Republican incumbents dominated Kosciusko County government races Tuesday, with two candidates taking 74 percent of the vote and a third garnering 79 percent in their bids for re-election.

Commissioners President Bob Conley retained his place representing the southern district by virtue of a 18,913 to 6,695 victory over Democrat J. Todd Weingart. Councilman and former Warsaw mayor Ernie Wiggins won the county council District 3 race over Democrat Gary L. Schue 4,550 to 1,584.

Jon Garber collected 5,459 votes for council District 4, outdistancing David Morgan’s 1,448.

Two other council candidates, Doug Heinisch and Michael Long, were unopposed in Districts 1 and 2, respectively.

Conley won a fourth term on the board of commissioners, but took nothing for granted in the 2018 campaign.

“You never get used to it, but I appreciate people taking the opportunity to vote,” Conley said. “I’ve always said, ‘If you give people the facts, they’ll make the right decision.’ And when you fabricate facts to get votes, and the demeaning of character, that’s not a good thing and I’ve never done that.”

The commissioners president said he’d like to take another look at how road maintenance is financed.

“I’m looking forward to taking a closer, harder look at the wheel tax, and how it’s distributed. I think it’d be fairer if we would go to a weight classification,” said Conley. “It’s not fair for a tri-axle dump truck with a double-axle trailer with a bulldozer on it to pay the same amount of money as a two-wheeled trailer that some young man uses to haul a lawn mower to cut grandma’s grass twice a week. I think it can be changed to make it more equitable.

“If we can’t do that, we could look at lowering the tax on a two-wheeled trailer under 3,500 pounds. That’ll be a challenge, and I look forward to looking at that and seeing what we can do.”

Wiggins enters his first full term as a council member, having replaced Brad Tandy mid-term. But Tuesday wasn’t the first time through the election process.

“Well, you always want to run scared a little bit,” he said. “You never know; that’s why they have elections.

“I do appreciate the fact that the voters have trusted me to represent them. It looks like we had a pretty good voter turnout; that’s always a good thing.”

Wiggins added between his mayoral experience and his accounting background, he will be an asset to the council when it’s time to make the annual budget.

“When I was mayor I worked with the city council to put the budget together, and that’s what my forte has been, in the budgeting process,” said Wiggins. “I look forward to working with the council and the commissioners to move the county forward.

“The opioid crisis doesn’t seem to be going away, and the jail overcrowding (needs a solution). As part of the strategic planning committee, we need to keep those things moving forward and keep moving down the road for the future.”

Garber will enter his second full term. He said it was good to have an opponent in the election.

“I appreciate having opposition. It kind of keeps me on my toes and makes me think back to the last six years and what needs to be done in the next four years,” he said.  

“It was very pleasing to have such a large turnout in the county; it shows people are really involved. I’m very grateful for the support I received. I hope to be able to continue to represent the people of the district well and yet maintain low county tax rate. We’re recognized as having the second-lowest general tax rate in the state of Indiana, and I’m proud that we can do that.  It’s our duty to try and meet that and still maintain the needs of the county.”

He said he appreciates the chance to continue to help the county move forward in several areas.

“I’ve enjoyed being on the county council, and there are several issues that need to be addressed as part of a strategic planning committee. We’re looking at the fiscal and physical need of the county, and we’ll address those needs in the next fiscal year.

“In particular, the overpopulation of the county jail and the resulting understaffing for them needs to be addressed. We’ll also look at issues related to creating a new court for Kosciusko County.”