Monroe County voters will see a contested race for Monroe County Council District 2 on the Democratic primary ballot.
Jayme Washel and Kate Wiltz are looking to fill the soon-to-be vacant council seat currently held by Democrat Ryan Cobine, who is not seeking re-election. A third Democrat, Troy Thomas, will also appear on the ballot, but he is no longer formally running or campaigning.
Thomas would have to resign from his position with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office if elected to the council seat, so he has decided to withdraw from the race.
Wiltz decided to run for the council because she wants to be more involved.
“I have a strong background in program evaluation and development, and I want to bring my critical and thoughtful approach to our local government,” Wiltz said.
She said as a project manager at Indiana University’s Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, she is responsible for a variety of budgets and has also written a number of successful grant proposals. She has also worked with federal, state and local agencies on a variety of projects, including those focused on training and education, public engagement and strategic planning.
If elected, Wiltz said, her top priority will be ensuring efficiency with local initiatives and working to improve the health and wellness of residents.
She also wants to work on addressing the underlying causes of the ongoing opioid crisis, explore ways to improve transportation and connectivity and protect the county’s natural resources.
She said addressing the opioid epidemic requires examining the cycles of trauma and pain and working to stop addiction before it takes over a person’s life. Officials need to identify treatment, intervention and rehabilitation approaches that work in similar communities across the country, she added.
“We need to enact the law enforcement assisted diversion program that has reduced recidivism by up to 60 percent,” Wiltz said. “We need to have coordinated care that spans inpatient as well as community-based treatment programs, and we must support and expand our community corrections departments to allow alternatives to jail that hold people accountable for crimes while allowing them to seek mental health services they need.”
Washel, deputy fire chief with the Bloomington Fire Department, said he is running for office because he believes the county needs a pro-labor, pro-worker voice on the council. In addition, Washel cites his experience in handling multimillion-dollar budgets, saying he helps prepare them for the fire department.
Washel said his experience as a first responder would also be an asset in representing Monroe County as the county continues to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.
“As a first responder, I have encountered more overdoses than I can count, and that needs to change,” Washel said. “The way we are approaching this isn’t working, and we need to bring new ideas to the table if we want things to change.”
Washel said addressing the opioid epidemic requires policy that is driven by data, in order to best allocate resources to combat the entire cycle of addiction effectively. He said he intends to work with leaders of nonprofit groups, social workers, the legal system and first responders to create policy that better addresses the cycle of addiction and to find the best solutions to address it.
“I fully believe that this issue cannot be appropriately addressed unless we bring all experts to the table and devise a collective community strategy,” Washel said.
Washel said that if elected, he will use social media and regular constituent meetings to ensure everyone has a voice in the county government process.
Washel said another major challenge and opportunity the county faces is the proposed expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.
“This is an opportunity to dramatically increase Monroe County’s appeal as a tourist destination, create jobs and generate millions of dollars of investment for the community,” Washel said. “But we only have one shot to do this right. If this project is mismanaged, we could have a real problem on our hands.”