is about two-thirds of Allen County, and about two-thirds of the population of Allen County lives in the city. So obviously, we have a significant amount of input into how our economy responds to certain challenges and the development of certain initiatives and the attraction of employers and so on. So, I think we have a significant say in total government.

Obviously, the three commissioners and I work together on a number of projects. The county council, again, has to be involved because they're the fiscal body. So, it's a lot of give and take. And when a certain initiative comes into play that's going to involve the city and the county, we have to work together.

As you know, this is not like Washington, DC, where everybody can kind of go into their own corner and do their own thing. At the local level, you have got to be able to not only communicate, but collaborate, cooperate, and really put together a network where there can be a lot of give and take and ultimately all working towards the same goal.

Tony: Something that's come up a little bit, just not really recently anymore. It's been a while but the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. The CEO, the director, came to city council to say “hey, I need help and help funding payroll.” They had all these pay raises and whatnot, and Council approved, with your help, approved a funding package for that, with the idea that the county would then help as well.

The county decided not to, which kind of complicated things. So I say all of that to bring it into the question: how long are you willing to use city money to support TRAA?

Henry: Well, fortunately, we did get them a credit line that they could draw down if needed because historically, they were falling behind almost every month, but they're now under new leadership. And they're under a whole new relationship, now, with the paramedics that supplied the service for Three Rivers.

I'm glad to say that City Council and I went together and put that credit line together just about a year ago, and they haven't had to tap it yet.

This new administration of the Ambulance Authority already has been a real breath of fresh air. The labor problems that they were experiencing with the unions representing the paramedics and other first-responders, that cooperative effort now has really come to a positive, a positive relationship. Equipment is better. Training is better. Over time situations are better. Reliance on part timers, and some of them are firefighters who work part time for the ambulance service. That relationship has, has really turned into a positive discussion. So a lot of the challenges that were in place about a year or so ago, many of them either have been resolved, or they're at least progressing in a positive fashion.

As a result, a lot of the financial challenges that they were having, because they had to pay additional overtime, because they were short of personnel and so on, they're not there anymore. And they have not had to tap this credit line at all. So even though the county said no to giving them a credit line for additional funding, they haven't had to use the city’s at all. So I'm very happy with the current position of the ambulance authority.

Tony: Something else I've talked to you about, I also happen to talk to Councilman Didier about it as well. This was an issue that came up a number of months ago that seemingly has found a resolution. Union representation can now speak on behalf of city employees to your administration. Collective bargaining is still prohibited. But with all of that, now…I guess I have two questions. One, and this is what you've already answered to me, how would your administration handle workplace grievances? And then the second question is, does collective bargaining have a future in the public sector and here in Fort Wayne?

Henry: Well, collective bargaining is really a decision that the city employees are going to have to make. It will have to go to a vote. Years ago, the city was represented by nine unions. Two in the fire department, one in the police department and the other six were representing about 1,200 or 1,300 employees. And they had secretarial, and they had operators, engineer operators, and so on. A number of years ago, when City Council decided that that type of representation was not necessary, they took away six of the unions, left the police and fire in place. They didn't want to mess around with public safety. But they took away the other six.

Now, City Council recently passed an ordinance allowing them to come back. But the city employees are going to have to decide whether or not they want all six unions back or do they want to maybe be represented by two unions or three unions rather than the six? So that's the first decision they're going to have to make. Who do they want representing them? Then, they have to vote on whether or not they actually want to be members of the Union.

So right now a lot of that's in the hands of the employees, they're going to have to determine do they want representation by the union, and if so who's going to be their representative? At that point, then we can begin to discuss what else they want as far as changes in benefits, changes in pay and the like. To my knowledge, most of the employees are relatively happy with their current working conditions. With the exception of grievance procedures, they would like to have a bigger, more active voice in filing grievances and meeting with human resources, legal department and so on. And that's something I think that we can obviously work on, I think we've established some guardrails. But can we work on more? Probably. I'm always open to suggestions. But as far as collective bargaining, that's really in the hands of the employees now.

