Carmel’s longest-serving city councilor launches mayoral campaign

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Carmel City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider won’t be seeking reelection to his at-large seat in the 2023 municipal election. Instead, he is running for mayor, a role he’s been considering for the past decade.

Rider, a Republican, joined the city council in 2008 and is its longest-serving member. He has served as an at-large councilor from the beginning, a position he sought because of the relationships he built with residents throughout Carmel as a restaurant owner.

“It’s like I have a polling place because I’ve spoken to the public every day of my life for the last 38 years. It makes me very in touch with what they’re looking for and what they want,” said Rider, who opened Woody’s Library Restaurant in 1998 on Main Street and divvy in 2011 in Carmel City Center (his first restaurant, Parcel Pizza, operated in Carmel from 1983 to 1990).

Rider’s announcement comes one week after Mayor Jim Brainard announced he will leave the office he’s served in since 1996 when his seventh term concludes at the end of 2023. Rider said he did not want to run against Brainard but that he would have launched his mayoral campaign even if the incumbent sought reelection.

No other candidates have announced a mayoral campaign, although City Councilor Sue Finkam, also a Republican, is considering a run.

If elected as Carmel’s next mayor, Rider said he doesn’t plan to significantly alter the vision or direction of the city.

“In the past, people that have run against the mayor have talked about major changes. I believe in the old theory, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” he said. “I’m excited where Carmel is going and where we currently are. We need to do everything we can to keep that moving forward.”

In addition, Rider said his campaign will prioritize clear communication, and that, if elected, he plans to work with the city advisors to develop an easy-to-understand presentation explaining Carmel’s financial state to keep residents informed.

“People fear what they don’t know. When projects come before us, so many (rumors) get started by email and text and NextDoor that weren’t true, because people don’t have the information,” he said. “I’ll always make sure people know, and I want them to know ahead of time. I don’t believe in surprises. I think the less you surprise people and the more information you give people, it gives them a level of comfort, and that’s what I want my administration to be.”

Rider, who is serving as city council president this year, said Carmel mayor will be the final elected role he will seek and that he plans to run for at least two terms. When he joined the city council, he had ambitions to eventually run for Congress, but after learning more about the office he decided to focus his efforts locally.

“I decided I could do more for Carmel as a city councilor or mayor than I could in Washington, so I’ve chosen to stay home,” said Rider, who has served on the Carmel Plan Commission for most of his years in office.

City Councilor Jeff Worrell, a city councilor who previously said he plans to seek re-election to his at-large seat, said he supports Rider’s decision to run for mayor.

“Kevin has been a close colleague and friend for many years. His dedication to the City of Carmel and its residents is clear through his work on the council,” Worrell said. “He is a strong leader, and someone who will serve our city well.”

Rider, 60, grew up in north Indianapolis and attended Cathedral High School and Indiana University. A self-described “man of faith,” he attends Northview Church, where his volunteer roles have included driving a shuttle bus and ushering in the same aisle for 19 years. Other volunteer roles include serving on the board of Cherish and donating and delivering meals from his restaurants to people in need through the Feeding Neighbors program.

If elected, Rider would step back from much of his responsibilities at his restaurants, which are established enough to be managed without his direct daily involvement, he said. His wife, Richelle, would continue to work as executive chef at both eateries.

Learn more at RiderforCarmel.com.

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