Johnson County Council Democratic candidates share why they’re running, talk budget priorities

Four Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for three Johnson County Council at-large seats.

The candidates Michael Chiapetta, Blythe Potter, Saad Tawfeeq and Charrie Stambaugh. Voters will be asked to pick three of the four to face off against the three winners of the Republican county council primary in November’s general election.

The Daily Journal asked each Democratic candidate several questions for a candidate question-and-answer sessions and the following is the first of a two-part series. The second story is expected to publish Tuesday. Republican candidates were asked the same questions and their answers were published in a two-part series on Thursday and Friday.

Here is why the Democrats are running, along with their budget priorities and thoughts on new taxes, with editing for length, clarity, grammar and repetition.

Q: Why are you running for this office?

Chiapetta: Johnson County and Indiana … have given a lot to me. I always have been interested in giving back via politics. My interest is to be able to preserve and improve the quality of life in Johnson County. The county is in a really good spot now. But I lived in San Diego and saw what happened to it from ‘72 to ‘94. It’s still a great place, but some of the elements of its quality of life, of having all sorts of open space and being easygoing and just an overall very pleasant environment to be in, aren’t guaranteed and weren’t guaranteed. Now … you couldn’t tell the difference [between it and] Los Angeles. Johnson County is going to grow like crazy because it’s a great place to be. … How we guide that growth is going to preserve and improve our quality of life. If we don’t guide it in the right direction … it could become Paradise Lost.

Potter: It seems that so many things are being neglected that help the greater good — mostly infrastructure. I’d love to see more trails, more connectivity for pedestrians, bike lanes, faster repair of roadworks and safer intersections. We have really great nonprofit resources here, but we need more awareness of those, particularly for anyone experiencing homelessness, or needing help with rent and affordable housing. If nothing else, I want to just be able to plant seeds and ideas of what we could do with Johnson County. We’re one of the fastest-growing counties in the state — we’re not slowing down. We need to start taking care of the people who are here now and not just paying attention to the businesses and people who are coming in.

Stambaugh: I am running for this office because I know I can bring a moderate perspective to the table that benefits all people in our community. I’m a mom, a community volunteer, an entrepreneur, and someone educated in the world of federal, state and local funding, with a graduate degree in public health. I come from a multifaceted worldview. And I care about our county. I want to make sure everyone is heard, that their concerns are noted, and that common sense drives our policies, ordinances and budgetary allocations.

Tawfeeq: My family came here from Iraq. … I know what it means not to be safe and not to have equal rights and opportunity. Here in Johnson County, we have more of all those things than I did in Iraq, but we cannot take them for granted. We have to work every day to protect our rights and make sure that they are there for all our neighbors. … I am ready to take on a role where I can serve my entire community, I’ve been dreaming about this position since 2019. … Johnson County is my love, my community … I would take this job very seriously. It would be the highlight of my life to serve our community. I would attend every meeting. I would listen to every citizen. I could be available to hear your concerns. If elected, I will do my best to represent you as a Johnson County councilor. … To win this race, I know it’s really hard. … If we win or lose, we will work together — me and other Democratic candidates — to flip the seats to represent you and be your voice.

Q: What would be your top budget priorities if you’re elected?

Chiapetta: The Johnson County budget is $108 million. That’s a pretty sizable budget and it does a lot of good things. Whoever’s on the Johnson County Council is going to have priorities that cover 40% of that budget. We need to have good law enforcement — the sheriff and the detention facilities and that sort of stuff. We have to be sure that our county roads are in great shape. … Those are a given.

When you go down the budget, there are other priorities that I personally would like to investigate. One of which is health, county health. So when we got hit with the pandemic, it became very clear that our public health system was not ready for something like that. We really have to be focused and public support of health, including mental health.

The second one is what I call a subset of overall quality of life. So my platform is quality of life … And one [part of that is with] parks and recreation, trails and open space. … Right now, about 1.5% of our budget goes toward parks. … Also, we need a comprehensive park program. That includes where are we going to acquire land and where do we want to have our parks in Johnson County, how will we fund that in a way that isn’t going to sacrifice other priorities. That’s a real big deal for me.

Another is the environment. … As Johnson County grows, we’re going to have to be vigilant and be able to fund [environmental protection]. …. [We have to make sure] the environment in general is being preserved because we definitely don’t want to have happen what happened previously with [Amphenol in Franklin].

Potter: First, increasing pedestrian access and road repairs, poverty and homelessness. I’d also like to help support some of the nonprofits or make sure that people know how to find resources. Lake County has an excellent website [that provides] any resource you could want. In Johnson County, you’re fumbling to get through. Things like that would be cost-effective and maybe would mean fewer phone calls to people who are county employees. … Supporting things like domestic violence. ASSIST Indiana is right here in your backyard. They cover five counties, but how is Johnson County supporting these nonprofits that are supporting our social services if the county has not been physically paying for it? We’re relying on these nonprofits. …

We need to look at affordable housing … and tax abatements for large corporations; I think they need to stop. Companies need to be taxed appropriately because they are using our roads, our social services and they’re employing our community. They need to be giving back appropriately.

Stambaugh: In the 2024 adopted budget, highways make up a big portion — $25 million out of $108 million. Then comes the Board of Commissioners budget at $16 million, then firearms training, and [local income tax for] corrections and rehab for $9 million. All these things are necessary; they keep our county functioning and safe. But I saw six issues that need to be further investigated.