Tony: You mentioned the city employees would like a stronger voice in working out workplace grievances. What would that look like in the future here?

Henry: Well, right now we, you know, we have a process in place. But right now, for instance, if an employee has a grievance, they can go to their department directly, they can go to their division director, they can end up in human resources. And or the legal department, if it goes to that level. I think what the employees are asking for is some additional help when they go to those meetings, that they'd like to have somebody with them perhaps who has a better understanding of the laws that might be applicable, or different working conditions that perhaps are evident somewhere else, where they find a problem with it. That's the reason for the grievance. I think they just want a support system, if you will, that's not there now that they think might be, might be in their best interest.

Tony: One more question for you. We talked before about what the central issue you think is in this mayor's race, and what you told me it was public safety, not so much that it needs improved, but just that what's happening now continues?. What will that look like in your next term?

Henry: Well, almost every survey that we've taken over the years or polls that are taken, whether they're political or not, in almost every case, the primary concern of most citizens is public safety. They want to feel safe, they want to go to bed at night, with some level of confidence that somebody's out there, looking out for them. So we need to raise the comfort level of our citizens, for them to know that, yes, we have a safe city. And that's what we've been trying to do. We've invested a significant amount of money in our police department, we're now at 500 police officers more than we've ever had. We brought in new technology. We brought in social workers to the police department, again, very rare for a city. But we understand that a lot of the challenges our police department are getting are in areas of domestic or homelessness, or drug abuse.

They're really not trained extensively in those areas. They're combat police officers, they're trained, you know, to enforce the law, not to be a social worker. So we took that as a challenge to perhaps add an additional level to our police department, that being social work. So that's something that we've…that we're doing now. We brought in a whole new drone force. And we now have, I don't know, half a dozen drones, or so that help in serious…we are in situations where there might be abductions, other types of family situations, bank robberies, a lot of different incidents come up where a drone could be very useful. So we're now incorporating that technology. In fact, we're looking at the next level of drone development. They're really becoming quite sophisticated. But we're trying to stay on top of that. We're also going to be enhancing our crime lab to add more tools for the police department to actively fight crime. And what's really nice is the fact that it's already paying it off. We now have a decrease in violent crime. Most cities our size, have an increase. Indianapolis, definitely bigger than us, but a tremendous problem right now with violent crime. Ours is going down. The property crime area is going up a little bit, but it's primarily theft of automobiles, or theft from automobiles. Those are two of the biggest issues we have right now. Now, I'm not saying that that's good, but it could be a lot worse.

So we're doing quite a bit in the area of law enforcement and our fire department. We're buying four or five new fire trucks, something we've never been able to do before. Normally, if you bought one truck a year, that was significant. We're buying four, again, trying to add to our fleet. We're going to be building a new fire station in Waynedale in the next couple of years. So we're really trying to enhance our public safety division, because that's what our citizens want.

Tony: Alright. Is there anything else you think people should know?

Henry: Well, our city, I think, over the past decade or so, has been able to exhibit a tremendous amount of progressive thinking to the point that others now are coming here rather than us going out to get ideas from other places. What a tremendous compliment. So if nothing else, we need to thank our citizens for the commitment they've made to making Fort Wayne all that it could be.

Tony: Alright Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry running for reelection again here in our city in the mayor’s race Election Day is Nov. 7.

Mayor, Thank you very much for being here.

Henry: Thank you.

GOP Mayoral Nominee Tom Didier answers questions ahead of 2023 Election

Tony: We are here with Fort Wayne Republican mayoral nominee Tom Didier. Councilman Didier, thank you for joining us.

Didier: You're welcome, Tony. How are you doing today?

Tony: Doing well. Thank you. So we've got a set of questions here that we're going to ask both you and Mayor Henry to give the voters a good grasp on what your visions are for the future. Essentially, what they're voting for if they vote for you, that sort of thing. So let's start simply with that, what are you asking voters for? Why should we unseat the current administration?

