Local businessman and former Terre Haute city engineer Pat Goodwin plans to run for mayor of Terre Haute in 2019 as an independent.
“People are fed up with politics as usual in Terre Haute, and so am I,” Goodwin said during a news conference Friday. “Local government needs an overhaul.” He also believes there has been “an overall lack of leadership.”
He is announcing his candidacy a year before the official filing date to get the word out and to start “a 22-month process of making the case to voters that I am the best person for the job,” he said.
Goodwin, 45, previously served as city engineer under three different mayors and currently is founder/president of Tractor Tools Direct, an e-commerce company that sells agricultural equipment to small farms nationwide.
He has been openly critical of Mayor Duke Bennett’s handling of city finances, which Goodwin described as “a wreck. The mayor says he is balancing the budget, yet he keeps taking out loans. Bond ratings have tanked…cash balances have dwindled. Money intended to build new infrastructure is instead being ‘pooled’ to cover day-to-day city bills.”
Goodwin also charged that “too much city business takes place behind closed doors. As a result, people don’t trust that the mayor is working in their best interests.”
Bennett has not stated if he plans to seek re-election in 2019; a Republican, he is serving his third term as mayor. Efforts to reach Bennett on Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Karrum Nasser, Democrat city council member who served as council president last year, says he is considering a run for mayor in 2019 but has not yet decided.
“It’s a family decision,” Nasser said. He anticipates making an announcement about his intentions this summer.
If elected, Goodwin said he would focus on three objectives: financial stability, transparency and efficiency. He wants to make city government’s business “totally open to its citizens. Technology should make this easier than ever.”
To improve efficiency, he said he would look at ways to reduce costs and improve service to taxpayers. “We’ll embrace technology. We’ll cooperate with other government agencies and share resources whenever possible. We’ll borrow the best ideas from successful communities. I will improve accountability.”
In announcing his candidacy a year early, he stated that once he and his wife, Marti, decided he should run, “I could see no reason to keep it a secret. I’ll need time to get my message out. Over the next two years, I will be speaking and listening to citizens about the best way to move this community forward. I don’t want voters to be surprised when I take office. I want them to know what my vision for Terre Haute is.”
He is running as an independent because “no political party represents my beliefs or can lay claim to the best vision for our future. Many people feel the way I do, that no political party is a good fit for them ... At the local level, the delivery of services to citizens is non-partisan.”
He added, “I will be an unconventional candidate, running an unconventional campaign.”
Goodwin is married to Marti Livengood Goodwin and they have four children, ages 12 to 19. He graduated from Terre Haute North Vigo High School and earned a civil engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
In stating his qualifications, he said he has a thorough knowledge of how local government works; he also has executive experience and has lead a city engineering department, nonprofit organization and now a small business.
The city ended 2016 with a general fund deficit of less than $8.1 million, and city officials continued to grapple with financial issues in 2017. The year brought some progress as a state oversight agency intervened and the City Council stepped up its scrutiny of money matters. However, continued short term borrowing totaling $15 million remained a concern.
Last year, the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance ordered the city to slash $8 million from its 2017 budget, and the city was on track to end the year with positive balances in all funds except its municipal golf courses and accounts awaiting state or federal reimbursements.
The council and mayor agreed in October on a balanced budget for the third straight year; the 2018 budget projects a general fund surplus of $150,000.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.