Mayor Kirk Church is running for reelection for mayor of South Bend as a write-in candidate. The Herald interviewed Mayor Church about his candidacy. Below are his responses.
Please give a little background to the voters about yourself.
“I am a single father of four children and eight grandchildren. I have a son who passed away in 1995 at the age of 21. I graduated from SBHS in 1969 and although I am an Indian thru and thru I have met in the last 10 years some amazing folks from all the school districts. I became a South Bend councilor in 2004. I ran for mayor in 2010. My goal as an elected official of South Bend is to represent the folks who live here and give them a voice. In the 10 years I have been with South Bend I have been a truck driver, educator, DOL tester and a voice for South Bend and north Pacific County wherever I travel. The only campaign promise I would make is I will take $200 of the mayor’s salary for the next four years and hire someone to clean the public restrooms in South Bend.”
The most obvious question is, why did you decide to run after at first, deciding not to run for re-election?
“I decided to run again for the same reason I sought to become mayor in the first place. That is to share my desire to make the city I love a great place to live. I wanted to focus on growth and tourism so other people could see what a great place we live in.”
Why had you decided not to run in the first place?
“I always intended to continue my involvement with city service, and since some of the city projects were unable to be completed during my term, I felt that seeking reelection would be the best use of my experience to see the projects through.”
What are your biggest accomplishments during your tenure as mayor?
“Anythingthat was accomplished as councilor or mayor is the combined efforts of the council, city staff, and the employees of the city. Any thing done has to go through all the proper channels to get done. I am very proud to have recognized a few citizens with lifetime memorials and I am also happy to have been the mayor through the 2010 football championships.”
This is not a typical write-in campaign, after all, you are an incumbent mayor; since you’re not on the ballot, what will you do to make up for that disadvantage?
“I trust the citizens of South Bend recognize my dedication to the city and pride in being a longtime resident. I genuinely believe that we can make South Bend a place that people will want to stop and spend time in rather than just drive through on their way to another destination. We are more than just a bathroom break on 101!”
Why should people vote for you instead of Julie Struck?
“My decision to run again should not be construed as a desire to beat out another candidate. I strongly believe that the citizens should have a choice in who will represent them as mayor and giving them another option hopefully encourages everyone to exercise our right to vote. Again, I trust that the voters will vote for the person who will put South Bend above any personal gains. As for me, I believe that I have shown the capability to make the tough decision, even those that are not a popular choice. I believe that is an important step for our city.”
The community is aware of the recent investigation into missing monies from the city court fund. How will you ensure that this doesn't occur again?
“We are following strict guidelines set forth by the state auditor.”
Do you feel responsible for the missing money from the court fund?
How do you feel about your relationship with your staff and your relationship with the council?
“We have passion. We have diversity. We have communication. We have an awesome staff and council.”
What approach would you take to improve the working relationship between the city council and the mayor?
“Continuing with communication and education and training.”
“Do you believe that you have a good working relationship with the council and staff at city hall?
“Yes I do.”
Do you believe you handled the situation with the cities aging infrastructure?
“It will always be a never ending process. It’s old. It’s ageing. We apply for every grant we are eligible for. We have a lot of debt. It’s going to be a few years before we can tackle much infrastructure unless we get grants.”
The infrastructure is aging. What plans do you have to address this?
“Apply for every available grant that surfaces that would benefit South Bend.”
What is your policy on staff training? (In a recent meeting you said that you “really didn't know...the staff handled their own training.”
“At the start of each budget process the department heads budget their training in their budget. Last year we cut some out and brought in Canfield and Associates to do in-house training. I am always aware of anyone going to training, but some training for them is out of my field.”
One of the mayor's duties is to oversee various city departments. What procedures would you use to implement that oversight?
“The department heads are specialists in their field. I ask questions and get explanations to understand their process. Sometimes I offer suggestions, but I realize they have been doing their job for many years; and do it very well I might add. We have staff meetings and we have an open door where they may come to me at any time with grievance suggestions or discussion.”
If there’s anything you’d like to say, please do so.
“If reelected, I would truly like to thank the folks of the City of South Bendfor another four years. I have my passion back and I am sorry I let it slip this past year. If not reelected, I would like to thank all for the past 10 years. It has been a once in a lifetime event that I have enjoyed tremendously. I have met some amazing folks along the way and have tried my hardest to represent you in a non-partisan way. Truly north Pacific County and the City of South Bend are God’s country. Thanks to all the folks who have helped me along the way. I love you.”