Didier: It's a pretty simplistic question in regards to why I believe that I should be the next mayor of Fort Wayne, I think that we need a different direction in regards to neighborhoods. I've been a district councilman for 20 years. And I just feel that we need a better focus on the neighborhoods. When I first got on city council, we had a really wonderful program called CEDIT. And that was $450,000 that each council person was given in their districts. And then the at large was given the same amount for the three at-large. So I have a plan to implement something back into place for the district council people. And for the at-large.

I wanted to do $500,000 for each district, and a $1 million for the at-large. And the question is going to get asked, Well, where are you going to find the revenue for this?

And that would be we've done $48 million in projects this year, I think that we could easily put $4 million back towards the council people to give them some type of voice in regards to what they want to see in their districts. They know their districts the best.

And I think that that is one thing that has been really missing in regards to the overall essence of Mr. Henry and his administration and why he chooses to not put something in place so that the neighborhood, presidents have a voice in regards to talking to their individual districts, it's extremely important that you have that open collaboration and communication with your presidents of your associations.

And I think that because of him taking it away in his first term, and I'd already been in office, you know, five, five years, six years when he took this away, and so I was used to it. And I think that I was very good about making sure I met with Public Works and did the projects that needed to get done, that were somewhat simplistic in nature, but maybe connectivity of sidewalks or things of that nature or curbs. Or maybe it might even be something that had to do with a whole street. I even had the wall at Science Central taken down using the CEDIT dollars.

I also put a light up at the corner of Wells and Franke Park, (at) the zoo to help with traffic when I rearranged the signage on (Interstate) 69 to make sure that we could get the visitors that were coming into Fort Wayne.

And you know the opportunity to be able to get to the zoo and know how to get there and utilize those CEDIT dollars that I was given at the time when Graham Richards was mayor.

So it started with Paul Helmke. And to make it really short and sweet. It really opens the communication with the neighborhoods.

And that's probably one of the biggest things that has probably perturbed me the most over the course of the 20 years.

And in the 16 years that he's been the mayor of Fort Wayne, because I feel that we've done everything we can in regards to helping with the local option income tax that was put in place in 2013, to get the dollars that we needed to help with infrastructure.

We've never seen the vision come back of what are we going to do to help the neighborhoods. The vision was always just hey, we're going to do the projects that we feel that needs to be done and really not give the input to the overall neighborhoods. They should be given that opportunity to work with their council people. And that's really important to me.

Tony: So obviously, you talked about how you've been on council for 20 years. You've been on council the whole 16 years that Mayor Henry's been in office. What was it that got you to decide now's the time for you to run?

Didier: Well, I thought about running the last time, but when Dr. (John) Crawford was going to put his name in, you know, he was a senior in my eyes as a council person. He's very well-educated and very intelligent person. He was very strong in his vision for Fort Wayne and what he wanted to do.

And I thought, well, I'll just back him this time around, and we'll look at myself in the next four years If he doesn't succeed, which he did not. And I thought for sure, he would have a good chance. And I felt in my own heart, I took the discerning way that I do everything, I had a job, a very good paying job, that I had to basically leave and retire to run for mayor.

So I was discussing it with my wife. And I said, What do you think? And she said, this is the one time in your life that you're going to be able to do this, and have the opportunity to do it. So why don't you go for it? And so I've dove in headfirst, and basically been running since August of the pandemic when we were deep into the pandemic, my first year on my fifth term of Council, I said, Okay,

I met with Chuck Surack. And I said, Chuck, what do you think? He says, I think you should run for mayor. So because I had asked him about possibly commissioner or something of that nature. And he definitely pointed me towards running for mayor. So, I asked other individuals like Bill Bean and people of that nature to try and see where I could go with this. And I feel that I have made a very solid decision in regards to why I'm running, because I believe there needs to be a change on the fourth floor.

Tony: Invariably, there are going to be people who don't vote for you, win or not. So how does a Didier administration represent all of Fort Wayne, including those who don't vote for you?

