Sherry, Fortwendel seek re-election to county commissioner seats

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By Vince Luecke

PERRY COUNTY - Incumbent Perry County Commissioners Don Sherry and Jody Fortwendel filed last week for re-election to their respective seats. The two Democrats will be on their party's ballot in the May 6 primary.

Sherry is seeking a second term in District 1 while Fortwendel is running for a fourth term in District 3. District 1 covers all of Troy Township while Clark, Anderson and Oil townships form District 3.

Candidates must live in their district but are voted upon by all voters in the county.

Sherry said he has enjoyed his first three years as commissioner and believes county leaders have worked hard as a team to control spending and prepare the county for a brighter future.

"I'm especially proud that we have been able to hold the line on spending," Sherry said Tuesday, saying he has tried to be mindful that property owners feel the impact of increased spending.

While other counties have looked to higher property taxes as a way to pay for new or expanded services, Perry County has avoided seeking new money from local taxpayers, Sherry said. However, the county likely faces more lean times ahead, he said, with state leaders considering limits on property taxes on residential and commercial property.

Sherry said the county has made strides in planning for growth in northern areas, in particular the Indiana 37 corridor. One goal in coming years, he said, is to extend infrastructure - in particular sewers - to Interstate 64.

"The only real way to ease the tax burden on homeowners is to expand the tax base," Sherry said, explaining that additional commercial investment in those areas will bring in new revenue and help shift the burden away from residential taxpayers.

Other accomplishments Sherry said he is proud to have had a hand in during his first term were the appointment of a company to provide medical care to jail inmates and the employment of veterans-services officer Wayne Hubert, who Sherry said is doing an outstanding job for the county.

A resident of Perry County for more than 20 years, Sherry is secretary of the county's Democratic Central Committee and served as a Perry County delegate to the Indiana Democratic Convention for the past two presidential elections.

He is currently seated on the board of directors for the Perry County Development Corporation, Perry County Recycling District, Indiana Region 15 Planning Commission, and the Southern Seven Workforce Investment.

Sherry is employed as a representative of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and serves as an Indiana AFL-CIO wage setter.

Fortwendel Seeks Re-election

Elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2000 and 2004, Fortwendel said county leaders realize they must work as a team to achieve goals.

As commissioner, Fortwendel said he has supported road projects and a veterans-services officer. He is also proud of the county's support of the Perry County Animal Shelter and that group's efforts to construct a new shelter in Cannelton.

"All of those people worked hard and need to be commended for raising the funds to get the shelter built," Fortwendel said Tuesday. County leaders followed with the appointment of an animal-control officer.

An important next step, he said, is approving ordinances that will give the officer more authority to handle animal-related cases.

Fortwendel praised the work of Paul Alvey, director of the Perry County Recycling District, and County Highway Superintendent Ed Feix. "Both of those people do an excellent job for all of us," Fortwendel said.

As a commissioner, he is a member of the recycling-district board and said Alvey and other district employees have improved the district's finances while meeting their mandate of promoting recycling.

New bridges, including a new Huffman Mill span and another replacing the Dewey Burton Bridge, have served residents well. The new Huffman bridge over the Anderson River "has helped open up the western part of the county," he said.

The covered bridge, saved for its historic value, could not support heavy or wide loads.

Recent projects such as development of the overlook near the Cannelton Locks and Dam and the county highway garage and secondary rescue-squad building have been successes, he said.

Fortwendel, who is a self-employed barber, echoed words by Sherry on the financial challenges facing local officials. Major Moves money the county received the past two years are drying up, Fortwendel said, and many counties don't have other sources of state support to fund road improvements.

Also important to the county's future growth, he said, are new rural water lines and the continuing effort to grow the local job base to ensure jobs are available, and to boost the tax base so homeowners don't have to bear so much of a burden.