Republican candidates for mayor outline priorities, differences

During the last seven years, the son of a former mayor helped revive downtown Greenwood by working to fill vacant storefronts, beautifying facades and improving city streets.

He added jobs, attracted Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon to the outskirts of the growing city and built a staff he raves about.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers wants to continue his family’s legacy and that progress, and see the redevelopment of the former middle school property through to completion, he said.

His opponent on the Republican ballot in the May primary is an outspoken voice at public meetings and a long-time Greenwood resident who wants to return the rapidly changing city to its former glory in a fight for free enterprise.

He is against tax breaks and TIF districts, and said that city leaders are spending taxpayer dollars irresponsibly, which is the No. 1 reason he’s running for mayor. He promises significant administrative changes if he wins the seat.

Dale Marmaduke wants to be mayor of Greenwood because he is disappointed in the city’s direction, and said its top leadership position needs a fresh face, one that doesn’t stem from a bloodline of politicians, he said.

Whoever wins the seat in the upcoming primary election will advance to the November election. No Democrats filed for the office, but the party could slate a candidate to fill the vacancy on the fall ballot. Although an Independent has expressed interest, according to the county’s voter registration office, no one has filed paperwork.

Myers ran unopposed in the last two municipal elections.

Future growth

Having grown up in Greenwood, Myers remembers a thriving downtown.

Ever since he took office in 2012, his goal has been to bring that vision of a vibrant downtown back to life. When he took office, nearly 75 percent of the city’s downtown buildings were vacant and deteriorating.

“We’ve done all this work to redo Old Town. Downtown is about 95 percent occupied, and now we get to see the (former) middle school property get developed. To see all of that happen is really exciting, and I want to be right there continuing to be a part of that to make sure that moves forward,” Myers said.

Redevelopment of the 16-acre middle school property is part of the mayor’s years-long $24.5 million plan to turn downtown Greenwood into a place to live, work and play. His hope is the area will eventually be home to more than 580 apartments and townhouses, 75,000 square feet of retail shops, restaurants and office space, 9.9 acres of open green space and include 1.9 miles of new or renovated streets.

He has said he wants all of that to take shape in the next five years.

But Marmaduke has a different plan for downtown, one that doesn’t include a vision of his own. That property, which is already being demolished, deserves a free market run, he said.

“It shouldn’t just be the mayor’s dream, or a public relations company’s dream. It should be based on reality and what is really possible without the rest of the taxpayers paying for that development,” Marmaduke said.

“That isn’t reality. That’s somebody dreaming up what we could do,” he continued. “Probably, if I ran it through the numbers as an accountant, I would say, ‘Wow, you’ve got the gymnasium there and you’re right across from the park. Wouldn’t we be able to save a lot of money for the city and enhance the experience for the citizens if we just made that the rest of (Craig Park)?’”

Myers and Marmaduke also have different ideas about how southeast Greenwood should take shape.

Myers is open to industrial development in that area as long as it is attractive and brings new jobs, he said.

All along, the idea has been to make southeast Greenwood a self-sustaining neighborhood, with a gas station, strip mall, grocery store and restaurants, Myers said, and he would still like to see that pan out. He wants to see the mixed-use development the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan calls for — multi-family and commercial right off the interstate followed by single-family homes to the east and higher-end estate-level homes farther out.

Myers would consider light industrial near the interchange depending on the look of the building, he said.

Marmaduke wants to see that area as it was originally zoned, for mixed-use development, but mostly residential, he said.

When Greenwood decided to pursue the new interchange, the idea was to make it a new gateway to the city.

“This idea of a new gateway … what happened to that? We ended up with a Circle K in the middle of a neighborhood despite what the people who live in the area wanted,” Marmaduke said.

“I’m all for free enterprise and for people to use their property as they want. But I also realize that you can’t let something that’s going to be an eyesore and decrease everybody around you for the next 60 years. Nobody wants to live next to a four-story warehouse. We have an area set aside for warehouses.”

Spending taxpayer dollars

It is the mayor’s job to determine the most economically friendly ways to spend taxpayer dollars, and find creative ways to fund projects and expenses. Myers said he has done that.

