Outgoing Carmel city councilors reflect on accomplishments, what’s next


2024 will begin with big change in local government.

On Jan. 1, not only will Carmel’s first new mayor in nearly 30 years take office, but five new faces will join the Carmel City Council. They replace leaders with a combined 44 years on the council, who are moving on to other endeavors.

The following highlights the outgoing councilors’ time in office and what they plan to explore next.

At-large: Kevin “Woody” Rider

Kevin “Woody” Rider joined the Carmel City Council in 2008 and served as the council representative on the Carmel Plan Commission for 12 years during an era that saw massive growth and redevelopment. He served in an at-large position throughout his time on the council.

“I had a lot of fun (serving on the council),” Rider said. “It was nice to be partnered with one of the most effective mayors in the United States, and it felt good to be a part of helping Carmel grow.”

Among the many projects Rider, a Republican, helped guide during his years in office, he said two that stand out are improving connectivity of bike paths and roads and fostering a business-friendly environment.

Rider, owner of two Carmel restaurants, said he always aimed to be accessible to his constituents and address their concerns – even when they didn’t always see eye to eye.

“I was involved in a ton of the projects, and I was always available when people had questions or needed to talk. I would go to their neighborhoods, I would go to their meetings,” he said. “People would say, ‘You’re not listening to me,’ and I’d say, ‘I’m listening to you, but I’m not agreeing.’ It’s a hard position to be in. But I’m pleased with how it went.”

Rider’s time in office is ending after he lost a close primary race for mayor in May 2023. With more time on his hands, he plans to expand his volunteer efforts and travel with his wife. He is also willing to continue serving the community in new capacities.

“I have confidence that our new administration will keep us moving in a direction that’s positive for Carmel,” he said. “I look forward to helping in any way I can.”

Northeast District: Sue Finkam

Sue Finkam, first elected in 2011 to represent the Northeast District, ran for mayor instead of seeking reelection to the council. After a successful campaign, she will become mayor at noon Jan. 1.

She said her time on the council was “the best preparation to run for mayor” and that it gave her experience and perspective to begin her new role.

“The knowledge gained through our work on crime prevention, community engagement, fiscal discipline and smart development all led to the platform upon which I ran, and it will guide my decision making as we work to identify operational efficiencies and service improvements to create better outcomes for our taxpayers,” she said.

Finkam, a Republican, said she is proud of the body of work the council completed during her three terms, and she considers helping coordinate the donation of 63 acres of land for a new park in her district among her top accomplishments.

She said a highlight of serving as a city councilor has been the interaction with city employees.

“Most are not household names, they never take curtain calls, they just do the work and we are better off because of it,” she said. “As my role changes, I look forward to better engaging with my colleagues to make sure we are optimizing talent and supporting the team in the best way possible.”

North District: Laura Campbell

When Laura Campbell moved to Carmel from New Jersey in 1977, she told her father she wouldn’t consider living here after college. In time her views changed, however, and she helped lead the city she once wanted to leave as a member of the city council from 2016 to 2023.

Campbell, a Republican, said she’s proud of what the council accomplished during her tenure, as the city continued its transformation from a bedroom suburb to becoming a destination of its own.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we have built this city that our kids want to come back to,” she said.

Campbell served as council president in 2020, a role that unexpectedly included managing meetings and city business through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019 she was a key figure in launching Carmel’s Advisory Committee on Disability, which she considers among her top accomplishments as a councilor.

“I’m really proud of that, because I think we’ve done a lot in terms of education, not only for residents but also for employers in our city about hiring people with disabilities,” she said.

Campbell served as a campaign co-chair for Finkam and is co-leading a nonprofit that is overseeing the mayoral transition and managing inaugural events. Once that work ends Campbell said she doesn’t know what her next steps will be, but she does not plan to seek elected office again and is hoping to spend more time volunteering in the community.

“I’m looking forward to taking some time to look into (volunteer) organizations and dedicating my time back to them,” she said.

West District: Miles Nelson

Miles Nelson made history in 2019 by becoming the first Democrat ever elected in Carmel. He decided to run for mayor after Jim Brainard announced he would not seek an eighth term in the role, but Nelson came up short against Republican mayoral candidate Sue Finkam in the November 2023 election.

Nelson, who represents the West District, said among his top accomplishments in office is working with Brainard on the city’s first proclamation recognizing LGBTQ Pride month, signed by Brainard in June 2021, and helping coordinate Carmel Pride, an annual event launched in 2021 by Carmel High School students to celebrate the local LGBTQ community.

“I’d like to think that Carmel is a forward-thinking, progressive city, but we didn’t always have that reputation,” Nelson said. “Moving the needle on these types of things so that everyone – regardless of your skin color, religious beliefs, who you choose to love – felt like this was a city that wanted you to be here and welcomed you and encouraged you to build a life, build a career, raise a family and valued who you were, regardless of your differences.”

During his mayoral campaign, Nelson frequently campaigned on the importance of the city supporting Carmel Clay Schools, which he described as the city’s “No. 1 economic driver.” Two seats on the school board will be on the ballot in November, but Nelson said he is not interested in running for school board – or any other elected office.

“I have no plans for that in the future. At this point, I’m here to kind of reintroduce myself to my family and to my friends,” Nelson said, describing his mayoral campaign as a full-time job.

Nelson plans to continue running AOI, an executive search firm he founded in 2017.

At-large: Tim Hannon

Republican Tim Hannon often voted in the minority in split votes during his at-large term on the city council, making it difficult to advance some of his ideas and initiatives. But he doesn’t view those instances as all-out defeats.

“I don’t have any crowning glories. I would say, tongue in cheek, that I’ve been able to inflict a couple of bad paper cuts is perhaps my proudest accomplishment,” he said. “But I’m proud of my efforts, even in losing votes, to try to clearly state how I would have done differently, and maybe leave examples for future councils.”

Hannon, a retired U.S. Navy veteran with no previous political experience, ran for office in 2019 after becoming concerned about the city’s spending priorities and a lack of citizen involvement. During his time on the council, he frequently raised questions about city finances and advocated for enhanced safety measures to protect drivers and pedestrians.

Hannon did not seek a second term and is not planning to seek another elected office. He plans to spend more time working to grow Stronger Veterans, a local group dedicated to reducing veteran suicides, and is open to serving the community in other roles.

“My goal in these four years (on the city council) is to try to leave the campsite better than I found it,” he said. “It’s been frustrating, because I would have liked to have done a lot more improvements for the campsite than I have. But I’ve tried to leave breadcrumbs of what I think is good governance.”