John Stehr, a Zionsville resident and former broadcast journalist for WTHR-TV Channel 13, recently announced his candidacy Zionsville mayor. Stehr said he is campaigning on a foundation of effective communication, promotion of public safety and planning for responsible economic growth within the town.
Stehr, who is vying for the Republican nomination with Jane Burgess, said his career as a broadcast journalist has provided him with a skill for good communication that he said has been lacking in Zionsville in recent years.
“Town governments are effective because of good communication, both with each other and with the people they represent,” Stehr said. “I think I can foster that in a way nobody else can. I feel my background and my experiences have uniquely positioned me to take on this role.”
Stehr, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Emily Styron, said he has been prioritizing meeting with individuals and town leaders to get a comprehensive grasp on what is important to constituents.
“That’s what municipal government is for, is to do the will of the people of the town,” Stehr said. “For every dollar you pay in taxes, you should get a dollar’s worth of service in return. The only way that can happen is if (the government) is listening to the people that are paying that dollar and responding to what they want.”
Public safety is also important to the campaign, Stehr said, as he wants to maintain Zionsville’s reputation as one of the safest towns in Indiana by keeping up with personnel, equipment and training needs to keep up with growth. Stehr said mental health is just as crucial to public safety as anything else.
“I think it goes beyond the police department and the fire department,” he said. “Sometimes we need to do all we can to support mental health for the people here, and I think we also have to train first responders on how to deal with people who are in mental health crises in a way that makes it safer for those people, for the first responders and for everybody around them.”
Along with public safety, Stehr said the town’s growth calls for a more intentional and transparent plan that maintains the town’s historical significance while also promoting responsible economic development and raising the bond rating once again.
Stehr also said he feels the town could accomplish more sustainable growth by seeking grants, private donations and partnerships.
“We need to plan for the future and have a vision for what Zionsville is going to be and communicate that through modern marketing techniques like social media to tell the Zionsville story again and again and create a narrative around the town,” Stehr said.
Stehr noted his time as president of the Zionsville Board of Parks and Recreation also allowed him to see the importance of development in bringing the town together. He said parks department surveys showed a community center is a top priority for constituents and he hopes to put this into action if elected.
Above all, Stehr said building consensus is just as important as communication in maintaining a strong municipal government.
“Bring developers together to meet with conservationists, bring people of different political stripes together and hear what they have to say,” Stehr said. “That’s how you build a consensus going forward. There’s no such thing as too much information or too much data when you’re dealing with big issues.”
Stehr said although he wasn’t born in Zionsville, he has lived in the town for 30 years and hopes to do his part by serving as its mayor.
“I’m not running against anybody, I’m running for Zionsville and for my ideas,” Stehr said. “I want the town 30 years from now to be the kind of place people love raising their families in as much as I have.”