Experienced councilman, newcomer fighting for equality want District 6 seat

One Greenwood City Council race pins an experienced councilman whose top priority is alleviating road and traffic issues in his district against a young newcomer who is fighting for affordable housing and equal treatment for all Greenwood residents.

Republican incumbent Dave Lekse and Democrat Kyle Swain want the District 6 seat on the nine-member council. The winner will join the other five district council members and three at-large members and set annual spending for the city, make policy changes, adopt new local rules and ordinances, approve new taxes and appoint members to various city boards.

District 6 covers the southwest side of the city — mostly established neighborhoods and farmland — and includes Greenwood Community Schools, the high school and middle school. The council member for that district represents residents who live between U.S. 31 and Honey Creek Road, from Smith Valley Road to County Road 750N. It extends to Greenwood’s southern border between Averitt and Honey Creek roads.

Both candidates are long-time Greenwood residents. Swain has lived in the area his entire life and is a graduate of Center Grove High School. Lekse is an attorney who owns a private practice in the city, and often represents small businesses and real estate developers.

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Swain works in the aerospace industry as an international account manager and repair coordinator. He said he is running to fill a void.

“I felt like there were a lot of people in the district that felt like they weren’t represented, and they needed to be,” Swain said.

His priorities include removing what he calls onerous housing requirements that increase prices arbitrarily and prevent development, supporting the comprehensive plan with walk-able amenities and mixed-use zones, supporting already successful commissions built in Columbus and Zionsville that assist veterans, LGBTQ and new residents and supporting police and firefighters, he said.

Lekse’s priorities focus primarily on road improvements and traffic congestion in his district and throughout the city.

"Part of that includes better managing our growth. I’ve been opposed to high-density housing projects that would have added a lot of traffic,” Lekse said. “Whenever I vote, I have Greenwood’s current residents in mind, above and beyond. I always ask myself, what do current citizens prefer?

The city’s plans for fixing that seems to be a little bit slower than its plans for development. You can’t have a growth-at-any-cost approach. We should only grow if they’ll (the businesses) will be advantageous to us.”

How the area east of the Interstate 65 and Worthsville Road interchange should be developed is a hot topic in Greenwood with potential development and rezoning proposals coming before the council regularly.

“I fall in the category of council members who want to keep warehouses north of Worthsville road, closer to Main Street, and try to keep Worthsville Road commercial and residential,” Lekse said.

He does not support most speculative projects, and would continue that trend if he is elected to serve another term, he said.

Beyond District 6 and southeast Greenwood, downtown redevelopment efforts have also been a hot topic lately. Lekse is extremely supportive of the city’s plans for the fieldhouse and more recreational areas, but says how the rest of that property is built out should be left to developers to decide.

The city is in the process of soliciting bids for development of the former middle school property just south of the city’s core.

Redevelopment of the former middle school property is part of the years-long $24.5 million plan from Myers to revitalize downtown. 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.

The 523 South Madison Master Plan, as they’re calling it, also calls for a four-story parking garage with 256 spaces, 110 parking spaces at other buildings, 39 parking spaces at the fieldhouse, 180 public parking spaces at Our Lady of the Greenwood Church and 56 additional street parking spaces on Madison Avenue and Meridian Street.

“The design for the (fieldhouse) was beautiful. The rest of it is more of a template; it is a little bit out of our control and relies pretty heavily on developers,” Lekse said.

Swain likes what the city is shooting for in its conceptual plans for the former middle school property, but says residents should have a say in how that property is developed, and he would like to see more evidence that it could actually work. Many sitting and seeking council members have raised concerns about whether the area’s infrastructure can handle what has been proposed there.

Swain is definitely not supportive of warehouses next to neighborhoods, and would oppose any that come before the council, he said. He wants to protect his hometown from looking sterile and dry. He is not entirely opposed to tax abatements, but believes they should be used as a tool appropriately, he said.

The city’s biggest issue — crisis even — is a lack of affordable housing, Swain said. He and other democrats seeking spots on the city council have said the city’s stringent housing codes make it hard for builders to construct affordable homes in the city.

The cheapest new construction home on Tuesday in Greenwood hovered around $200,000, whereas the cheapest new construction home in Indianapolis was about $155,000, according to realtor.com.

Another focus of Swain’s if he were to win the District 6 seat would be establishing city commissions that’s primary focus would be protecting specific groups of residents, such as veterans and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. 

Other similarly sized cities, such as Columbus and Zionsville, have similar commissions, he said.

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Name: Dave Lekse

Party: Republican

Age: 50

Family: Wife, Denise; 2 adult sons

Occupation: Private practice attorney; former CPA

Education: Danville Community High School; accounting degree from University of Indianapolis; law degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis

Political experience: Greenwood City Council since Nov. 2015

Memberships: Our Lady of the Greenwood; Knights of Columbus

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Name: Kyle Swain

Party: Democrat

Age: 27

Family: Wife, Yessenia

Occupation: International account manager and repair coordinator at Airtomic

Education: Center Grove High School; bachelor’s degree, Indiana University

Political experience: None

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Greenwood City Council District 6

Term: Four years

Pay: $12,612 per year

Duties: Set annual spending for the city, make policy changes, adopt new local rules and ordinances, approve new taxes, appoint members to various city boards.

District 6: Represents the southwest side of the city, including Greenwood Community Schools, the high school and middle school, between U.S. 31 and Honey Creek Road from Smith Valley Road to County Road 750N. It extends to Greenwood’s southern border between Averitt and Honey Creek roads.