Editor’s note: Republican Melinda Griesemer is one of four candidates for three at-large seats on the Johnson County Council. See Where They Stand interviews with Republican candidates Ron Deer and John Myers, and Democrat Amanda Stevenson-Holmes throughout the week, and be sure to visit dailyjournal.net for videos of these interviews. The Q&A below includes answers by Griesemer in her own words.
What experience and qualities make you a good choice for Johnson County Council, and why are you running?
I have the most experience within the county working with the county’s opioid crisis. I have my degree in finance and I have my own business in Johnson County. So I am very vested in this county.
What are the top three issues facing the county right now?
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We have an obligation in our county to ensure law and order. Our county does well. We handle crime well here and we have great medical facilities. We have a lot to offer. But as a county, we always have to be vigilant to continue with maintaining that. We don’t want the spillover effects from the county north of us. We want to keep Johnson County the wonderful county that it is.
Small business support; we need to ensure that small businesses in Johnson County return back to the pre-COVID-19 status. We need to make sure (small businesses) have the support they need to return to that. Small businesses are a major employer in our county. We have many people who drive into our county for various jobs.
Infrastructure support; we need to ensure that our roads are prepared and are expanded to accommodate increased growth and traffic and ease commutes. It also helps to ensure that our county keeps the pace and lifestyle that we have been fortunate to have for so many years.
The council will be faced with budget shortfalls in the coming years, financial experts say. What would your priorities be for spending cuts?
I definitely would not cut anything when it comes to law and order and giving our police force the support they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently for our county and residents.
I would not be putting county money into a new library as (the council has) voted to do. Our county has wonderful libraries and we are not hurting for another one. Our county does not need to take on the liability and maintenance of another building when we have other library buildings that need to be updated and brought to code.
I would say scale back on special projects, and if we must put money somewhere we need to make sure our current buildings are up to code.
Do you believe the county needs any new taxes or tax increases, and if so, what would it pay for?
At this point in time, as a county, I don’t think we should be talking about tax increases since we have come off of COVID-19. The uniqueness and specialness of what we have just had (means) we need to work harder to be more efficient with what we have. Any tax increase we are forced to do should be done with the minimum in mind. Raise just enough money and no more. We have that obligation to our citizens.
Do you agree or disagree with the vote to raise taxes to help build a new Clark-Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library? Would you have voted for the tax increase for the $8 million project after voters turned down a much larger ($30 million project) tax increase for the library in a 2012 referendum?
I disagree with the tax increase for the library in Whiteland. The residents of the county voted on the (2012) referendum and said they didn’t want any new library buildings.
For the library, the council raised taxes with three of seven council members voting yes; two were absent. Do you think there should be a higher threshold for a vote to raise taxes?
All votes (should have) the agreement of the majority of the council, not the majority that is present at that meeting. The council should wait to vote on any tax increases until everyone is present.
What are your thoughts on the jail expansion, and was that a worthy tax increase?
That has been an ongoing issue … for many years. That’s a necessary tax increase. There was no way around that one. We had an obligation to (the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office) and law enforcement to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs.
How should the county fund jail staff increases that will stem from the jail expansion?
I am not for tax increases but I do understand there have to be increases sometimes. We will have to take that on a case by case basis. Coming off of COVID-19, we need to preserve what we have. Next year, if it is deemed we have to do that we will have to do that.
A recent salary study revealed that several county employees and elected officials are underpaid. Would making employee pay more competitive be a priority for you?
Employee pay is important. These individuals support our community and our schools. At this point in time, because of COVID-19, there are a lot of private businesses that are not giving their employees raises, and that would have to be evaluated. We do need to be competitive but they do not need to outpace the private sector. The government is here to serve the people.
County council members make about $7,000 less than average, would you vote to raise your own salary?
Absolutely not. I believe working for the county council is to be an act of service and an honor. I would never vote for myself to have a raise just to keep up with another county. I would be fine with the pay rate as it is.
Road funding is an issue facing all local governments. What should the county do to make sure there is enough funding for roads?
The rural parts of our county and the roads need to be addressed as needed. At this point, if it is deemed next year that we have to do some road work, we may have to do that. It is a case by case basis. If we have some bridges that need maintenance, we might need to move some money around.
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Name: Melinda Griesemer
Family: Adult daughter
Occupation: Owner/Director of Indianapolis Medical Consulting
Education: Purdue University, 1993 and 2017
Memberships: National Rifle Association, Mary Bryan Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, Johnson County Republican Women
Military Experience: None
Political experience: Ran in 2019 caucus to replace Rep. David Frizzell in Indiana House District 93; precinct committeeperson; state convention delegate