Herald Times: Sims named as new city councilman

For more than two decades, Bloomington resident Jim Sims has served on a number of local boards, commissions, committees and organizations throughout the community.

On Monday, his public service record expanded to include city councilman, following a Monroe County Democratic Party caucus at City Hall for a vacant at-large council seat. The vacancy was due to the departure of former Bloomington City Councilman Tim Mayer, who retired July 31 after decades of service.

As the newly elected city councilman, Sims will complete Mayer’s term, which runs through the end of 2019.

“I’m just blessed,” Sims said.

In just one round of voting, Sims was able to secure 21 of the 41 Democratic precinct committee members’ votes to be elected to office. He was competing against a pool of five candidates present on Monday. A simple majority was needed for a candidate to be definitely selected. Other candidates included Trent Deckard, Sean Starowitz, Jean Capler and Gabe Colman. While Sierra Reed and Darryl Neher also expressed interest, both withdrew before Monday’s caucus.

Sims said he decided to run because he believes he has the public service experience, has built relationships throughout the community and has a good understanding of how local government works. Positions Sims currently holds include president of the Monroe County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, member of the Bloomington Utilities Service Board and chairman of Second Baptist Church Trustee Board.

Sims said his experience on those various boards and commissions helped prepare him for his new role on the city council, but he also knows there is still going to be a learning curve as a newly elected city councilman. However, he said he is ready for the challenge and grateful for the opportunity.

“I think this city is ready for a qualified candidate of color,” Sims said.

Former City Councilman Paul Swain is credited as the first African-American to serve on the council. He was elected to the position in 1991. Much like back then, Sims said, he felt the community was ready to have another person of color serve in such an important capacity. He said even Swain encouraged him to run.

“I think there is more energy in the party and I think they are making an intentional effort to be more inviting and inclusive,” Sims said.

Some of the items and issues Sims said he wants to focus on in the near future include the comprehensive master plan, public safety, affordable housing and continued transparency in government. He said these are issues that are complex and will not be easily resolved, but he looks forward to working with his colleagues on the council and in the administration, as well as other community leaders, to tackle them.

Mark Fraley, Monroe County Democratic Party chairman, said he was confident that whatever the outcome, Bloomington will have a qualified representative on the city council, and he has faith in Sims’ ability to serve the community.

“He is an excellent public servant and a thoughtful, committed person,” Fraley said. “I know he has done a lot for this community, he has done a lot for this city and he will continue to engage his work with the same vision and passion that he has throughout his decades of service.”