Greater Martinsville Chamber of Commerce 

Mayoral Candidates’ Responses to Chamber Questionnaire

April, 2011


Dear Chamber Members and Members of our Community,

As we did four years ago for the last municipal primary election, the Greater Martinsville Chamber of Commerce has distributed a questionnaire to all of the candidates who are running for Mayor or City Council, requesting their thoughts on some of the concerns and challenges that Martinsville faces.  Our purpose is to initiate a conversation about some of the issues that are important to our membership and the community.  We don’t expect any one candidate to have all the answers but we appreciate candidate taking time to give us their thoughtful answers.


In this e-mail, we have shared the mayoral candidates’ responses.  You will receive the city council candidates’ responses in a subsequent e-mail and all of the responses will be available on our website, as well.


Please feel free to pass this e-mail on to other interested parties or to prospective chamber members.  Our chamber is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to you – our members, and to all the great work we are doing in the community.

Have a great day,


Mayoral Candidates 2011


Shannon Buskirk

Mayor Phil R. Deckard

Victor Spina

Danny Stewart


Shawn Hogan


How would you propose the administration and the community reach out to our youth in order to determine how we might allow them to be part of the decision making for their community and in turn, encourage them to raise their families here?




Shannon Buskirk: Inviting the Student Council and Martinsville area church youth groups to all City public meetings would be a great start in including young people and getting them involved in local government.  Allowing them to express their concerns and offer their suggestions and ideas could result in positive changes that they would want to remain a part of the community.



Mayor Phil R. Deckard: I think the Mayor and City Administration must be available at all times in meeting with our school system to discuss needs of youth within the community.  IN addition, the Mayor must be available, at all times, to meet with various youth groups, both those affiliated with the school system as well as other groups with community sponsorship…in hearing their “wants” as well as their “needs” to be more productive and have a part in determining goals best suited for our youth.  While Indiana statutes dictate who is entitled to serve as legal representatives (City Council) for any community and ultimately, responsible for making community decisions, our youth can often be useful to the community by serving on study groups, etc. that give input and advice to those in a position of making decisions.  My administration has been vocal in advocating that members of the “youth” of our community are always welcome to visit with the Mayor and offer any suggestions, ideas or problems affecting their lives and ideas to make it work better, whether it’s on a temporary basis or, ideas that will serve future generations.


As a result of willingness to work with our youth, listening to their requests and exploring their needs and wants within the community, this Mayor has just entered into an agreement with the Baseball/softball organization to assist in improving our sporting complex with the addition of new playground equipment, as well as installing a new “skateboard park” that has been sought after for quite some time.




Danny Stewart: I believe the best way to ask them what improvements they would like to see is to offer them a survey at the high school asking them what they would like to see. We offer many opportunities for elementary and middle school children but seem to have forgotten our high school level children. Thus, for them, there is little or nothing here either recreationally or economically that would encourage them to want to stay.



Shawn Hogan: I believe the student council should be contacted and given a series of questions on an open forum as to what they think they can do for the city, not only at high school level but at middle school. School pride no longer exists as an entire group. Sports and certain activities, there is pride but not at full potential. As city leaders we must respect the youth to gain their respect and make no false promises.



What are your thoughts on how the city might work in collaboration with the schools, other agencies, and the faith-based community to explore programs that are currently being used to the benefit of our youth and other programs and activities that would be beneficial to our younger generation?




Shannon Buskirk: Return the DARE or a like program to the schools.  This puts a police officer back in the classroom and allows positive interaction between the students and law enforcement.  This also builds trust in our young people who may need someone to confide in during a time of crisis.


I believe officer instructed programs to assist parents in recognizing the early signs of drug abuse and depression in their students and how bullying could be effecting them would be beneficial and appreciated.  Programs such as this are being undertaken in certain communities in Indiana and are very successful.


Martinsville is fortunate to have many churches with strong youth groups.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: Again, the Mayor and administration must be available, at all times, to work together with these groups to explore all avenues that will benefit our younger generation.  We must be open to new ideas, new suggestions and new methods for making it happen with proper planning.




Danny Stewart: Again, we offer many opportunities to elementary and middle school aged children, but appear to want to police the high school aged children more than we are willing to let them be kids. However, I would reject the idea that we would need any sort of special interest program for our high school aged youth.




