ANGOLA — Four people are running for the three Republican Party nominations to serve as at-large members of the Steuben County Council.
The candidates include incumbent Council Members Ruth Beer and Dan Caruso, former Coroner William Harter and Jacob R. Nicely. Of the four, Nicely did not respond to a request to be profiled for this story.
Longtime at-large Council Member Linda Hansen is not seeking reelection.
Ruth Beer, 58, Hudson, is seeking her third term in office with the Steuben County Council.
Beer, the vice president of the council, comes from a line of public servants. Her father, John Hughes, served for 28 years on the council. Beer actually occupies the same seat in the council room as did her father. Beer’s grandfather, Wayne Hughes, was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.
Beer says she never has an agenda for her work as a council member.
“My only goal is to represent the persons of Steuben County. I want everyone to know that I am, and always have been, happy to discuss their wishes and vote as the majority want me to,” she said.
Serving on the council, Beer enjoys the give and take that goes on to serve the public.
“I love being able to negotiate with county employees, department heads and other council members to come up with financial decisions that all participants are able to follow,” she said.
When it comes to approving appropriations for the spending of Major Moves money, of which there’s $5.1 million remaining from the original $40 million provided to the county in 2006, Beer says expenditures should benefit all of the citizens.
“I have always said that Major Moves funds should only be used for projects that will benefit the entire county. Leaving the remaining funds to accumulate interest income is also a benefit to the county,” she said.
Beer enjoys seeing people attend County Council meetings and that great measures are taken to make the public aware of meetings.
“I love to see interested persons attend the Steuben County Council meetings! If anyone has attended, they will know that lengthy discussions take place before the vote. These discussions are at a public form and are recorded,” Beer said. “The approved minutes of these meetings are available to anyone that requests them and are also posted to the Steuben County Government website. These procedures allow full transparency.”
The county’s website is co.steuben.in.us.
Beer is a graduate of Prairie Heights High School. She attended Ivy Tech College where she took classes in business, communications and accounting. She is a longtime employee of Wayside Furniture in Angola and is a life-long Steuben County resident.
Beer has been married to Ted Beer for 40 years. They have two children, Brent Beer (married to Amanda) and Stacy Clark (married to Tim). They have six grandchildren. They are Keeton, Kambree, Kinsley, Casen, Evelyn and Florence.
“And the even bigger blessing is that they all live close, in Steuben and LaGrange counties,” Beer said.
Incumbent Councilman Dan Caruso, 53, Jimmerson Lake, would like to see the Steuben County Council and the Steuben County Board of Commissioners work closer together to achieve shared visions for the community.
Caruso is seeking his third term on the County Council.
“The high-level view of my biggest goal for this term, should I get elected, would be to see the County Council and Commissioner body work collaboratively, rather than independently, to discuss and work towards our common goal,” Caruso said. “Next, with the financial challenges I anticipate from COVID-19, we’ll need to work even harder to keep Steuben County government fiscally sound now and into the future. Our council has been diligent in its due diligence performance on requests, keeping our tax base and expenses relative to funds as one of the lowest in the state.”
Caruso said he is seeking another term in office to advocate for the business, lakes and tourism communities. He also wants to see the Steuben County Courthouse renovation and addition project get completed and lists personnel issues as priorities.
“From a project standpoint specifically, I’d like to see our courthouse project goals be met of safety and Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, in as reasonable a manner as financially possible. I’d like us to continue to invest in our people in county government whose talents are vast. Through them, we can serve our constituency with efficiently modern technology and accessibility. We need to continue to empower our department heads to be bold and fair, holding themselves and the people within their departments accountable for performance. I felt it was important to create a position for a human resources director. We hired wisely and have seen great benefit from this,” Caruso said. “Our 24-7 public safety is top notch, and we must equip them to perform at a high level.”
When it comes to using the county’s remaining $5.1 million in Major Moves funds, Caruso said he will continue to support proposals from the commissioners that invests the money in projects that create a return and he expects the fund to grow as outstanding loans are repaid.
