Herald Times: Deckard, Crossley emerge as new leaders in local Democratic Party

Trent Deckard is the newest member of the Monroe County Council, chosen by local Democratic Party members at a caucus Sunday afternoon, while Jennifer Crossley is now the party’s county chairwoman.

Deckard replaces former county council member Lee Jones, who vacated the seat after being sworn in as a new county commissioner. Deckard will complete Jones’ term through 2020 and plans to run again, he told the caucus.

The Nat U. Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse was packed as party members piled in to vote on the two positions. Of the 73 votes counted for Jones’ replacement on the county council, 65 went to Deckard, while four went to Sam Ujdak and four went to Richard Martin.

The party chairperson vote was much closer: Crossley received 50 of the 92 votes cast, while Penny Githens received 41. One person cast an abstention in the vote for party chairperson.

“I’m very excited,” Deckard said after his victory was announced. “I’m thinking already about this awesome responsibility and the things I want to do for all the people in the county.”

Deckard is a former local party chairman and has experience in public service. He has served as chief of staff of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus and as the Democratic co-director of the Indiana Election Division. He said his priorities as council member will be on harm reduction, specifically in terms of the addiction crisis that has wracked the county; on addressing the needs of residents in the county’s more rural areas, such as a need for cellphone coverage; and protecting Lake Monroe as a safe water source.

He also told the caucus he will begin a listening tour to talk to county residents about their concerns.

Among Crossley’s top priorities are bringing more voices into the local party’s discussions and increasing diversity within its ranks. She told party members before the vote that one way to do that would be to show diversity in the chairperson position.

“My passion is to be intentional and genuine in our efforts to reach those who we may not have had a chance to reach yet, and bring them to the table as well,” she said after her victory.

Crossley is now the first black woman to hold the local leadership position, “and I hopefully won’t ever be the last,” she added as she accepted hugs and handshakes from party members after the meeting adjourned.

She replaces Mark Fraley, who announced last year he would step down from the position he has filled for the past four years. The caucus joined together in a standing ovation to thank Fraley for his years of service.

Crossley said she plans to meet with the party’s executive board to get an idea of the party’s top concerns, “seeing where Mark left off and where we can pick up.” She also spoke highly of Githens, saying she certainly will be leaning on Githens’ expertise and experience in the years to come. The two embraced after Crossley’s win was announced.