For decades the Elkhart County Council has allocated funds, levied taxes and carried out its other business with one striking imbalance: all its members have been Republican.
But a former staff member at Goshen College’s Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center in Wolf Lake, Paul Steury, plans on changing that. Steury is running against a Republican incumbent, Darryl Riegsecker, who represents the 3rd District. Riegsecker could not be immediately reached for comment.
Steury believes that the majority of residents in Goshen do not know who the County Council members are. He wishes to change that, both before the election and afterward, when he hopes to have a seat on the council.
“I am a common person,” he said. “I am also the kind of person who likes to get to know everybody.”
Steury has been going door to door in town, asking everyone he speaks with to reach out to at least 10 other people, encouraging them to register to vote. He also asks that those 10 people then reach out to 10 more.
Most importantly, he said, he wants people to attach a face to the name Steury.
He said he used local artists in his campaign.
“We need to embrace the artistry that we have,” he said.
David Kendall, the coordinator of career networks at Goshen College, made shirts; and Anne Berry, a former graphic design professor at the college, made the logo for his campaign.
Steury is married to Michele Fanfair-Steury, the owner of Gift of Gab in downtown Goshen. They have two children, Skye and Dylan, who attend Goshen Public Schools.
This is not the first time that Steury has run for County Council. In 2006, he said he entered the race and was endorsed by The Goshen News and The Elkhart Truth. In a debate, he stated that he wanted to raise taxes to pay for road repairs, a pledge that he believes was responsible but also resulted in his losing the race. Ironically, he said, the following year the council voted to raise taxes and use funds for road improvements.
Steury has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Goshen College and a master’s degree in outdoor resource management Indiana University at Bloomington.
He worked at Merry Lea for 15 years as the education coordinator and taught both undergraduate and graduate level classes. He also taught science at Goshen Middle School, served as president of the Farmers Market, sold solar panels and purchased metal for an aluminum trailer factory in Nappanee.
Steury said that 52 percent of Goshen’s economy is based on the recreation vehicle industry, a dependence that he said is not sustainable in the long run.
“We have an addiction to an industry that is a ‘want,’ ” Steury said. He pledged to embrace new jobs that are environmentally friendly and sustainable, approaching problems in the county by “thinking scientifically and making sure that they are researched” before the County Council makes decisions.
A former mayor in Goshen, Allan Kauffman, also a Democrat, supports Steury’s bid for office. “The County Council's role is largely financial as it deals with county budgets,” Kauffman said.
He noted that pressing problems include failing septic systems outside of cities and towns, stormwater flooding in rivers and streams and air contamination from leaf burnings.
“All these issues can benefit from a County Council representative with the kind of background and interests that Paul Steury has,” he said.