He has lobbied in Washington D.C. for federal grants, and pushed for a 1 percent food and beverage tax the last six years in an effort to add more police officers and firefighters, he said.

“I know it’s controversial, but it’s a must. We have to look at different avenues to bring funds into the community to keep our public safe and to keep our infrastructure up,” Myers said.

The city also has to set aside land for large corporations, which includes warehouses. Doing so brings to the city more jobs and tax dollars, which is what allows Greenwood to continue to grow, Myers said.

As the TIF districts end, businesses are going to pay property taxes into the city’s general fund, which covers expenses such as the city’s police and fire departments, which are struggling to keep up with the city’s rapid growth.

A lot of times, the city must spend money to make money, he has argued.

Myers has been lean, he said, specifically when it comes to the city’s automotive expenses.

Instead of paying high maintenance costs on old vehicles, the city has all of its cars on a five-year rotation schedule which keeps those maintenance costs low and improves fuel economy, he said.

Marmaduke says, in order to save money, the city should just get rid of the mayor’s vehicle.

“Elect me for mayor and I will give back to the city and taxpayers the mayor-mobile — a luxury SUV that doesn’t even have the City of Greenwood stamped on the side of it,” Marmaduke said.

Myers drives a city-funded 2015 Chevy Tahoe.

Other ways Marmaduke says the city could save money are getting rid of the public relations firm it paid more than $115,000 last year, and no longer outsourcing work. The city has a $60,000 annual contract with Hirons, an Indianapolis-based advertising agency, in addition to paying a strategic marketing and community relations employee more than $57,000 a year.

“We need city employees who will actually do their job instead of thinking that their job is to consult with others,” Marmaduke said.

The city should not need a food and beverage tax to pay for more police and fire. It needs someone who is willing to rearrange the budget, make tough cuts and better prioritize how the city spends its money.

Myers does not see things the way an average citizen sees them, Marmaduke said.

“I’m out there in the public. I’m somebody who actually works in the public,” Marmaduke said.

“Government people, who have always worked in government, think government is always the answer. Policemen believe police actions are the answer. And as a citizen, working in the private sector, we believe that the answer is free enterprise, not socialized business.”

The voice for the people

If you asked Marmaduke, he would say the city’s biggest issue is a lack of transparency. The citizens of Greenwood need and deserve better, he said.

“Under Mark Myers, we get things that are big in image but not necessarily big in substance,” Marmaduke said.

If he were to win the seat, he would publish all documents and contracts to the city’s website and run a blog, where he would regularly update residents who can’t make it to city meetings about what’s coming down the pipeline, including projects as they’re being considered, and even ideas that are just being tossed around, he said.

Myers argues the city is more transparent than most.

“Just take a look at our website,” he said. “It’s all right there.”

If Myers is elected to serve a third term, he plans to get out into the community more and mingle with the public. He said public safety is the No. 1 issue right now, and improving it has been at the top of his priority list since he took office seven years ago. But staffing for both departments has stayed virtually the same.

“As the city continues to grow, more tax dollars will come in, and more and more of that will start to go toward public safety,” Myers said.

“Greenwood is a great community with a great reputation. We are doing great things here right now and we’re continuing to drive that message home of pride and progress, and people get it.”

About the job

Greenwood Mayor

Term: Four years

Pay: $93,211 (2018)

Duties: Propose annual spending for the city and policy changes. Seek out new funding sources. Appoint community members to various city boards and leadership posts. Manage a large staff made up of police, fire, street workers, engineers, planners, lawyers, etc.

The Marmaduke File

Name: Dale Marmaduke

Age: 66

Family: 2 adult children

Occupation: Retired from Eli Lilly

Education: Greenwood Community High School; Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University; MBA from Indiana University

Military experience: United States Army, 1974-1976

Memberships: STEM volunteer at Westwood Elementary School

The Myers File

Name: Mark Myers

Age: 58

Family: Wife, Stacie; 6 adult children

Occupation: Greenwood mayor

Education: Greenwood Community High School

Political experience: Mayor, 2012-present; Johnson County coroner, 1992-1994

Memberships: Johnson County Fraternal Order of Police