Buzzard, Fetters square off for third time in GOP mayor primary

Larry Buzzard (left) and Brooks Fetters.
Larry Buzzard (left) and Brooks Fetters. Photos

For the third consecutive municipal primary election, Larry Buzzard and Brooks Fetters are pursuing the Republican Party’s nomination to run for mayor of Huntington in the fall.

Fetters triumphed in the two previous primaries, in 2011 and 2015, and won the subsequent municipal elections in November.

In 2011, Fetters was victorious in a seven-candidate primary race, capturing 32 percent of the vote while Buzzard claimed 22 percent, placing second. Four years later, in a four-candidate primary field, Fetters garnered 42 percent of the vote while Buzzard netted 34, placing second once more.

This year, the pack of Republican mayoral hopefuls thinned out, resulting in a two-man showdown between the incumbent Fetters and Buzzard, his main primary challenger.

Early voting in the election begins today, Monday, April 22, and runs through Monday, May 6. Election Day is Tuesday, May 7.

Larry Buzzard
Buzzard, 60, is a 1976 graduate of Huntington North High School. He was elected as a Huntington County commissioner in 2012 and currently serves as the commissioners’ president. He previously served on the Huntington Common Council and Huntington County Council.

He is the owner of ChemTech Consulting, established in 2003, and Spokesmen Cycling, established in 2012. He is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus.

Buzzard says one of the main reasons he was motivated to run again is because he disagrees with the current administration’s spending practices.

“The city bonded … almost $6 million to put into parks and trails,” he remarks. “Parks and trails are fantastic and they do add to the community. I am not debating that. But I wouldn’t have borrowed money. And that’s what a bond is.”

Buzzard also takes exception with the city’s decision to contribute tax increment financing (TIF) money to the UB Block, which it no longer owns.

“They’re putting up $3 million into that UB building of taxpayer money and it’s going to be privately held,” comments Buzzard.
“I would’ve used the TIF money a little differently,” he says. “I wouldn’t have put it into a private building. I would hold that TIF money for public projects.”

As mayor, Buzzard says he would concentrate on paying down the city’s debt.

“So I can give some relief to the homeowners,” he says. “Our tax rate’s one of the highest in the area, at $4.13.”

“When you pay down the debt,” he continues, “I think it’s going to reflect in reinvestment into the city. It’s going to make it more affordable for people to live here.”

Another area of focus for Buzzard would be rebuilding city departments so that they have the capacity to perform more work in-house, reducing the need to hire contractors.

Buzzard says hiring contractors was fiscally sensible during leaner economic years, citing his experience soliciting bids for the renovation of the Huntington County Courthouse as a county commissioner.

“When we bid that out, people were hungry for work,” he says. “We had eight different bids on that and we bid it out for about $6 million.
“Had we waited two years, when the employment turned around and everyone was busy and the contractors are busy, that cost went up about 25 percent to 40 percent. And we would’ve only gotten a couple bidders.”

“The more we can do in-house,” he adds, “you’re going to save that 20, 25, 30, even 40 percent. So, your dollar goes farther.”

While Buzzard says he would welcome the opportunity to participate in ribbon-cuttings for new amenities in Huntington, he says his priority would be to improve the city’s existing infrastructure before adding to it.

“It’s not the glamorous stuff,” he admits. “It’s not the fun stuff. But I think it’s necessary.

“You’ve got to look at what we need as opposed to what we want.”

Brooks Fetters
Fetters, 59, graduated from Huntington North High School in 1977 and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Huntington University in 1981. He earned a diploma in funeral service from Mid-America College of Mortuary Science in 1982 and a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Huntington University in 1987.

He has been an ordained United Brethren minister since 1987. He was a licensed funeral director from 1982 to 2018 and served as general manager of Myers Funeral Homes, Huntington and Markle, from 1998 to 2011.

Fetters is vice president of the Mayors and Commissioners Caucus of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. He has served on the Huntington County Economic Development Board of Directors since 2009. He’s been a member of the Huntington University Foundation Board since 2001, receiving the Distinguished Service Award in 2017. He is also on the Huntington University Board of Trustees, serving from 2008 to 2011 and from 2014 to present.

He attends College Park United Brethren Church, in Huntington.

Reflecting on his two terms in office, Fetters cites a variety of accomplishments.

Of those achievements, Fetters touts his administration’s dedication to carrying out the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which received an update in 2012.

“I think we’ve made a lot of great progress in implementing the Comprehensive Plan and as a result, more people are working, more people are working with better jobs,” says Fetters. “We’ve handled some of the hiccups that got thrown our way with Good Humor-Breyers or with UTEC, but you had expansions at CSP, expansions at Gerdau, expansions at Bendix.”

Fetters also takes pride in the fact that the city is now compliant with the federal Clean Water Act, a result of making improvements to the wastewater treatment plant and sewers.

“That, basically, is about $50 million of the debt that the city carries,” notes Fetters. “My opponent keeps talking about the city being in debt – well, $50 million of it is wastewater. It’s mandated; you don’t do that, people show up and take over your utilities and charge you whatever they want.”

Fetters says his administration has embraced opportunities to collaborate with citizens who have ideas for the community. One such collaboration, says Fetters, came when the city partnered up with the Huntington Rotary Club to create Rotary Centennial Park, on North Jefferson Street.

Another collaboration led to the construction of the Huntington Parks Pump Track, in Yeoman Park.

“That came from four junior high guys that came to the mayor’s office and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to get a BMX pump track going,’” says Fetters.

In addition to the Pump Track and Rotary Centennial Park, Fetters says the Veterans Memorial at Memorial Park is another new amenity in Huntington that he’s proud his administration got behind.

“It’s second to none,” he says of the memorial. “We’ve taken historic, iconic pieces that we’ve always had here and we put them in a better placement. But we’ve also added plaques that recognize all the Huntington County war dead who had given their lives in sacrifice for our freedoms and liberty.”

Looking ahead, Fetters says his priorities in a third term would include the continued cleanup of the H.K. Porter brownfield site and improving stormwater drainage in neighborhoods near Etna Avenue.

“We didn’t have a pipe going to the river until the Etna Avenue road project was done,” explains Fetters. “Now that we have that done, now we can go and we can extend laterals over to other subdivisions and bring that drainage to Etna Avenue.”

Fetters is also excited by the prospect of being in the mayor’s office when the UB Block rehabilitation project, which his administration has supported, concludes.

The refurbished UB Block, which is located at 48 E. Franklin St., will house market-rate apartments, plus spaces for Pathfinder Services and Huntington University. The university’s space will be dedicated to fostering and supporting new business start-ups, which excites Fetters.

“We’ve got people around town already that are starting to buy up downtown buildings in anticipation of young entrepreneurs coming out of that incubator that are going to want space in the downtown,” he says.