Two running for FUN Township’s Needham seat

Two candidates are on the ballot for the Needham Township seat on the Franklin Union Needham Township Board.

The township board in Indiana’s first merged township is composed of a member from each of the townships. The township board advises the township trustee on budgetary matters and helps execute the township government duties including providing aid to the indigent, fire protection and cemetery maintenance.

The seat for Needham Township is currently held by Tara Payne, who was chosen by the former Needham township board to represent the township on the merged board. Payne, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Rhonda Mathes.

Each seat on the three-member FUN township board is opposed this year, with one Democrat and one Republican in each race.

The Daily Journal emailed questions to each township board candidate about their experience and goals for the office. With some edits for grammar and formatting, here are the responses we received from Needham Township candidates:

What drew you to run for this office?

Mathes: I’m running because I’m a concerned citizen and want to give voters a choice on the ballot.

Payne: I was born an advocate. My entire life, I have gravitated toward positions that include advocacy. In my current role as chief of staff, I advocate for the city of Franklin. As a wife and mother, I advocate for my family. I serve on several boards in the city that advocate for our community. I am heavily involved in mission work with Victory Christian Church because I love to serve others. I have a degree in social work because I wanted to gain the necessary skills to advocate for others professionally and properly assist people with needs. Holding this office allows me to use my education and skillset to assist our community.

What qualifications for you have for this office?

Mathes: I’m qualified to bring a new perspective and different ideas to the role.

Payne: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Indiana University. As chief of staff for the city of Franklin, I have an in-depth knowledge of the needs and resources of our community. I have also served on the Needham Township Advisory Board, later merged and called the FUN Township Board, since 2018.

What, to you, are the most important duties of this office?

Mathes: The most important duty of this office is providing emergency services to those who need it most.

Payne: The most important duty is assisting residents with all basic necessities. When clients come to us, they have exhausted most of their options, and we must help them get on their feet and live independently. Housing, bills, food, clothing, medical, school supplies, et cetera are just a few of the needs we focus on fulfilling.

What are the most pressing issues facing the township, if there are any?

Mathes: The most pressing issue facing this office is providing emergency services to the people in our community who need it most.

Payne: I would say housing is the most pressing issue right now in our township. We are currently working on a plan to implement transitional housing for people in crisis.

What are your top three priorities and how will you execute those?:

Mathes: Didn’t provide an answer.

Payne: Firstly, seeing that housing is a pressing issue, I am currently working with Lydia Wales, township trustee, on a plan to implement transitional housing for clients in crisis.

Secondly, I would like to see us partner with community members to serve as life coaches for our clients. We could identify an area of interest and find a community member to help lead them in that area of interest. Example: a young person interested in cars and how they work – someone from a local car dealership or mechanic would take them under their wing to provide training and employment. We could get a spreadsheet of individuals in different industries of our community to reach out to.

Thirdly, I would like to build on the Baby Box funding by identifying an annual project that would benefit the community while serving underrepresented individuals. The Baby Box is a perfect example of thinking “outside of the box” and providing a service to individuals in need.

Do you think people are aware of township services? What ideas do you have to raise awareness?

Mathes: Didn’t provide an answer.

Payne: Yes, I know people are aware because we stay very busy. By continuing to think “outside of the box,” we will grow our services and help the rising numbers of clients in our community.

What else would you like to say to voters?

Mathes: My message to voters is to get out there and vote; our democracy depends on it.

Payne: I am not seeking this position to hold a political office. I am seeking this position because it is my life’s passion, and I want to serve our community. People and their welfare have always been a priority.

The Mathes File

Name: Rhonda Mathes

Party: Democrat

Age: Didn’t provide

Family: Married, five children

Occupation: Didn’t provide

Educational background: Didn’t provide

Political experience: Precinct committee person

Memberships: Volunteer with Johnson County Democrats

The Payne File

Name: Tara Payne

Party: Republican

Age: 42

Family: Husband Matthew, two children

Occupation: Chief of staff, Franklin mayor’s office

Educational background: Franklin Community High School, IUPUI

Political experience: Needham Township Board, Franklin Union Needham Township Board

Memberships: Franklin Education Connection, board member; Franklin Community Schools, communications committee; Discover Downtown Franklin, promotions committee; Journey Fellowship alumna, Leadership Johnson County alumna, Elk’s Lodge No. 1818