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Mayor McBarnes announces candidacy for third term

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McBARNES: Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes gives the thumbs-up beside his wife, Samantha, moments after speaking to the gathered crowd Thursday evening at Arborwood.
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HALL OF FAME SUPPORT: Campaign co-chair John Milholland, the former Frankfort High School coach and member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, speaks about Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes on Thursday at Arborwood. Campaign co-chair Tom Ransomand Samantha McBarnes also spoke to the crowd before the Mayor’s announcement.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes announced his intention to run for a third consecutive term in front of a large group of guests Thursday evening at Arborwood. He made his announcement after introductory statements by Campaign Co-Chair John Milholland and Campaign Co-Chair Tom Ransom.

“I am proud to stand before you tonight with every ounce of confidence and joy and passion and energy in my heart to let you know that I am declaring my candidacy for the 2019 Republican Primary to serve you as mayor again,” McBarnes said.

McBarnes announced his candidacy despite previously indicating that he did not wish to seek re-election to a third term. On Thursday, he described struggling with the decision of what to do next and discussing it with his wife, Samantha, over the past six months.

“I finally feel at peace with this,” McBarnes said. “I feel like myself again, to be honest with you. I am excited, I am fired up, and boy I am ready to go.

“The future rewards those who press on,” he added. “With patience and determination, we are going to press on. We do not have time to feel sorry for ourselves or complain. We are going to press on.”

When he was elected for his first term back in 2011, he may have been the youngest mayor in Indiana at 23 years of age. He garnered about 75 percent of the vote in that election and was re-elected in 2015 with nearly 90 percent of the vote.

After his announcement, McBarnes went on to speak about his future plans for Frankfort, pointing to safety and a return of investment for the taxpayers.

“Three years ago, we were ranked as the 50th-safest city in Indiana,” McBarnes said. “Then we jumped to 23rd, and two weeks ago, according to the FBI’s Unified Crime Reports, we are now the 11th safest city in Indiana.”

McBarnes acknowledged and thanked all local law enforcement and firefighters for making Frankfort a safer community.

He went on say that he takes the usage of taxpayer money “incredibly seriously.”

“We have focused, and we are going to continue to focus – to keep Frankfort moving forward – on giving you a return on your investment,” McBarnes said. “I want you to feel like (with) those tax dollars you are giving over, you are receiving first-class, customer-service protection and a future through that investment. I take that very seriously.”

He then spoke on the progress that has been made in the city since 2011.

“When we came into office eight years ago, department infrastructure was absolutely depleted. Police cars were falling apart, Old Stoney was falling apart, trash trucks couldn’t make it another 100 miles. We had a lot of work to do, so we implemented a capital improvement plan. We made those mundane improvements on a daily basis.”

According to McBarnes, the city general fund had a balance of $1,646,309 at the end of 2011. He went on to state that, at the start of 2018, the city general fund had a cash balance of $2,113,157.

“According to our capital improvement plan, on Dec. 31 of 2019, and I am sharing with you a conservative number here tonight, our city general fund will have a cash balance of $2,273,441,” McBarnes said. “We keep such a close eye on that, not because I want to be a hoarder of money or take tax dollars and just stick them in a CD in a bank somewhere, but what if we have a rainy day? What if we have another 2008, God forbid? We want to make sure we can manage that storm. We want to make sure we can keep police officers on the street, firefighters in their headquarters ... so on and so forth, and we can do that thanks to the capital improvement plan that we put into place.”

McBarnes went on to say that the city has brought in “millions and millions” of dollars in grants and private contributions.

“I am not the kind of guy that thinks public government should just do everything, and all burden should be put on the taxpayer,” he said. “I really don’t think that’s fair.”

McBarnes said that $2.1M was fund-raised from the private sector for Ivy Tech Frankfort and that over $725,000 has been raised to help the Prairie Creek Park project.

“I believe projects are win-win when you have the public and you have the private working in collaboration together so that taxpayers don’t take all the burden,” McBarnes said. “The Community Crossings matching grant that we went out and captured is allowing us to pave millions and millions of dollars of roads in our city. We will be paving around $920,000 in city streets this next year.

“If we are paying our state tax dollars, and we are paying federal income tax dollars, those grants are going to somebody,” he added. “So I want to go out and capture them, and I want to bring them right here to Hot Dog land. And that is what we have done.”

At this point, the only known challenger in the 2019 primary is 3rd District City Councilman Lewis Wheeler, who released a mass-emailed statement on McBarnes’ announcement shortly afterward at 6:05 p.m. Thursday which reads as follows:

“Dear Friends and Neighbors:

“I embrace the announcement of Mayor McBarnes’ decision to run for a 3rd term with open arms. It has long been my belief that one of the greatest things that one can do for their community is to step forward and offer yourself to serve. I believe whole heartedly that a time has come for a change and I have been inspired to ‘be that change.’ I am convinced that as a community we can be fiscally responsible and still make reasonable developments within our city’s infrastructure. We will push forward together to build cultural bridges, improve public safety, and further develop city resources. I have built a reputation as a common sense councilman. I have opposed big spending projects when it required raising the taxes, user fees, and utility rates of our citizens by drastic proportions without exploring alternative methods. I have always advocated compromise and people’s voice in moving forward. I will continue to be strong in the fight for the good of Frankfort. I would hope that people will listen to what I have to offer and embrace the opportunity of productive and sensible leadership. It is time to remember that here in Frankfort it truly is all about Faith, Family, and Frankfort.

“God bless you, Lewis Wheeler

“Frankfort City Councilman District 3 & Republican Candidate for Mayor.”