Didier: People have asked me what does Fort Wayne First, even mean, and I said, it's pretty simple. And you lead me right into it, it really is about all 270,000 people that live in the city, we're close to it are like (267,000). But I say 270, because I believe the city is going to grow exponentially over the next 10 years. And you're going to need a leader that's going to have the ideas and the strength and the fortitude to move the city forward in the right direction.

And I can tell you that I am going to be open door. That's pretty much how I work. I've already told people that I'm going to have in my administration, that I don't want to sit at that desk on the fourth floor. I want to be out with people. I had been a salesman for 35 years. And I never sat very long, I was the type of person that was out in the community in the small businesses, talking to them, asking them what they needed, and what they would want for their restaurants, because that's what I sold. But I was out there with the business leaders, talking to them, asking them, What do you need? the neighborhoods, same thing. What do you need? you can talk to anybody.

I am probably the most fair minded person that there is. And I want your idea. I believe right now, we just are sitting in a situation where we're doing things because this is the way I want to do them. And that's not going to be the case if I'm the mayor of Fort Wayne. I am definitely going to utilize as many ideas as possible to take the city forward because they're the ones living here in this community as well as I am. And I do believe personally that this is not about me. This is about the citizens that live in this community.

Tony: You talked about considering county offices before maybe running for mayor, so further along those lines. What role do you see Fort Wayne playing in Allen County?

Didier: Well, Fort Wayne is Allen County. So I think the biggest complaint that I hear of out there is that we need a better collaboration between Allen County Commissioners and our mayor. I hear that we need better collaboration with the different entities that we work with. Look, you have a very strong presence in the Statehouse right now. They actually sent me down to the Statehouse, this administration sent me down to the Statehouse to help correct the issue with the garbage problem that we had. And I got to go to the House of Representatives and talk in front of the subcommittee. And they didn't really ask the city of Fort Wayne any questions.

They asked me questions because they looked at me from that perspective. And so when the House passed it, it went to the Senate, and then the administration once again, a second time, would you go down to the Statehouse and talk to them Because we really want to see this bill get passed in Fort Wayne for Fort Wayne in the State of Indiana. I said, Yes, no problem. I went back and talked to the state again. And I talked to the colleagues in the state. And once again, they didn't really talk to the city of Fort Wayne, they talked to me as a representative for the city of Fort Wayne and a city council.

So I think by utilizing that, you're going to see a very lucrative opportunity for the city of Fort Wayne to utilize the state of Indiana also, I think the one last thing is the federal government and working with them on certain projects. Like, of course, we have INDOT and the state highway and the federal highways. And those connectivities, I've had a lot of work with that. That particular entity because of my district being five interchanges. Half of my district is in the northern part, crosses the 69 barrier, and then I have half of my district in the south portion of it. So I have this main artery that works through my district. So I want to utilize that relationship to work with the citizens of Fort Wayne. And it's a win win.

Tony: One issue we saw pop up not long ago that has seemingly kind of fallen out of the spotlight recently is the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. Joel Benz came to the city council to ask for money to help pay fund payroll and keep things afloat. How long would you as mayor be willing to continue to support TRAA financially?

Didier: I think TRAA is extremely important. I mean, every life's important, right? So I think what has to happen is we really have to take a proactive approach. We can't sit on our hands and say, okay, everything's going to just happen. We have to really take a proactive approach, because all these new fire districts are coming into play out in the county.

That's where you're going to have to have the sit down with the commissioners, and the mayor. And I really believe, you know, pick two people from the city council that you want to have on some type of committee to get this thing worked out and move the needle forward. Because if we wait too long, you know, after say I get elected, it's probably going to be one of the first things that I'm going to tackle because it needs to be corrected because we could lose a life from not reacting fast enough.

Tony: And how long would you think that would take?

Didier: I think you would want to move it along pretty fast. And I think that having that dialogue and having good open communication with the commissioners. Because right now I just think there's this bickering that doesn't need to be happening within the county and the city. I mean, a lot of people will just like, this is like, Oh, they all get along. Great. But I see that the inside portions of it, I'm just being truthful. I don't think it's a perfect relationship by any stretch of the imagination because no one thinks that they need to do things that they need to do.