Shawn Hogan: If the city is going to help all of the various organizations, the organizations themselves must come together with common goals that will reach out to all and then the city and organizations can come together to achieve realistic goals to benefit the younger generations.




There are many active groups of volunteers who have partnered with the city to foster improvements in Martinsville, especially over the last few years.  Share with us some ways that the city might work with and support these organizations during the upcoming years.




Shannon Buskirk: During my administration, several church youth groups, businesses, civic organizations, and private individuals spent many hours making improvements throughout the City.  The improvements included painting fire hydrants, cleaning curbs, picking up trash, planting flowers and identifying areas of the City where new trees could be planted.  Some volunteers assisted area senior citizens with their home improvement and beautification projects.


Martinsville is blessed to have many community-minded individuals.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: We will continue working with various civic groups, individuals and church groups who have come together with a desire to make Martinsville a better place to live!  We support these groups who have come together to assist with trash removal, cleaning alleys and vacant lots, assist elderly residents with home repairs, grass and weed cutting and removal, and the newly added adoption of downtown city plots to provide landscaping and beautiful colorful flowers and plants for each season.  Our city workers have pledged to work hand in hand with these organizations for the betterment of our community!



Danny Stewart: I believe the best way with the exception of taking the lead in marketing and promoting the city is to simply get out of the way.




Shawn Hogan: Once again these organizations must come together and develop common realistic goals and help the city make permanent improvements.



Now that the City of Martinsville has prepared strategic economic development and comprehensive plans, as well as a downtown revitalization plan, what will you do to ensure their implementation?




Shannon Buskirk: It is crucial that the City work with the State of Indiana to locate any available funding to assist in carrying out these plans.

There is much work to be done, and I believe it is going to involve the appointment of several of our citizens to committees that have a genuine concern and the time to devote to our community to ensure these plans are carried out in order for them to be successful.  It is going to take more than just the mayor’s involvement.

Mayor Phil R. Deckard: The Mayor, and City Administration, have dedicated themselves to continue working with the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Martinsville Chamber of Commerce, Rediscover Martinsville, Morgan County Historical Preservation Society and all other groups formulated to promote a sound strategic economic development and comprehensive plan for our community.  We are actively engaged in regular meetings to ensure proper implementation of these plans by working in harmony with the Planning and Zoning Boards and the Martinsville City Council.




Danny Stewart: First we would pull the plans out of the drawer and place them on a table and choose an area to start on the improvements and mark off every area of completion until all areas have been completed. Second, we require those plans remain out in the open as a constant reminder of the goals we have set forth.


Shawn Hogan: Now that the city of Martinsville has finally prepared a strategic economic development and comprehensive plan and a separate downtown revitalization plan, the respective planning commissions must come together and prioritize the various aspects of the plans that are economically, financially, and responsibly all achievable and work the plans for a better future.



Many rural communities are recognizing their unique qualities as an economic opportunity for tourism and thereby creating jobs and new businesses through marketing these qualities. What part should City government play in the marketing and promotion of our community?




Shannon Buskirk: I believe the City has and is promoting the community by encouraging citizens to support the farmer’s market on the square during harvest time and the Fall Foliage Festival in October which gives area craftsmen and artists the opportunity to sell their wares.  There are many talented individuals in our community, and I have always considered them some of our greatest assets.


I would like to see the development of soccer fields on the 60+ acres the City purchased during my tenure and the addition of skateboard ramps where organized competitions could be held for our young people.  It would be an economic boost for local merchants and eateries when  visitors bring their families here for those competitions.


Martinsville is home to one of the finest candy stores in the midwest.  And, there are many activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting to be enjoyed in the rolling hills of the Morgan-Monroe state forest.

The potential is here for significant economic opportunities in addition to the fun and fellowship we would enjoy along the way. 


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: By continuing to work hand in hand with the Greater Martinsville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation, to ensure proper advertising and promotion of the many attractions and advantages that Martinsville has to offer families from all over the world.  We have to be actively “involved” in continually selling the City of Martinsville, IN.




