Senior staff writer
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley faces opposition from first-time candidate Edward McDonald in the Nov. 3 election.
Buckley, a Democrat, seeks re-election on his administration’s record and turnaround from the city’s financial woes four years ago. His campaign theme is simply “Back on Track.” He defeated Republican incumbent Mayor Terry Dilk in the 2011 race.
“I first ran for mayor because the city wasn’t in good shape in many ways, and I wanted to change it,” Buckley said. “We are back on track thanks to good management, a good legislative body (bipartisan city council), good department heads and good city employees.”
McDonald, a Republican, wants to transform Beech Grove by reducing crime, making it a cleaner and more attractive city, improving street lighting and eliminating any hint of favoritism in City Hall.
“I think I can effect certain change in Beech Grove,” McDonald said. “I would apply the law equally for everyone; nobody would be favored. Nobody could say they gave me a lot of money; I definitely want to be virtuous in that capacity.”
Buckley, former Beech Grove fire chief, has served the city for decades. He has been endorsed by the Beech Grove Fraternal Order of Police and Professional Firefighters District 416.
Buckley’s administration has completed drainage and street improvements to Main Street, attracted 80 new businesses, seen more than $75 million in company investments and expansion, updated police and fire equipment, added police and fire personnel, supported the city’s compliance division and reduced crime by 10 percent.
He proudly pointed out that city’s assessed valuation is up by 10.7 percent since last year and that the City Council has held the line on the city’s property tax rate. He also has used the city’s nuisance ordinance to reduce crime and city police runs to Motel 6 and to Walmart.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” said Buckley, who has been campaigning since March. “Ninety percent of the people I have talked to believe the city is better than it was three years ago. I will strive to keep improving Beech Grove.
Looking ahead, Buckley wants to improve the city’s alleys, pave more streets and add lighting, apply for funding for the greenway project, fund roundabouts at Churchman and Arlington avenues, spur economic development, complete senior community apartments near Amtrak and redevelop vacated St. Francis property.
He praised the mixed Republican and Democratic council that amended or approved more than 100 ordinances, approved fully funded municipal budgets and transformed the city.
McDonald, a former judge advocate at Camp Atterbury, moved to Beech Grove a few years ago because the people were friendly and they revered military veterans. He is retired from the Army after 30 years of service.
“I’ve never done anything in politics,” McDonald said. “I know I’m the outsider, the underdog, but I think I’ll win if the Republicans come out and vote.”
McDonald has become concerned about excessive trash on Main Street, poor lighting on many streets, the unkept homes and crime, particularly drug houses and lax enforcement of city curfews for youth.
The challenger is on a mission, and he’s trying to get elected without beholding to special interests. He is paying most of his campaign expenses out of pocket; earlier this month he had only $1,000 in donations.
McDonald wants to emphasize and expand neighborhood watch groups, unite city entities to fight crime, decrease the vacancy rates of apartments and homes by going after deadbeat landlords, improve street lighting and see that youths are off the streets late at night.
“I believe this administration has encouraged the crime issue because they’re not tough enough,” McDonald said.
He wants to make Main Street a destination site by reviving a train theme for the city, developing a splash park, encouraging more retail businesses to locate here and promoting Downtown.
“I hope to bring people together, Republican and Democrat,” McDonald said. “If I can apply the law fairly, engage people and improve the city, we will do it by bringing people together. I want everyone to be brothers, to be Grovers.”
A three-way clerk-treasurer’s race features incumbent Democrat Dan McMillan and challengers Republican Ron Mote, vice chairman of the city’s Redevelopment Commission, and Independent James Coffman, whose family owns Eckstein Shoes in Beech Grove.
McMillan is in his first term and is credited with restoring financial stability and increasing governmental transparency through the city’s website with volunteers.
He came under the council’s scrutiny earlier this year for alleged harassment, which eventually led to a revision of the code of conduct for elected city officials. McMillan then labeled the charges as a “witch hunt.” He was recently charged with harassment in a federal lawsuit filed by two employees who worked in his office.
Council incumbents Ed Bell and David Harrison, both Democrats, are seeking re-election.