Executive joins race for GOP mayoral bid
Businessman Tim Smith launched his mayoral campaign Tuesday in the shadow of the former historic International Harvester truck plant in southeast Fort Wayne, announcing goals to make the city safer, smarter and stronger.
More than 100 people : including some wearing campaign shirts with the slogan “Expect More” : listened as the Republican outlined intentions to address such areas as crime and economic development.
“Every day the people of Fort Wayne expect more out of city government, but they’re not getting it,” Smith said. “I believe, even in these economic times, that our political leadership can deliver far more than what Fort Wayne residents currently experience.”
This marks Smith’s second foray into politics. In 2004, he unsuccessfully sought to replace the late state Sen. Charles “Bud” Meeks in a Republican caucus.
He will face City Councilman John Crawford, an oncologist, in the May primary. Mayor Tom Henry, a Democrat, is seeking a fourth term.
Crawford, reached by phone Tuesday, welcomed Smith to the race. Good competition will make the winner of the primary a better candidate in the general election, he said.
“I hope we have an issue-oriented, positive campaign about what we will do to make Fort Wayne better,” Crawford said.
Smith respects his fellow candidates’ public service but said it’s time for new ideas. His 24 years’ experience at MedPro Group : where he’s senior vice president of operations and technology : is a benefit, he said, noting principles that make private business successful will work in government.
He supports Electric Works, the project eyed for the former General Electric campus, because it will spur job growth and has forced the city to debate two broader issues: the ratio of public-to-private funding and how the city will fill the real estate, he said.
“We need far more private dollars and far fewer public dollars involved in these projects,” Smith said, “and the mayor should be focused on attracting five to 10 new employers to fill the 1.2 million square feet with high-paying jobs.”
Fort Wayne has grown complacent in finding, appealing to and pursuing companies, Smith said. City government needs to understand why businesses relocate and move their headquarters and workers, he said.
Crawford, who also supports investment in the General Electric property, said strategies are already in place to improve economic development. Parkview Field, which he supported in 2007, has sparked momentum downtown, he said, noting Ash Brokerage could have easily moved its headquarters elsewhere.
Smith’s other ideas include coordinating trade school and apprenticeship programs; emphasizing community-oriented policing; and providing incentives to officers who move to areas with higher crime rates.
Crawford also supports a larger police force, but the budget must be considered.
There’s value in raising expectations, Smith said.
“When we begin to expect more, we will become a center for unparalleled regional growth, but more importantly, a center for unprecedented opportunity as Fort Wayne was when International Harvester was thriving on this very ground,” Smith said against a backdrop of broken windows and peeling paint.