Danny Stewart: I believe the city should make every effort possible to take the lead in the marketing and promotion of our city as I believe this would go a long way in fostering support from our citizens if they see that the city is making a consorted effort to improve our economic and recreational opportunities.



Shawn Hogan: That starts with the gateway program. We need to be highly visible with easy access and have the ability to cater to outside interests.



With the reduction of revenues from State and County sources, how do you view annexation and increased fees for services as a means to continue to fund the City’s increased need for capacity?




Shannon Buskirk: Annexation is very important to the City.  However, with the reduction in revenues, caution should be exercised when proceeding.  The City must be able to provide 24-hour police and fire protection in addition to infrastructure expansion, additional personnel, vehicles and equipment.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: Although revenues have been reduced from Federal, State and County, the same services MUST BE PROVIDED TO OUR RESIDENTS, regardless of the amount of money the city receives to operate on.  Annexation is important for any community that has a desire, and a need, to grow and expand.  Additional revenues generated from newly annexed areas will make possible extended and better services provided by the water and sewer utility, police and fire protection, as well as streets and sanitary services.  These added revenues will do nothing but help in providing these services.  And, in some instances, the added revenues could make possible the reduction of certain rates for services within the community.




Danny Stewart: I believe annexation of the surrounding areas would be beneficial for the city including the annexation of the Washington Township Fire Dept. However, I believe that we must first change the way we spend our current funds first. Two examples being the EDIT tax funds and the FOOD AND BEVERAGE tax funds. These should be spent economic and recreational development rather than used for standard operating costs.


As for the water and sewer departments, simply raising the rates to consumers will not change the disparity between the water and sewer rates. We need to figure out a new way calculate the rates so that the balance is closer to 60/40 or 55/45. Once we have figured out a reasonable balance that will keep most peoples water bills close to what they are now, then we can go to the IURC to ask them to allow us to put it into place. Otherwise, we will simply continue to borrow from one department to fund the other with little or no chance of paying back the funds.




Shawn Hogan: The reduction of revenues from the state and county services is going to be a continuous burden on our city for many years. We must accept this reality and work with efficiency to maintain required expansion with minimum burden on the residents of Martinsville.



One important criteria viewed by prospective employers in selecting a new business location is a well educated workforce. What activities would you facilitate to establish continuing education opportunities for our workforce and to foster an environment of lifelong learning?




Shannon Buskirk: The City should make every effort to attract trade schools and a post-secondary education institution to the area.  Prospective businesses and industries would consider them beneficial.

Mayor Phil R. Deckard: First of all, due to budget restraints, the City is not in the business of providing an ongoing workforce education for our residents.  This is the responsibility of our local and state educational institutions.  However, this continual educational process will not happen without the cooperation, and assistance, of our City Administration.  We must continually work with our schools, as well as existing employers, to help ensure these educational opportunities exist within the community and for the training of our citizens.  We are currently in conversation with representatives from Ivy Tech Community College (Bloomington/Indianapolis), Indiana, Butler and Ball State Universities to explore possibilities of providing educational classes that would be of present and future benefit to all residents of all ages.




Danny Stewart: I believe that we should invite and encourage either Ivy Tech or Vincennes University to establish a branch of their respective schools here. I also believe that we should ask them what they would require from us for them to do so and then make every effort at all possible speed to reach those accommodations. I also believe that this should be done out in the open so that our citizens can see that we are making every effort to improve the city and the lives of our citizens.




Shawn Hogan: We need to start at high school level and have professional business people teach a class for a week being doctors, nurses, lawyers, auto mechanic, auto body, motorcycles, etc. Then we need to get a facility for higher education (IU, Ivy Tech) so these future professionals will live here and raise their families here and start businesses here.


Statistics show that much of the economic growth comes from within a community, both through existing businesses and through entrepreneurs’ efforts.  What would be your plans to support these efforts and assist in the retention and growth of these companies?  How might we encourage an entrepreneurial atmosphere?




Shannon Buskirk: Upgrading the City’s water and sewer system was crucial and undertaken by my administration in preparation of the much needed growth.  Tax abatements would be another tool.  The City could also be of assistance in helping to locate real estate suitable for business and industry.  Continued infrastructure improvements are essential.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: As Mayor, my first concern is for the development and retention of existing businesses within our community.  We must encourage their growth in expansion and new ideas and be ready to assist in whatever way possible.  To encourage an entrepreneurial atmosphere, as well as provide assistance to existing businesses and industry, we have established a newly funded Economic Development Fund for the purpose of making financial assistance available to those needing assistance.  This same program would be available to new start up businesses as well.




