Caucus picks former sheriff Fries, Kerley to replace county councilmen
A former sheriff and the head of Fort Wayne’s Legacy Joint Funding Committee will become Allen County’s newest Republican councilmen.
Former Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries will take over for outgoing County Councilman Justin Busch, who is replacing retiring State Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, in Indianapolis. Kyle Kerley will replace Councilman Eric Tippmann, who was elected Perry Township trustee this month. Both Fries and Kerley were elected Wednesday during an Allen County Republican Party caucus.
Nine candidates sought the two open seats during tonight’s caucus of precinct committee members.
“I have worked my entire adult life in the criminal justice system here in Allen County, from the age of 21 to forced retirement at 55 because of term limits,” Fries said, noting that 70 percent of the county’s annual budget goes toward public safety. “I know the system inside and out. The thing that costs you the most, I know the best.”
After retiring as sheriff, Fries mounted an unsuccessful 2014 campaign for state senate. He was defeated by State Sen. Liz Brown in the May 2014 primary.
Fries won his County Council seat Wednesday after several rounds of voting, defeating fellow candidate Adam Welch in a 103-75 vote. After a similar number of voting rounds, Kerley was elected to his seat in a 93-82 vote.
Kerley said he’s excited to begin his term. Primarily, he hopes to help influence changes to Allen County’s local income tax structure to give communities outside the Fort Wayne city limits more of a say in taxation.
“Right now anybody who lives in New Haven or Woodburn or the unincorporated areas, their option income tax is set by (Fort Wayne) city council,” Kerley said. “Now, that’s not something that County Council can change but there are seven counties in Indiana that are adversely affected that same way. I’d like to work with legislators to try to get that corrected so there isn’t taxation without representation.”
In an interview Wednesday, Steve Shine, head of the Allen County GOP, said he was encouraged by the crop of candidates who came forward to fill the vacancies. The number of candidates who participated in Wednesday’s caucus, Shine said, shows the level of interest the Republican Party has generated.
Kerley and Fries, Shine said, will be fantastic additions to the county’s fiscal body.
Speaking to caucus voters, Shine described the Allen County GOP as “Indiana’s premier county political organization.”
“I think we showed that (last election) when out of 42 contested races on the county ballot, the Allen County Republican Party won 38 of those,” Shine said.
Fries will begin his term immediately. Kerley will be sworn in Jan. 1.