Really, what it comes down to, what it really boils down to is are we going to save lives? And how are we going to do that? And that's the key. That's the most important thing. Forget about our egos. Forget about our roles and whatever particular role we have, whether we're the county or the city. We're a team. And that's what it needs to be because I've always been that type of a worker. When I was the employee that I had for 32 years, everybody that was on my team, as teammates, we work together. We used their strengths, and we helped them with their weaknesses. And that's the key to it.

Tony: Jumping back to investment in the city, obviously, in Mayor Henry's time there's been a lot of investment downtown. It seems like the biggest message from your campaign is to invest more in the neighborhoods. How would you balance that out?

Didier: Well, I think that from their perspective, they're believing that they're doing a lot with neighborhoods. The problem is they're not communicating with the neighborhoods in the way that I want to communicate with the neighborhoods. I want to take a more proactive approach. Again, I'm using the word proactive a lot because it's my sales in myself. You have to be proactive in how you want to establish that message that you want to put out. And I've never been anti downtown. I've voted for almost every single thing that's gone downtown. In regards to, I'll use some examples, they voted for Harrison square before the mayor was even the mayor. Graham Richards was the one that put that forth. And so I voted for that, that was probably more difficult once I made that difficult vote.

All these other ones that he's been putting forward are like just little dominoes that keep falling. They weren't as, let's put it this way, difficult in how you voted for it. People still didn't want you to overextend ourselves financially, but they knew that we needed to grow, and we had to grow exponentially, to keep ourselves going and moving forward. Because we've had seven years of people growth in the city of Fort Wayne. So you can see that by doing what I did 18 years ago, before Mayor Henry was even our mayor, it was Graham Richards, that by that vote, it really was a domino effect. And so all those things have happened.

And I think they're going to continue to keep happening. I'm not going to not invest in downtown Fort Wayne, I'm just saying that what we need to do is we need to take a bigger focus on some of the neighborhoods because there's a lot of neighborhoods that are in disarray, crumbling, falling apart, and we need to focus on the southeast portion of Fort Wayne, which I haven't even talked about yet. I've been really taking a hard look at the southeast, and it's a diamond in the rough. And there's other areas in the community that we are just missing out on. It’s not just about the main drags, it's about those internal neighborhoods that need the help.

Tony: Let's talk about the southeast side, how would you help that part of the city with the issues they're facing?

Dider: Part of it is having a salesperson that actually is going to give some questions and answers to give that life. The thing is, is you're not promoting it in the right way, you know, and that'd be where I would get with the council person, which is Sharon Tucker. And it's going to be Sharon Tucker again. Because there's nobody running against Sharon, and Sharon and I have a great relationship.

And I have a lot of thoughts and ideas of what I'd like to see happen. I've told her. I said you need a hotel, even if it's in the county on (Interstate) 469 on (U.S.)27, or a new housing addition that might be on the outskirts of the city, but you have to have those relative things happen to you. That's where the collaboration falls into place in regards to working with the county, working with the permit department, just building more homes in that area and trying to have a better solution to what's going on. I can tell you, you have to have somebody that's going to have some fire in their gut, that's going to want to really put forth some kind of an effort and not just use lip service, but actually do something.

Tony: We've talked about this before, you and I have, but there was something that came up not long ago regarding union representation of city employees. Union representation can now speak on behalf of City employees to Mayor Henry, to department hands and whatnot in regards to workplace grievances. I think you made it pretty clear that you don't want to see collective bargaining come back to the public sector. What does union representation for the public sector look like in a Didier administration?

Didier: So, for 35 years, I worked in industry, and I worked at a place that had some type of union, but again, that was a private company. So what I'd really like to see happen is better communication with the HR department. I think that we've just fallen on deaf ears in regards to this. Again, if somebody brings a grievance or complaint, they should really have somebody that's going to sit down and talk with them and say, Hey, this is what happened. This is the problem that happened at my job.