Danny Stewart: Today, companies want more than just tax abatements. Many times they will negotiate the receiving of funds from a city as well as tax abatements. Take for example, the funds that have been set aside, I believe those funds should be used to offer one type of incentive to both local business people to expand as well as for attracting new businesses to our community. Often times, however, simply the restrictions put on a company will discourage growth, I believe that we must avoid this practice of too many restrictions.




Shawn Hogan: New businesses should be given incentives for starting in our city and businesses that expand their facility and the number of employees should also get certain incentives in order to maintain new and existing companies. The city will have to bend a little to gain a lot.




Areas to the East, West and South of the City have been identified as potential new business park sites. What actions should the city administration undertake to initiate the development of one or more of these sites, including infrastructure extension, purchase, tax incentives and zoning?  Once sites have been identified and prepared for marketing, what types of businesses do you believe should be approached as the City moves forward in developing a new economic base for growth and employment?




Shannon Buskirk: During my tenure, the City purchased 60+ acres southwest of the City for the purpose of locating a well field to allow for future growth.  There are hundreds of acres east of the City that do not flood which could be purchased and would be ideal for use as a business park.  Tax abatements could be an incentive, and I believe zoning issues could be resolved.  Small industry such as machine shops and light industry would be ideal for the City in generating revenue and providing much needed jobs for our citizens.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: Perhaps one of the most difficult things for residents to understand is that, no matter what type business the city would like to attract, the ultimate decision to locate in Martinsville is up to each individual business or industry and we can not ORDER them to come to our city!  We have taken the necessary steps to provide needed infrastructure to areas identified as potential development sites to make them more attractive.  Our administration has made it known that we, indeed, are willing to provide tax abatements, waive certain permit fees, extend extra services as needed, initiate zoning changes as needed as well as working on a case-by-case basis to meet the criteria and needs of new businesses.  We are working, on a daily basis, with our Morgan County Economic Development Corporation and Greater Martinsville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Association of Cities and Towns, in better promoting the City of Martinsville and appealing to a wide variety of business and industry.  Our ultimate desire is to attract all types of industry that will offer a higher wage scale for our residents which will provide retention of our citizens, as well as providing a future for our children with attractions to stay in Martinsville at the completion of their education.




Danny Stewart: First off, I don’t believe the city should own any land where a potential commercial park will be developed. I believe that is strictly a private sector practice. I also believe that we should offer them any and all assistance they require to meet their goals. This would include the required zoning needs, as well as tax incentives.


I believe that the Biomedical, technology, and warehousing and transportation fields is where we should be looking to for any substantial economic growth. The biomedical and technological fields will continue to have new advances and there will always be a need for warehousing and transportation.




Shawn Hogan: We need to start contacting various companies that will need the use of I-69. In that case we will be able to figure out what companies that might have interest in locating here, then I believe we will have a better idea on everything we need to do.



What have you done or what would you do to improve relations with the county?




Shannon Buskirk: During the 12 years I was mayor, the City enjoyed a good working relationship with all county administrators.  For example, had it not been for county officials releasing the EDIT money early in 1996, the City of Martinsville would not have had the money to meet payroll during the first year of my administration.  City Clerk-Treasurer Mary Lou Peden and I were advised by the Indiana State Board of Accounts to initiate a layoff of employees so the City could pay its outstanding invoices.  The City was virtually bankrupt.


Following the tornado in 2002, the County Commissioners worked jointly with the City to assist families in returning to normal and getting our community put back together.

Mayor Phil R. Deckard: First of all, we have made it perfectly clear that we embrace our county government in many cooperative projects for the betterment of all residents.  As Mayor, I serve proudly on the board of the Morgan County Solid Waste District as a joint venture with our county commissioners and county council, as well as many other joint ventures.  We continually work together in areas of storm water retention, planning and zoning, environmental matters and other areas controlled by the Morgan County Commissioners, the Morgan County Council and the Martinsville City Council.  We presently have a good working relationship with all departments.




