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Public safety, economic growth top Lawrence candidates’ priorities

Two run to succeed Lawrence mayor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Both candidates for mayor of Lawrence said safety and growth are priorities, but differed on how to achieve those goals.

Located in the northeast corner of Marion County, Lawrence is by far the largest of the county’s four excluded municipalities in terms of both population and land area. Republican Mayor Steve Collier is retiring after two terms. Fellow Republican Dave Hofmann, Collier’s deputy mayor and former police chief, is running to succeed him. Challenging Hofmann on the Democratic side is Deb Whitfield, a member of the Lawrence Common Council, and the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for a major hospital network.

Dave Hofmann

Hofmann said he is running for mayor because he wants to continue the growth and safety improvements Lawrence has seen over the past 10 years. He said despite the new construction along 56th Street, city leaders have not neglected areas south of Pendleton Pike. He said two new neighborhoods are planned on the south end of town and city officials have spent $50 million bringing water and sewer lines up to date. To keep housing affordable, Hofmann said city leaders will have to be picky about which developments they approve to ensure a good mix of price points.

Hofmann has said keeping crime rates low is one of his top priorities. He said the key to that is ensuring the Lawrence Police Department is fully staffed and fully funded. To keep those officers accountable to the public, Hofmann said LPD in 2017 became one of the first departments in the area to adopt body cameras.

“Our officers take great effort to make sure that they are consistent, that they are fair and balanced in their policing,” Hofmann said. “It’s the men and women of the Lawrence Police Department that get the credit for (dropping crime rates), and only by having a fully-staffed and funded police department can that occur.”

On economic growth, Hofmann said he wants to pursue a trades district near the I-465/Pendleton Pike interchange. Currently in the conceptual stages, the district would bring in businesses associated with skilled trades, such as HVAC contractors and electricians. In the nearer term, he said INDOT’s plan to build a median along Pendleton Pike from I-465 to Oaklandon Road will create a safer and more attractive road, and one more likely to draw developers.

Hofmann said his work experience makes him the best candidate for mayor, pointing to his time as an IMPD commander, chief of the Lawrence Police Department, and both chief of staff and deputy mayor to Collier.

Deb Whitfield

Whitfield said she’s running for mayor because it’s time for a new voice and a mayor that represents the diversity of Lawrence. She said she hears from a number of small businesses who feel unable to break into the Lawrence market, so she wants to break up what she calls the “good old boy system.” During the primary, she told News 8 she wants to build a small business incubator at Civic Plaza.

“I have heard from so many different companies, small businesses, that don’t have an opportunity in Lawrence,” Whitfield said. “I want them to feel that they can come and they can have an opportunity to grow in Lawrence.”

Whitfield said Lawrence’s police and firefighters must continue to receive the resources they need in order to keep the streets safe. She also said she would support an ordinance similar to what the Indianapolis City-County Council passed this summer that would prohibit permitless carry and any new purchases of military-style rifles within the city limits of Lawrence, as well as raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. A provision in Indianapolis’ ordinance leaves it inactive unless the state’s preemption law is repealed.

Whitfield said her efforts to engage the community and her work in the health care field make her the best candidate for mayor because so much of that work involves listening to people’s concerns. She said residents should believe they have a voice no matter their background, and tapping into this would help the city grow rapidly.

Early voting runs through noon on Nov. 6 and Election Day is Nov. 7. Due to the consolidated city-county government, voters in Lawrence, Southport, and Beech Grove will have to choose mayors for their own towns, as well as take part in the Indianapolis mayor’s race.