It's no different than any other employer. I had a grievance one time when I was a salesperson at my company that I worked for. And it was a situation that I can't really talk about on air, but it went to HR, and the problem got resolved. And I did my job. That person went back to doing their job. It wasn't anything that I did. Mine was a problem with what my boss had said about a certain individual that offended me, and that I had to get worked out and work through it. I think what has to happen is that we have to have more open communication so that they feel that they aren't going to get fired for saying, Hey, I have an issue with something that somebody said or something somebody did. And if I got hurt on the job, or if I did…I want to make sure that I'm represented and taken care of.

I think that if you have open communication with people, you can resolve a lot of issues because there's many places that you work at that don't have collective bargaining. And you go to work at a Walmart or you work at a grocery store. Unless you're in the meat department, possibly you might be in a union, because I was in a union when I worked for Kroger's. I was a union meat cutter. So I have no issues with private unions whatsoever. I just think that there's a different process that I can move forward with. And it can happen, it can definitely happen if we have the right people in place.

Tony: Something we didn't really touch on, but we did talk about in the primaries. I'll go ahead and ask you as well. We talked about the south east side. I remember you specifically saying you think the south east side gets a bad rap when it comes to crime. What does crime control look like in a Didier administration?

Didier: Well, I've spoken pretty candidly in regards to this at a function not even a week ago. We're a little top heavy in regards to Captains, sergeants in that nature. Mr. Henry denied my thought process, but it is pretty truthful in regards to it, because I was told by someone. Someone who is actually in the police department that told me that. And I think that what needs to happen is we need to really take a really hard look and focus on that because we need more feet on the streets. The more you have of a police presence, and a good police presence. I really think that people, the police department need it, not all the time. But you know, they need to be able to get out of their cars, to have them walk in neighborhoods. Again, if you notice, I'm going back to neighborhoods.

Taking that opportunity to walk the neighborhoods, get to know the people that live in these particular neighborhoods. And then those people begin to build a trust factor in regards to them that they're going to be their protector and help the situation. There's a lot of issues with drugs and gangs. And that's we just had an issue recently where they had this amount of fentanyl that was seized. And those are issues that I'm going to work with other mayors in different cities. I've already spoken with many of them that are on (Interstate) 69, like Carmel mayor, the Fishers mayor, Noblesville mayor, work with them in regards to how do we stop the trafficking of these illicit drugs that are happening in the community, and get with the hotels and things of that nature that are on Coliseum Boulevard that are causing so much vice and crime.

Those are the types of things that you need to focus on. And by clearing that area, it clears up the areas of where these people might be selling the product, or may even be living in those particular areas that cause the decay. And we have to work with the department and hire more people. And it's going to take a monumental task, because there's 200 police officers right now that have 20 years of tenure already that could actually retire. So we have a real crisis on our hands. I personally believe that over the course of the next five years, we're gonna have to hire a lot of police officers.

Tony: Okay, is there anything else you think the voters should know?

Didier: I think the one thing that I'd really like people to understand is that 20 years of city council, I've educated myself in regards to the neighborhood's. I've educated myself in regards to the policing. I understand the budgeting process, and what I'd like to do differently in regards to the budgeting process, I'm calling it budgeting reform. Some people call it zero-based budget. You can call it whatever you like.

I really want to take a different focus on how we can possibly give back some money to the community. Maybe it could be a cost savings, if we find the cost savings through this reform budget, and we can get rid of the wheel tax that we put in place in 2015, I would love it because we give the money back to the people. They need it right now. So in regards to inflation and everything else that's going on in the community, I know that costs are going up for the city in regards to fixing things and making sure that people have their garbage picked up and making sure their water comes to their houses and their sewage gets taken care of, their streets get shoveled and salted.

Those are the things that are important to the community. And I want to make sure that they know that I'm going to be working tirelessly for the next four years to do the job that needs to get done to be the mayor of Fort Wayne. And I hope that they vote for me on Nov. 7.

Tony: Alright, Councilman Tom Didier, Republican nominee for Fort Wayne Mayor, thank you so much for being here.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.