Photo provided by Noblesville Chamber of Commerce
Noblesville mayoral candidates Mike Corbett (from left), Julia Church Kozicki, Vince Baker and Chris Jensen responded to questions on Monday at the second of three Candidate Conversations forums put on by Noblesville Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton County League of Women Voters.
Photo provided by Noblesville Chamber of Commerce Noblesville mayoral candidates Mike Corbett (from left), Julia Church Kozicki, Vince Baker and Chris Jensen responded to questions on Monday at the second of three Candidate Conversations forums put on by Noblesville Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton County League of Women Voters.

Noblesville Mayoral candidate Mike Corbett said the “Places and Things” theme of this month’s Candidate Conversations forum was an appropriate topic.

“Because some of the places that we cherish and hold dear are under stress these days. Noblesville is unique because we have a sense of our heritage here that a lot of other communities don’t have,” he said. 

“But we’ve seen what can happen when we aren’t vigilant. We lost our train. We’re about to lose more historic buildings downtown. We nearly lost a part of Seminary Park. We need to be careful that we don’t destroy the very thing that makes us unique,” said Corbett, as he introduced himself, one of four candidates, who offered opening statements on Monday night at the second of three Candidate Conversations forums put on by Noblesville Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton County League of Women Voters.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t change. We have to change to remain competitive. But as we change, we need to be aware of the basic values and characteristics that define our city and remain true to them. There is a lot of pressure these days to be like everyone else. We need to resist that,” he said.

“I believe I’m the right candidate to ensure Noblesville remains true to its values. Living and working around the country has given me a unique background, an interest in community development and a wealth of business and cultural experience,” said Corbett, a small business owner of Hamilton County Business magazine, though not a native, but who made a conscious decision to move to Noblesville, where he would like to create a Noblesville trailways plan connecting places in the community.

Mayor John Ditslear, who was first elected as mayor in 2003 and re-elected to his fourth consecutive four-year term in November 2015, will not seek re-election and plans to retire. 

His departure leaves the mayor’s office open for a new mayor to serve our City.

So how can voters get to know the mayoral candidates -- Vince Baker, Mike Corbett, Chris Jensen and Julia Church Kozicki -- so that voters can make an informed decision at the May 7 primary? 

These three forums offer a good start for potential Noblesville voters to do just that.

All four candidates were asked to discuss the “Places and Things” that are important to Noblesville.

“For me, that starts with our authentic downtown Square,” said Julia Church Kozicki, as she introduced herself, the first of four candidates at the forum.

“I grew up two blocks away, and I can confirm that the Square of my childhood is not the Square of today,” Church Kozicki said. “But we have managed to maintain the unique character that embodies the small-town charm that draws people to Noblesville. As we grow, and more people and more businesses want to be part of our downtown and our community, it’s important we protect that authentic charm.”

She said, “As a leader, I have learned the importance of collaboration and transparency, and I commit to you that I will bring those lessons to City Hall.” An attorney, she’s legal council for Sigma Kappa national women’s organization, and past president and three-term 12-year board member for Noblesville Schools, during which time the board hired two superintendents and made “important and difficult decisions for our community.” She said “citizens deserve to understand the options” and should have the opportunity to “provide meaningful input on issues facing our community.”

Candidate Vince Baker, the second candidate to introduce himself, is a lifetime Noblesville resident, and a 15-year employee with the City of Noblesville who, for the past three years, has served as the city’s urban forester. “The love that I have for Noblesville, the city that I was born and raised in, made it an easy choice for me to become a civil servant,” he said.

Baker said it is the “places and things” -- that are “the core of what every resident, visitor, passerby sees, hears, tastes when coming to or driving through Noblesville. It is what attracts families and our business to our great city.”

Candidate Chris Jensen, a Noblesville native who grew up in West Harbour and who is a current Noblesville Common Council member, discussed his election platform’s four key pillars, “transforming public safety in Noblesville, protecting and enhancing our historic downtown, developing a strong and sustainable work force and making smart investments in our infrastructure.”

Jensen said, “I could think of no better community to discuss ‘places and things,’ and that is what makes Noblesville unique…..“As a City Council member and an employee of a company that specializes in municipal infrastructure, I have a unique opportunity to see how cities invest in their communities and infrastructure from both sides of the spectrum….As a city, our goal is to find ways to maintain and enhance what we have while not financially burdening our citizens and local businesses.”

Following the four introductions, the first question from the panel asked candidates what the public should expect to see or experience in areas of transparency, public input and the community’s involvement in planning Noblesville’s public projects as well as other private projects?

Baker volunteered to respond first, as he recalled the City Council discussion of the recently approved $24 million mixed-use Levinson project, as “a done deal,” with hardly any public input. “If I am elected mayor, I want to make sure the community’s actively involved,” Baker said.

Corbett next responded. “We do need to increase transparency. We need to come to people sooner, listen to what people say...Our city leaders need to take that input and maybe change their mind based on what they hear from the community,” he said, also drawing attention to the Levinson project, for which “people had the opportunity to speak up, but by the time that they did, it was pretty much a done deal.”

Jensen followed up, in defense, saying that as a City Councilor, representing District 2 voters, that he has “worked hard everyday to listen to their needs and wants,” whether it’s going door to door, communicating with people on social media or being available at Noble Coffee & Tea or giving out his cell phone number. “I think it’s imperative that we listen to the needs and wants of a community. You’ll get that with our administration going forward, but you’ll also have an administration that puts a plan in place and leads forward on important issues. But yes, I agree, transparency is essential to our leadership going forward in the City of Noblesville.”

Church Kozicki, as a school board member who has worked on redistricting elementary school boundaries as well as referendums, she knows how critical it is to be transparent with the community. 

“We’ve held a number of public meetings where we’ve gathered public input and, in some cases, we’ve gone back and reworked things on the basis of that input,” she said. “I would carry that lesson forward into my administration and on many topics create opportunities where the public can provide input and then have that input be valued as we make final decisions,” said Church Kozicki. She said it’s important to be available in and out of City Hall, and will have her own Table Talk (similar to a program that started with Noblesville Schools superintendent Beth Niedermeyer), at 4:30 p.m. March 19 at All Local, a downtown market that sells products locally sourced.

How the influx of population affects parks, schools and home building, how to develop a broader range of housing prices and available housing for all stages of life, steps that should be taken to make Noblesville a more senior-friendly community, how to alleviate downtown and east-west traffic, best place to relocate the Noblesville Police Department, Noblesville’s role in the Indiana 37 project, vision for protecting the White River, next step for downtown redevelopment and the best ways to connect different areas to make one cohesive city, how to increase transportation options and how to maintain what people love about Noblesville while maintaining progress, were among other topics of discussion.

To watch the forum and hear all of the candidates’ responses, log onto Hamilton County TV, which broadcast the forum live and is available to watch on demand.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. By the way, the mayoral candidates were also asked where folks could find the best breaded pork tenderloin in the city. Watch the broadcast to find out.