TERRE HAUTE —
Democrats advance two incumbents and a newcomer to the contest for Vigo County Council at-large this fall.
Councilmen Mark Bird and Ed Ping were joined by Richard “Rick” Burger in Tuesday’s spring primary, winning the party’s top three spots in a field of eight candidates. Incumbent William “Bill” Bryan placed fourth in the countywide tally, bringing in 2,845 votes to Ping’s third-place finish with 3,048. Burger garnered 3,398 votes and top vote-getter Bird tallied 4,139.
Bryan sought his second term on the council and had served eight years as a Vigo County Commissioner before that post. Tuesday night, he said the voters’ decision would leave him more time to his family.
“I’m going to retire right now, and you’ve got my word on that,” he said, emphasizing his acceptance of the results. “I have grandkids and a great-grandchild and they’re the apple of grandpa’s eye.”
Meanwhile, Burger wasn’t shy about his emotion at the win. Seated at a table on the first floor of the Vigo County Courthouse, the political newcomer but longtime community volunteer and activist was surrounded by campaign staff and friends. Votes were streaming in quickly and by 6:30 p.m., it seemed clear that he would at least make one of the top three, moving on to the General Election. By the end of the night, he had placed second with 3,398.
“Very humbled by what I’m seeing,” Burger said, facing the television screen, which sat before a mural depicting the county’s history. “A lot of good people helped me through this process. I want to earn this job. I really do.”
Burger has spent his working career with Duke Energy, where he currently serves as business manager, and volunteers with local charities. That commitment to service, he said Tuesday, is genuine.
“I love this community. I really do,” he said. “It’s just a really happy day. Very emotional.”
Burger’s 11-year-old son, Trevor, watched by his side, wearing a campaign T-shirt and buttons in support of his dad. The Dixie Bee Elementary School fifth-grader said the process, from start to finish, has been an educational experience.
“It’s been interesting,” Trevor said. “I’ve learned from it.”
Incumbent Mark Bird topped the Democrat ticket with more than 4,000 votes. If re-elected to the council this fall, Bird, the Vigo County Superintendent of Weights of Measures will be ineligible to run again in 2016 because of a new state law, which prohibits government employees from holding elected offices that control the departments for which they’re employed.
Bird emphasized he’ll be able to serve out his four-year term, though, because the law doesn’t take effect until January 2013. Conflicts of interest have never been a problem for him, he said, explaining he exempts himself from decisions concerning his department and has refused pay raises as well as bonuses.
“I’m glad it came out the way it did,” he said, adding that when he first ran seven years ago, much of his success was because of the name recognition of his brother, NBA star and Pacers executive Larry Bird. Over the years, though, he’s been able to show people his own value and performance, he said.
The Democrat ticket will be strong in November with Ping and the addition of Burger, he added.
“I think Rick Burger will do an outstanding job,” he said, crediting Burger’s work with organizations such as United Way of the Wabash Valley. “I think he’ll be a plus for the council.”
Ping was likewise optimistic for the fall, but admitted some disappointment at the voter turnout, which hovered around 20 percent.
“I wish there was a much larger turnout,” he said. “Watching the results coming in, it was really unbelievable.”
The 2008 primary generated significantly more interest because senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were in a fierce battle for the Democratic Party nomination for president, he said, pointing out Indiana’s role in that race given how close the two were. This time around, the action and emotion were missing.
“The main thing is the Democrats did not have two candidates to vote for in the presidential election, or any of the other main targets, like the governor race. But especially the president. That was the main thing,” he said. “That brought out the Democrats that had not been to the polls in a long time, or maybe never.”
But the drive for November is in motion, he said, pointing out he and the party will begin preparing for their Republican challengers in the fall.
Vote totals are unofficial until certified by the Vigo County Election Board by noon May 18.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winners Are …
Vigo County Council At-Large Democratic Party Results
1. Mark D. Bird 4,139
2. Richard (Rick) Burger 3,398
3. Ed Ping 3,048
4. William C. (Bill) Bryan 2,845
5. Adam S. Azar 2,417
6. Curtis A. DeBaun IV 2,369
7. Ann Marie O’Brien 2,236
8. SaRetta J. Brown 1,269
• Vote totals are unofficial until
certified by the Vigo County Election Board by noon May 18.