Six candidates are squaring off during this general election to fill three seats on the White River Township Board.
Current board members Dick Huber, Margaret (Peggy) Young and David Pollard — all Republicans — face Democrats Elisa Horne, Robert Pribush and Trisha Phillips for the available seats.
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. Board members serve four-year terms.
The Daily Journal emailed questions to each township board candidate about their experience and goals for the office. Young, Huber and Pollard did not submit answers by deadline. With some edits for grammar and formatting, here are the responses we received from White River Township candidates:
What drew you to run for this office?
Horne: The opportunity to serve in my community.
Phillips: I decided that I can make the biggest impact at the local level as opposed to getting involved at the national level. This office is (effectively) non-partisan and focuses on providing direct help to people in our communities.
Pribush: As a 33-year resident of White River Township, I have come to realize the strengths and weaknesses of living in an unincorporated area and wish to apply some of my ideas for improving an already excellent place to live.
What qualifications do you have for this office?
Horne: I am a longstanding, active community member who sincerely cares for White River Township.
Phillips: I’m an American and I want to help people. Isn’t that how all politicians get started, because they want to make a difference in the world?
Pribush: Being a long-time councilor in the American Chemical Society is much like being a member of the House of Representatives. Each is an elective body that represents its constituents to improve their lives. In my capacity as councilor, I have learned that understanding the needs of the people you represent is the key factor in developing programs to help them and, as White River Township board member, I believe I can apply my organizational skills to make the board more effective in serving the citizens of White River Township. My co-chair position with Braver Angels, a national organization that seeks to reduce polarization in the United States, has enabled me to efficiently find bipartisan common ground on which to build a sound environment for the betterment of the entire community. Likewise, my work with the Center for Faith and Vocation has shown that people from very different traditions do indeed have common values on which to build a strong community that serves all citizens.
What, to you, are the most important duties of this office?
Horne: Accountability, transparency and prioritizing providing emergency assistance to our community in times of need.
Phillips: In my opinion, the most important part of this job is helping individuals when they experience hardships. There are so many people in our local community that struggle with day-to-day expenses and need emergency help to keep them from being kicked out of their homes, or having their utilities shut off for non-payment. As someone who was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs while putting herself through a doctoral program, I know how easy it is for something to happen (like an unexpected car repair) that can literally put you in the situation of deciding, do I pay rent, get my car fixed or buy food?
Pribush: The board has had a focus on helping those residents who are experiencing temporary hardship and maintaining cemeteries. I would devote my efforts in helping my fellow citizens with the greatest needs.
What are the most pressing issues facing the township, if there are any?
Horne: We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful community, but we do have needs being unmet, including spending funds allocated for emergency assistance.
Phillips: Almost no money that is put aside for assistance is utilized by the current trustee. That money should be going to help people in the community. I think at the end of each fiscal year that all the money the trustee’s office has been allocated should be spent. Why are they rolling over money year after year and not helping individuals in the community that request help?
Pribush: While the township has a number of pressing issues, the White River Township board is empowered to deal with the needs of those who have fallen on temporary hard times. COVID and economic pressures have impacted a larger number of our neighbors than usual, and the board can be effective in providing aid to our neighbors.
What are your top three priorities and how will you execute those?
Horne: First, being fiscally responsible. Second, fair distribution of township funds with full accountability. Third, actively serve all of our community in an equitable way.
Phillips: My top priority is to determine what applications have been submitted by people requesting assistance and determine how we can best help them. We need to determine what community services are available and partner with them to help raise awareness that help is available in the community. Lastly, I want to change the current perspective of the community that the trustee’s office doesn’t actually do anything. How are we going to do that? Well, by actually getting out into the community and talk to people. I know, sounds crazy, but as an elected official, we should be reaching out and making sure the community’s needs are being met and if they aren’t, how can the trustee’s office help?
Pribush: First, establish more effective board channels of communication to better inform those in need of the relief that is available to them. Second, create regular board meetings at times that the people of White River Township can attend to provide input about community needs. Third, have a board strategic planning session that includes a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to determine how the board might better serve the needs of the community.
Do you think people are aware of township services? Do you have any ideas to raise awareness?
Horne: Some residents may not be fully aware that this position does not follow a party line or position, but that it solely is about White River Township. A great start for raising awareness would be to keep the website and social media current as well as welcoming the community to attend and participate in township meetings.
Phillips: No I do not. That is one of the things that we really need to focus on, getting awareness out there. I think partnering with other agencies, going out into the community and talking about what the trustee offers will go a long way in raising awareness.
Pribush: I think there is a lack of general awareness of township services. Timely communication in multiple media sources is key. Some of my ideas are expressed in my top three priorities.
What else would you like to say to voters?
Horne: I would be honored to serve this community that has given much to my family over the last 18 years.
Phillips: This is a (largely) non-partisan position. The trustee’s office does not make legislation or enforce legislation. The main responsibilities are poor relief and making sure the cemeteries are kept up. With that being said, please take a moment and decide who would do the best job when you vote. I know it’s a long shot being a Democrat in Johnson County, but if you look at the Democratic agenda, helping the underserved in our communities is what the Democrats do best!
Pribush: The White River Township Board deals with nonpartisan issues that require broad-based representation to be effective. I believe I can provide the board with new ideas and energy that will enhance board effectiveness.
The Horne File
Name: Elisa Horne
Family: Spouse, Mark; two children
Occupation: Registered nurse, Community Health Network
Educational background: Yosemite High School, Oakhurst, Calif.; Ivy Tech Community College
Political experience: Ran for Center Grove School Board, 2014
The Phillips File
Name: Trisha Phillips
Family: Spouse William Saillant; one stepdaughter
Occupation: Learning and development specialist, Old National Bank
Educational background: Wilton High School, Wilton, Iowa; bachelor’s degree, University of Northern Iowa; master’s degree, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey
Political experience: None
The Pribush File
Name: Robert Pribush
Family: Spouse, Bonnie; four children
Occupation: Retired chemistry professor, Butler University
Educational background: Rahway High School, Rahway, New Jersey; bachelor’s degree, University of Delaware; doctorate, University of Massachusetts; postdoctoral fellow, University of Southern California
Political experience: None