Danny Stewart: At this point the county is concentrated on the northern part of the county. However, as such, we are a paying member of the MCEDC. I believe that we should defund our portion of their funding and concentrate on our own efforts to improve our economic situation as we have not seen any from our participation in the counties efforts to bring economic growth.


I do believe that we should continue to work with the county on the solid waste district as the disposal of harmful contaminates effects all of us.




Shawn Hogan: Martinsville is part of Morgan County. The city should work hand in hand with the county. City Council and the Morgan County Council should interface on a regular basis for the betterment of our community and work together to achieve common goals.



What have you done or what would you do to increase economic development opportunities for Martinsville?




Shannon Buskirk: Addressing abandoned properties throughout the City must be addressed. This was of great concern to the businesses and industries who were looking to locate here during my administration.  I directed my City attorney to spearhead the committee that was appointed to address blighted properties.  Continued infrastructure improvements are essential.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: Continue working together with the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation and the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns for economic development.  Continually seeking new ideas and methods for attracting new development within our area of responsibility.




Danny Stewart: During my tenure with Rediscover Martinsville I have worked on many projects including the development of the Downtown revitalization Plan and the many events that have taken place in the downtown area that have been designed to attract more people there.


I would continue this practice as well implement the Downtown Revitalization Plan as soon as possible which includes the widening of the sidewalks and the planting of new trees and shrubs.




Shawn Hogan: Martinsville is sitting in a strategic position for future economic growth if implemented correctly. I-69 is coming whether we like it or not. We currently have the opportunity of obtaining an IU Clarion hospital which most likely will be one of the city’s largest employers. Utilizing the gateway plan, which I was instrumental in developing, and with the potential assistance of IU Clarion will set the stage for further development of Martinsville’s future.



What do you see as the number one priority for the city of Martinsville?




Shannon Buskirk: First and foremost, it would be to return the City to solid financial ground and slow down frivolous spending.  In reviewing public records obtained from City Clerk-Treasurer Mary Lou Peden, I am concerned about the shortfall of funds needed to sufficiently operate the Street Department.  Currently, the Street Department’s health insurance is being covered by the City’s Common Council, as there is not enough money in the Street Department’s budget to cover this cost.


There is also the debt of a quarter of a million dollars of the Water Utility.  The City Clerk-Treasurer’s records reflect the Utility’s taxes were not paid on time which resulted in the Utility having to pay nearly $8,000 in penalties and interest due to simple negligence.  And, there are thousands of dollars in unpaid sewer bills that should have been collected in accordance with Indiana Code.  Both instances have contributed to the quarter of a million dollar debt of the Utility.


Mayor Phil R. Deckard: As Mayor, I simply cannot identify the number one priority for the City of Martinsville due to the fact that many issues must be worked on simultaneously.  The continuation of infrastructure service to areas of future development; continuation of improvements of water and sewer services to our present residents; continual improvements of streets, sidewalks, etc. with emphasis on making Martinsville more attractive to visitors and future residents; working closely with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) in the location of I-69 and how it will affect our city and to ensure a “Gateway to Martinsville” entrance to our city; continual attention to abandoned and blighted properties; and the continual efforts to make Martinsville a clean and presentable city on a daily basis.




Danny Stewart: Restoring the community spirit of our residents through open and honest efforts to improve our economic situation and recreational opportunities.




Shawn Hogan: There are numerous number one priorities for the city of Martinsville. We must choose what will be the most beneficial to our city. The most beneficial in the long run, I believe, will be appropriate planning for I-69 and IU Clarion hospital highway exchanges that will allow easy access to our hospital and school systems while maintaining fiscal responsibility throughout all departments within the city.


Thank you to those candidates who took the time to seriously and thoughtfully consider these questions and to respond to us.


Please exercise your right to vote!


From the Morgan County Election Board:

Walk-in voting started on Monday in Martinsville. Office hours 8-4 Monday-Friday and 8-3 Saturday. Open through the lunch hour. Remember your photo ID! We’ll roll out the Mooresville satellite on Saturday, April 23.

**Please note that the election office will be closed on April 22, Good Friday.

Morgan County Election Office

Morgan County Administration Building

180 S. Main St.