First is access to mental health services, paramedicine, public health programming for the most underserved populations. A solution is to identify deficiencies in public and mental health programming and apply for available funding.

Second is support for public safety professionals to reduce turnover and ensure their safety. My solution would be to look at each fire district and police department to see if each is adequately funded for staffing, equipment, pay/benefits and training.

Third is recidivism and substance use among recurring inmates in our jail system. A solution is to institute recidivism reduction programming for those recently released from incarceration.

Fourthly, address the lack of affordable housing for middle and low-income families and those in financial situations that prevent them from securing permanent, quality housing. A solution is to create a team that can liaise with housing specialists and MIBOR to ensure affordable housing options are available, corporate buy-outs are rare and discount/assistance programs are promoted.

Fifth, is the lack of pedestrian access, walkable spaces and connected routes on our local roads. A solution is to ensure local road construction and new buildout has walkability, pedestrian access points and connected routes.

Sixth is the lack of transparency among our current council and commissioners in their decision-making process including our county website, access to local resources, and decision-making processes and reasoning. The solution is to elect a Democrat who is willing to address these issues.

Tawfeeq: I promise that I will work hard to improve the incomes and benefits of our county. We have the resources in Johnson County to provide incredible pay and benefits to support our public employees and their families.

I will … empower our families to provide safe working conditions, opportunities and decent incomes. I will work for a safe and clean environment for good streets, roads and parks and schools for economic growth and opportunity for all our community. … We need to elect officials who will make that reality. We must make sure that we supply them with the best equipment and safety training so they can do their job with confidence.

Q: Do you think the county needs any new taxes?

Chiapetta: Nobody needs new taxes. … Just by the fact that there’s all of this housing going up, there’s going to be increased property taxes, I don’t believe that my first focus would be attempting to increase revenue by raising the taxes that are coming in from Johnson County, other than by organic growth.

Potter: One of the best things about living and working in Johnson County is low taxes. But it’s also one of the worst because then we’re not paying our cops or our emergency workers appropriately. We’re clearly not taking care of our roads and sidewalks. We’ve got this trail plan that’s amazing, but it was adopted in 2019 and we’ve done nothing with it. … I’d like to be able to get a hold of the budget and look at it and see like, ‘OK, where can we find grant money to help with some of this stuff?’ And ‘where can we repurpose these funds to fix or help with these areas?’ I don’t know if we need new taxes [yet] and luckily, I wouldn’t be the only one making that decision.

Stambaugh: Continuing to file an appeal with the [Indiana Department of Local Government Finance] as long as we qualify with increased [assesseed value] is a smart move for our county. According to our six-year, non-farm growth factor, we have grown faster than the state average and that’s our right and duty to request more appropriations back. However, to fully answer if the county needs new taxes, I want to spend some time with each department to identify any funding needs that aren’t being met. … There are a few areas of concern like the Statewide E-911 fund is out of balance by $600,000 and will need to come out of the general fund to cover it. We should find out where is the disconnect here and why are we lagging so greatly in such a much needed fund.

Tawfeeq: Of course not. We don’t need new taxes, we need new jobs. I will work hard for incredible pay and benefits to support our public employees and families.


Johnson County Council At-Large

Represents: Johnson County as a whole

Duties: Approving the county budget, including how many sheriff’s deputies will patrol the roads and how much should be spent on road projects. Approves any new or increased taxes.

Term: Four years

Pay: $11,978 a year (2024)

The Chiapetta File


Name: Michael F. Chiappetta

Age: 69

Residence: Bargersville

Family: Wife, Michele; one adult child

Occupation: Retired from Eli Lilly; worked as biochemist

Educational background: bachelor’s, Indiana University Bloomington; master’s and PHd, UC San Diego

Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Clark Township Board in 2022

Memberships: Purdue Extension Master Gardener, Volunteer with 913 Sports

Military Experience: None

The Potter File


Name: Blythe Potter

Age: 42

Residence: Bargersville

Family: Husband, Michael; three children

Occupation: Co-owner of Bargersville Wellness; massage therapist, aesthetician, yoga teacher

Educational background: Franklin Central High School; Siena Heights University, bachelor’s of science in Massage Therapy and MBA

Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Bargersville Town Council in 2023

Memberships: Leadership Johnson County graduate; member of various professional organizations, Center Grove Ambassadors and DEI Task Force, Aspire Johnson County and Greater Franklin Chamber of Commerce

Military service: Military Police with the USAR, deployed to Iraq 2005-06

The Stambaugh File


Name: Charrie Stambaugh

Age: 40

Residence: Greenwood

Family: Husband, Jason; three children, three adult step-children

Occupation: Photography business owner, formerly worked in non-profit and public health

Education: Southwood High School, Wabash; bachelor’s IUPUI; master’s of public health, IU School of Medicine; completed coursework toward MBA, Butler University

Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Greenwood City Council in 2023

Memberships: Greenwood Advisory Plan Commission member, Marketing Director for Johnson County Democrats, Campaign Manager for Valerie McCray for U.S. Senate, Cheer Director for Whiteland Youth Cheer

Military Experience: None

The Tawfeeq File


Name: Saad Tawfeeq

Age: 35

Residence: Greenwood

Family: Unmarried; no children

Occupation: Formerly employed in software industry

Education: GED

Political experience: First-time candidate

Memberships: None provided

Military Experience: None