The original Crossroads of America sits at a crossroads in its history. This is an exciting, yet uncertain time for Terre Haute. Better days await, if the next mayor leads the city toward the right path forward.
Three candidates seeking that job represent one of the most talented fields for a mayoral race in city history. Incumbent Republican Mayor Duke Bennett has served three terms since taking office on the cusp of the Great Recession, directing city operations through financial ups and downs. Democratic challenger Karrum Nasser is a first-term city councilman, who joined fellow council members in pushing Bennett's administration toward decisions that gradually erased an $8-million general-fund deficit.
Bennett's nearly 12 years of on-the-job experience would be an asset worth voters' consideration. His affable personality connects with residents, too. Nasser has served his city well in his first council term, injecting needed accountability during the city's fiscal crisis. Nasser, who launched his mayoral bid late last year at age 43, seems destined to hold higher office in the future.
Yet, it is the third candidate in this mayoral race, independent Pat Goodwin, who has presented the most compelling, well-prepared and pragmatic plan for leading Terre Haute through its next four years. For that reason, Goodwin gets our endorsement.
Goodwin started his run for mayor two years ago. He soon began conducting an ongoing series of community forums on issues such as the impact of a proposed casino, riverfront development, cleaning up the city's streets and spaces, the size and location of the new Vigo County jail, shoring up Terre Haute's infrastructure, the concept of a merged city-county “uni-gov,” competing with other Midwestern cities, sewer bills, and future of the city golf courses, among other topics. That focus and outreach indicates a desire to understand residents' concerns and priorities.
Goodwin also possesses experience in both city government and the business world. The Rose-Hulman civil engineering graduate served as city engineer under three different Terre Haute mayors, ran a private engineering practice, worked as chief operating officer at the Sisters of Providence, and opened an e-commerce farm equipment supply business.
His diverse resume can benefit Terre Haute at this moment, when the city has positive momentum running up against some difficult socioeconomic headwinds.
Unlike most other Indiana metros, Terre Haute's population is projected to decline over the next 30 years. The child poverty rate is high, and health levels are low. Blight plagues some neighborhoods, and the city's housing stock is among the state's oldest. Still, the local economy could be ready to surge, if projects such as a new downtown convention center, a proposed casino, Riverscape and Turn to the River receive wise leadership and advocacy from the mayor's office. Goodwin sees value in the mayor serving as the “the face of the city,” providing direction through hard and thrilling changes.
Terre Haute needs such proactive leadership right now. The mayor's office can offer both reliable, efficient daily services to residents and guidance in achieving big-picture goals. Current projects that could drive economic development, a better quality of life, and a reversal of the community's declining population could reach a higher gear, if the next mayor champions those causes. Goodwin is poised to do just that.
Goodwin also has shown a willingness to stake out realistic positions that could cost him votes, from assessing public-safety costs and facilities, to supporting early on the referendum to raise property taxes to fund Vigo County schools. That shows courage.
No mayor enters office with all the answers. A wise mayor examines the victories and mistakes of predecessors. Studying the past and present buttresses plans for the future. Goodwin has done his homework and would hit the ground running, if elected to lead Terre Haute through the next four years.