Republished with permission from The Greene County Daily World.
By Grant Karazsia, Staff Writer, Greene County Daily World
For the last couple of months, election signs have lined the yards of many homes, and along the city streets. Of all of the signs posted, signs for the two candidates in the race for the office of Linton Mayor have seen arguably the greatest presence.
When Linton voters go to the polls on Tuesday, November 3, they will be choosing between the incumbent Democrat, John Wilkes, who is currently serving his first term as Linton’s mayor, and the challenger, Republican John Correll.
In the May primary, Wilkes defeated his opponent, Linda Bedwell, by a narrow margin and Correll was unopposed.
Wilkes was elected to his first term as mayor of Linton four years ago, and says he looks forward to serving the Linton community for another four years if re-elected.
“When I won my first term I knew a second term would be needed to accomplish everything that Linton deserved to move it forward to its fullest potential. I also vowed to conduct a positive campaign.
“A positive campaign focuses on the strengths and achievements of the candidate. In my campaign I have discussed issues and results, not people,” Wilkes said
Wilkes feels job creation and infrastructure are the biggest concerns facing Linton.
“Over the past 3.5 years, the accomplishments in these two areas have been vast,” Wilkes said.
For job creation, Wilkes points out that the number of new small businesses in town is at an all-time high.
Wilkes cited the example of new fiber optics in town that will have capabilities to attract future investors to consider Linton.
According to Wilkes, he personally assisted Prairie Built Barns, which employs local residents, to find a permanent home in Switz City. He says he is currently working with a national organization that will create a staff of 20 when it opens.
Wilkes said during his term, he has worked extensively to get GE Corporation to return to Linton and clean up the site on 12th Street.
“Promoting a positive environment with area business owners who create jobs is an ability I have always used for the good of Linton and I am able to continue this collaboration with ease.” – John Wilkes
“It is now a shovel ready, environmentally-compliant piece of property that I am actively marketing for commercial use,” Wilkes said.
Working to get a skilled workforce available is something Wilkes says he has been passionate about, and that he’s been working with the appropriate agencies to help in this matter.
“Promoting a positive environment with area business owners who create jobs is an ability I have always used for the good of Linton and I am able to continue this collaboration with ease,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes noted that infrastructure includes sewers, water lines and electrical service.
“Upgrades have been made to meet the future needs of this community. Obtaining funding to continue these upgrades takes a great working relationship with different state agencies and I have that relationship secured for Linton,” Wilkes said.
Other areas where Wilkes said he is concentrating his efforts are on the youth, revenue, tourism and accountability.
Wilkes said he has worked with Linton-Stockton School Corporation and Ivy Tech to bring in the College Coach Connection to the school system.
“This will assist our students in gaining technical skills so they can obtain good salary jobs in our area so they can remain living in Linton,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes said he created the Mayor’s Youth Council and it is now well into its second year with an active group of young adults who graciously give back to their community.
“For the youth as well, our parks system is constantly being improved and the city administration works actively with organizations on festivals and activities for family-friendly events,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes said during his administration, many avenues have been taken to insure city revenue continues.
“The budget is balanced and we are financially sound,” said Wilkes.
According to Wilkes, a special district has been formed which brings money into Linton and grants have been obtained from Communities for a Lifetime and Safe Routes to Schools.
“When I learned that we could lose a valued wholesale water customer, I went to work immediately. Not only were we able to negotiate and work with them but we were able to get a ten-year contract. This insures us that the town of Linton will have a steady source of income over many years. Bringing new revenue into Linton and retaining the already existing revenue streams takes the experience and relationships with outside people that I have grown over the years in around the state,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes said he is confident in his ability to continue to bring money into Linton as he has done during his first term.
“The recycling brought to Linton saves the city a large sum of money as well,” Wilkes said.
According to Wilkes, a new system of accountability within the city barn and utilities has proven very successful and not only saves the town money but work orders are completed quicker.
“The city barn appearance has been cleaned up as well. I hear frequent compliments from citizens on the work going on with our city barn and our city workers,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes said he expresses pride in other projects that he’s currently working on such as: Trails, new city website, volunteer organizations, School Backpack Program, flooding grant, youth retention, elimination of blighted property and marketing outdoor recreation.
As a city leader, Wilkes said he has helped initiate the following programs to better the city of Linton: Communities for a Lifetime, Indiana Main Street, Rediscover Downtown Linton, Safe Routes to School, waste water treatment plant improvement, restoring GE property to a compliant commercial property he’s actively marketing, and the Mayor’s Youth Council.
Wilkes has been a business owner and held numerous positions in philanthropic organizations and been a founding organizer or active member of 17 different area organizations for 48 years.
Wilkes, 74, was born and raised in Dugger, but has lived in Linton for the past 48 years.
Since moving to Linton, he has both owned and operated Mercury Cleaners until recently.
“Without the resources to attend college, I made my own opportunities,” explained Wilkes. “Self motivation pushed me and in 1967, I became the owner of Mercury Cleaners. For 48 years I’ve cultivated my business and negotiation skills along with the leadership and teamwork skills I obtained in the Air Force. I am a well seasoned veteran in economic growth on a city, county and state level.”
Wilkes said he is a proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served for four years.
Prior to his election as Linton’s mayor, Wilkes served nine years on the Greene County Council and he noted that during that time “the budget was balanced and no taxes were raised.”
Wilkes served as the president of the Indiana Dry Cleaners Association for many years, and he is a charter member of the Greene County Foundation and Linton Housing Authority.
“I’ve held the title of officer in many organizations and been a founding organizer or active member in 17 different organizations,” he said.
Wilkes attends two churches, the Saron Church in Linton and the Church of Christ in Dugger.
He has been recognized for his community service and has received awards from the Jaycees, the Shrine Club and the Chamber of Commerce, and he is an active member in many other philanthropic organizations.
Wilkes is also a recipient of the honorary ‘Sagamore of the Wabash’ award which is the highest distinction bestowed upon citizens by the Governor of Indiana.
Wilkes is running for mayor on the Democrat ticket.