Evansville voters on Nov. 7 will elect the city’s first new mayor in 12 years. Libertarian Michael Daugherty, Republican Natalie Rascher, and Democrat Stephanie Terry are vying for the office being vacated by Lloyd Winnecke, who after 12 years as mayor will lead the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. Evansville Business asked each of the three mayoral candidates about their economic priorities, the city’s growth opportunities, and strategies for attracting new business and industry. Here’s what they told us.
1. Evansville’s property tax caps have impacted the city’s ability to grow revenue. How can the city raise new revenue without increasing property taxes?
2. What economic sectors show the most potential for growth?
3. What strategies would you support to attract new business and industry here?
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
NAME: Michael Daugherty
POLITICAL PARTY: Libertarian
EDUCATION: North High School; Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, Purdue University; Master of Business Administration, Purdue University
PROFESSION: Retired CEO of Abstract Technology Group LLC
FAMILY: Declined to provide information
1. Immediately look at the economic development aspect and bring in additional business (and) residents. There are hundreds of vacant properties and commercial lots available where Evansville can stimulate our revenue growth by adding new businesses. We’ve done a poor job of bringing in new opportunities to increase our tax base.
2. Let’s look at white collar jobs with technology and remote workers. Office, clerical, and administrative assistants are all pretty much jobs you can do from anywhere. Remote workers go hand in hand with technology, so our increased fiber ring around Evansville, and the broadband the county commissioners pushed for, is huge. Evansville can be a great centric hub for those remote workers. We’ve invested in the infrastructure, and we’re prime to grow.
3. We have to do better at supporting small businesses, not just bringing in new business. We have to look at the percentage of small businesses that are failing (and) ask how we can help. One of the things that always bothered me as a small- to medium-business owner was the local government and the economic development all jump when a large corporation comes in. They remove all red tape from them starting their business, while the small business owner is the most affected by startup costs.
NAME: Natalie Rascher
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
EDUCATION: Central High School; Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and law and society, Purdue University; Master of Science in applied health science and administration, Indiana University; Master of Business Administration, University of Southern Indiana
PROFESSION: Senior Talent Acquisition Officer, CliftonLarsonAllen; appointed member,
Alcoholic Beverage Board of Vanderburgh County (January 2023- present); appointed member, Vanderburgh County Human Relations Commission (January 2023-present)
FAMILY: Husband Zac; two children and one stepchild
1. Our population (has) been fairly stagnant. People come and go, and as they accumulate wealth, or they move up in their careers, you start to see some of those dollars leave the city. It’s never backfilled with higher wealth or you’re not seeing new developments within the city. Downtown has seen the most growth. Allow(ing) that growth to happen in other sectors … is very important so we can have that increase in funding.
2. Technology is an area we can really improve upon, specifically financial technology. Firms are looking for employees from this area. We’ve got two DI schools with great finance, accounting, and technology programs, a direct pipeline for these businesses as they continue to grow. We’ve got great STEM programs. That also translates to trades and labor.
3. We’ve seen a lot of different businesses come into Evansville within the last 12 years. I look forward to continuing that, but also looking at the needs of those businesses. The market has changed so much that whenever you’re looking at mergers and acquisitions, if you can show the talent and the pipelines we have, that’s going to be very attractive. Invest(ing) our time and dollars into our future employees, that’s how we’re going to pull that off.
NAME: Stephanie Terry
POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat
EDUCATION: Benjamin Bosse High School; Bachelor of Science in biology, Kentucky State University; Master of Science in health service administration, University of Evansville
PROFESSION: Executive Director, Koch Family Children’s Museum of Evansville; elected member, Vanderburgh County Council (2010-present)
FAMILY: Husband Marques; three children
1. One of the ways we can generate revenue is by increasing business and housing in our community. I want to form a blue-ribbon commission … where we’ve got developers, contractors, trades, and small and large business owners coming together to really look at our system (and) make some changes so it’s easier to do development in the community. We live in a time where people can, in a lot of industries, live wherever they want. There’s a need to continue to invest in our place. That’s your park improvements and beautifying our community, adding more bike paths and trails. Those types of amenities are important to make us a more vibrant community.
2. I would hope that from a manufacturing standpoint, we continue to see growth in our region. Then, we might look at and explore technology, and then health sciences with Indiana University and our local hospitals. I think there are some opportunities for growth there.
3. We want to continue to utilize E-REP as an economic development arm and work in partnership with them. I would like to explore the possibility of a city planner, somebody who’s dedicated to developing a plan, looking at forecasting, thinking about the future, and where some of our opportunities are.