Job: Mayor, City of Evansville (Two Terms)
His Story: 2011 marked the beginning of Jonathan Weinzapfel’s eighth year as mayor, and barely a month in, he announced he would not seek reelection — or pursue the impending election for governor. He cited time away from family as a major deterrent. After his public proclamation, his spokeswoman sent a hefty 15-page document lauding Weinzapfel’s successes to the media. The release showed Weinzapfel’s terms have been marked with change.
His Terms: Weinzapfel had numerous economic development agreements for job-creating ventures including a $22 million AT&T Indiana call center, a $20 million Berry Plastics investment, and a $3.5 million investment from GBT USA, a wind turbine blade technology company. Also highlighted in the document were neighborhood revitalization programs, but the most noise from Weinzapfel’s citizens can be heard surrounding projects such as the new Downtown arena (the Ford Center opening this fall), public pools, and the sewer system on the South and East Sides. With the mayoral election in November, Weinzapfel prepares for departure.
I have a much better appreciation of quality time with family. Think of all the weekends and after-hours — the time away from the people I love.
Because people see me on TV, they can attach all kinds of qualities to me without really having any idea of what I am actually about.
On His Two Terms
This has not been eight years of maintaining, keeping the status quo. This has really been about moving our city forward, taking some political risks, and championing some things because I thought they were in the best interest of the community and necessary to make sure that we realize our full potential. Some of those things weren’t politically popular, but I don’t have any regrets in most cases.
On the Proposed Hotel near the New Arena
The easier thing to do is: “Let’s build this arena. We will leave the Executive Inn alone. That’s someone else’s problem.” Instead, we were presented with an opportunity to build this arena here and utilize part of the Executive Inn property, and we saw it as an opportunity to get rid of this dog and do something positive.
This community needed a new convention hotel, and of course, that comes with some significant political risk, especially when the economy goes south and no one is interested. A few banks, if any, are interested in making loans for hotels, so there have been financial issues with regards to putting the package together with the developer to make the project happen.
There is political risk involved, but the alternative is: “Are we just going to let it sit there for another 20 years?” The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) had already taken it over, and they had found someone else to take it over and run it on a shoestring. Politically it is easier to let that happen. Is it worth the political risk to tear it down and get something new built? Absolutely.
Previous administrations really had not dealt with the flooding problems on the South and East sides. The only way to deal with it is by raising sewer rates to pay for projects. That’s politically risky anytime someone talks about raising rates.
Some of these (public pools) were just oversized bathtubs that are in pitiful shape, and we couldn’t continue operating the way we have been. So, we put together a task force, and we made some tough decisions about a master plan.
We held 80 travel city hall meetings. Those are just the formal settings. On top of that, the public meetings with the pools, flooding, arena, or numerous other issues. People had plenty of opportunity to talk to me and other decision-makers in the city government about what they felt is important, what they want to see changed, what they are upset about, what their needs are.
On His Future
My oldest just turned 12, and our twins are 10. That’s an important time in their lives. I want to make sure I am there to help them get through it and to be a father. That’s going to weigh heavily in any decision whether I run for another office or not. If I were to run for office again, I would look at something higher up.