KENDALLVILLE — Kendallville’s police chief is the first candidate to announce he’d like to be the city’s next mayor.

On Thursday, ahead of the city’s community Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m., Police Chief Lance Waters announced he’ll seek the Republican nomination for mayor in 2023.

Waters is the first candidate to officially launch a run after Mayor Suzanne Handshoe announced Nov. 10 that she would not seek a sixth term as mayor.

“I don’t consider myself a politician,” Waters said. “But I have been in public service, in one form or another, for 30 years. I look forward to the opportunity of serving Kendallville in a new capacity.”

Waters has worked closely with the mayor after he was appointed by Handshoe as police chief in April 2020 following the retirement of longtime chief Rob Wiley.

Waters started his career as a firefighters in 1992 and also served as a parademic with the emergency medical service. He got his start in law enforcement in Hamilton back in 1997 for two and half years before moving to Wolcottville for a short time, then joined the force Kendallville. After starting in patrol, Waters worked as a detective for 18 years before being named chief on April 1, 2020.

He’s been a part of the Kendallville Police Department now for 22 1/2 years.

Waters said his decision came after serious thought and prayer. He and his wife, April, have lived in Kendallville since 2008 and all their of their children graduated from East Noble High School.

Waters will lean on his many years of public service as he launches a campaign for the job leading Kendallville.

“Certainly as many do, we want to see the best for our city. In recent years, Kendallville has seen significant improvement. There has been amazing renewal to the downtown area, improvement of streets and sidewalks, creation of new park areas, and a new businesses have opened in our community. As Mayor of Kendallville, I will build from this foundation and continue to move Kendallville forward in a positive direction,” Waters said. “I am familiar with city government having worked for the City of Kendallville for over two decades. I have proven leadership skills and will work diligently to continually make Kendallville a better place to live, work and visit.”

Handshoe opted not to seek a sixth term primarily due to her health as she continues living with multiple myeloma after first being diagnosed in 2016. Handshoe stated that she couldn’t square the difference for another four years between the long hours and stress needed to perform at the level she wanted against the advice of doctors and family.

That leaves the mayor’s race open for the first time in 20 years.

Kendallville is also losing its most veteran councilman, as Jim Dazey announced he will also retire after seven terms on the city council.

Current at-large Republican councilman Regan Ford has already announced his intent to seek Dazey’s District 1 seat, while Noble County Economic Development Corp.’s administrative assistant and Historic Downtoan Kendallville board president Tara Streb will seek the at-large nomination for the GOP.

Councilwoman Amy Ballard is also seeking re-election to her District 3 seat on the city council.

Waters is the first but is not expected to be the last candidate to file for mayor, as filing for the 2023 doesn’t actually start until Jan. 4 and runs until Feb. 3.

The May 2 municipal primary next year will pick party nominees to advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Winners in fall elections will take office Jan. 1, 2024.

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