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Fort Wayne City Council moves forward without staples Hines and Didier

Tom Didier and Glynn Hines have been on the Fort Wayne City Council for more than 40 years combined.
(right) Didier for Mayor (left) Fort Wayne City Council
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(right) Didier for Mayor (left) Fort Wayne City Council Facebook page
Tom Didier and Glynn Hines have been on the Fort Wayne City Council for more than 40 years combined.

The Fort Wayne City Council lost more than 40 years of institutional knowledge with the beginning of its current term. That’s because long-time council members Glynn Hines and Tom Didier did not return to the body.

The Council otherwise remains mostly the same.

  • First District - Paul Ensley (R)
  • Second District - Russ Jehl (R) - elected vice president of the council for 2024
  • Third District - Nathan Hartman (R)
  • Fourth District - Scott Meyers (R)
  • Fifth District - Geoff Paddock (D)
  • Sixth District - Sharon Tucker (D)
  • At large - Tom Freistoffer (R) - elected president of the council for 2024
  • At Large - Marty Bender (R)
  • At Large - Michelle Chambers (D)

Hines, a Democrat, had been on the council for 25 years. He decided not to run for reelection because he said it’s time to move on.

“Everyone comes to a point of demarcation here you’ve got to say ‘ok. I’ve done all the things that I think I can and should do for the community in the sense of public service, but what am I going to do for myself?’” Hines said. “ So, it’s kind of selfish, yes, but I think at 72, 73, you’re allowed to have that introspective to say ‘what is it that I want to do?’”

Didier, a 20-year Republican representative of Fort Wayne’s third district, opted to run for mayor instead of reelection. He said the council has enough leadership to fill the void he and Hines will leave.

“Somebody’s going to have to take that large leadership role,” Didier said. “It’s probably going to be, most likely, Tom Freistroffer. Geoff. I love Geoff. He’s been on 12 years, but Geoff’s a little more soft-spoken when it comes to it, doesn’t always take the hard angle. There’s people that are meant to be in that leadership role. I see Sharon Tucker as a leadership role. I just do.”

Democrat Sharon Tucker is the sixth district representative on the council. She was just elected to her second term and said Didier and Hines gave new members a working template on how to maintain a working government.

“When you have individuals collectively who have served as long as they’ve both served, there is an automatic understanding on how powers of government work to get things done,” Tucker said. “That’s via relationships, and those relationships to be able to move government forward take a while to develop.”

Democratic At Large City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers was also just elected to her second term in office. She said Didier and Hines left behind a working template future councils can study.

“This is what I’m hoping with the new council, that they take a look at what we’ve done in the last four years. We didn’t do that because of party. We did that because we’re supposed to work for the people.”

Republican Nathan Hartman replaced Didier as the third district representative. He said he’s known Didier for a long time and hopes to continue to work with him.

“It’s been great just because I’ve known him for a long time. My parents are good friends with him. So, it’s somebody that’s kind of a trusted mentor for me in terms of city council.”

Hartman is replacing a longtime staple on the city council. He’s not alone in taking that on. Councilwoman Tucker did the same thing when she was elected to the sixth district seat after Hines decided to run for an at-large seat. She says Hartman will need to just be himself.

“I would tell Nathan to not try to fill the shoes of Councilman Didier but to forge his own path,” Tucker said. “Look at the things that worked and learn from that, but always be who he is because the community did not elect a carbon copy.”

Republican Marty Bender won one of the three at large seats. With 12 years in office in previous terms, he was one of the three most experienced council members on day one.

“Having been on council before, it gave me a lot of insight into how the city functions and sometimes doesn’t function,” Bender said. “Hopefully, we can make that all work a little bit better than it has been.”

For his entire 16-year tenure as mayor, Tom Henry has worked with Hines and Didier as staples on the city council. He said Hines’ flexibility as a legislator will always stand out to him.

“At times, he and I would not see eye to eye,” Henry said. “But we were able to, a lot of the times, put our own personal feelings aside and do what we thought was best for the community.”

Henry said Didier’s calm demeanor is something council members should emulate.

“Councilman Didier was very even-keel throughout his 20 years on council,” Henry said. “You didn’t see Tom get real anxious or get real excited, visibly, about certain issues.”

Republican Second District Councilman Russ Jehl said the council can continue to operate with a bipartisan approach thanks to Didier and Hines.

“Councilman Hines and Councilman Didier set an example for all of us of how you can be of different parties but still work together to get things done and work for the betterment of the city,” Jehl said.

Hines said he’s done running for office and that at least for 2024, he’s done with public service.

“I don’t know what’s in my future,” Hines said. “I just know in 2024, no. 2024, I promised my wife and my kids that I’d dedicate it to just chilling, so to speak, and I’ve told every board that’s asked me no.”

After losing the mayor’s race by less than ten percentage points, Didier said he might run for office again.

“It’s a tall tale in regards to which way I’m going to go,” Didier said. “I saved my political signs from the mayor’s race, and I’ve got them in storage. So, we’ll just have to wait and see. I will do everything I can in the future to help the community, and I hope they call me and tell me and encourage me to do the right thing for the City of Fort Wayne and the County of Allen over the course of the next four years to see where I’m supposed to go.”

Didier said he’d consider running for a county or statewide office in 2024, but he said it’s more likely he will take the year off and possibly take a vacation before deciding on his political future.

The current Fort Wayne City Council term began January 2.

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