“With the limited balance still available, I feel we should be very choosey as to which projects in the future will benefit the whole community the most. I would support opportunities that will strengthen the financial security of the county for the future,” Caruso said. “I will continue to vote against use of those funds for pet projects or projects that don’t create a positive return for the largest majority or create an ongoing operational cost that we can’t support.”
Caruso would like to continue to advocate public participation in council meetings.
“That’s where we get the opportunity as a council to discuss and decide on the matters at hand, and I love it when residents show up to listen and be heard. Accountability happens by accessibility,” he said. “As elected officials we walk the same streets, share the same stores and conduct our businesses shoulder to shoulder with everyone else. I welcome being called or approached to discuss the matters that concern people. My agenda is selflessness. Let’s hear from all corners and collectively make the best decision possible with the information and resources at hand.”
Caruso is a graduate of Angola High School and studied business and finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He is an owner of Caruso’s Restaurant and is employed at STAR Financial, Angola. He serves as a member of the board of Cameron Memorial Community Hospital and is the former board chair of Junior Achievement of Northeast Indiana. He also is a co-founder of Chapman’s Brewing Co., Angola.
Caruso has lived in the community since 1976. He and his wife of 33 years have raised two daughters, Natalie and Rachel.
William “Bill” Harter, 51, Angola, wants to continue his service to the county as a member of the Steuben County Council.
Harter just finished nearly eight years as serving as Steuben County coroner. He stepped down in April after being named assistant fire chief for the Angola Fire Department and was replaced by the likely Republican nominee, Rodney Snyder, who is unopposed in the primary.
“I really enjoy being part of solutions. Serving the county I grew up in is one of the most satisfying things I have done. We have a beautiful county with an abundance of natural and historical landmarks. To be able to promote these landmarks is very important to help secure growth and expansion,” Harter said.
Harter said he is excited about being part of a growing Steuben County, which includes local government.
“This excitement of growth within Steuben County and Steuben County government must continue. I feel that I have the necessary budgetary experience behind me that I can offer some positive insight to the budgeting process,” he said.
Personnel issues are among the top for Harter.
“I feel that we need to continue our focus on retraining and retention of personnel. We have great employees, personnel is the No. 1 asset to any organization, and we as council need to assure and build upon the matrix that was established for the 2020 budget year and carry it through to future years,” he said.
As might be expected of an individual with a public safety background, Harter feels strongly about funding these organizations and is strongly against outsourcing the county’s emergency medical service.
“I am strongly against this as I have seen the drawbacks and cons within counties that have went this direction. My working in public service for 35 plus years has taught me that safety and a timely response to our citizens cannot be jeopardized. Our EMS service generated over $500,000,” Harter said, “last year, I do not at this time see the need to outsource.”
When it comes to Steuben County’s remaining $5.1 million in Major Moves funds, he thought it would be best if the council worked with the commissioners on how best to leverage the money with matching grants or repayable loans.
He would like to see money applied to projects that create jobs and sees median-income housing and daycare were important to the county.
If elected, Harter wants to do as much as possible to learn more about the functions of county government.
“My first goal is to spend time within the departments of Steuben County to understand the functions and positions of the respective departments,” he said. “Second goal is to learn and continue learning the council’s position. I have knowledge of the budgeting process and the funding coming in and going out. My philosophy has always been to give 100% to what you sign up for and that is my objective.”
He said he would lean on the veteran members of the council to help him learn.
Harter said the council also has to wisely spend tax money.
“We are accountable to you the taxpaying citizen; we must be smart about the approval of the appropriation requests that are forwarded to us. I promise to be that responsible council representative,” he said.
Harter said he doesn’t see transparency as being an issue after attending many council meetings in the past. His openness and transparency as Steuben County coroner will be brought to his work as a council member, if elected.
Harter is married to his wife, Shari. He has a son, Brandon Harter, who along with his wife, Brittany, have a son, Ryland William Harter.
He is a graduate of Angola High School and currently serves as the fulltime captain of the Angola Fire Department, where he’s worked since 2001.